Friday, December 21, 2007

A TRIP TO THE TRAPPIST

After a couple of false starts, I finally strode triumphantly through the doors of Oakland, California’s new gathering place THE TRAPPIST on Wednesday night. (Click here to read our interview with Aaron Porter of The Trappist, whom we actually met in person Wednesday as well). The bar seeks to recreate the upscale bit intimate vibe of a Brussels or Antwerp or Ghent pub, and serves nothing but the finest ales from Belgium, with a few Yankee brews thrown in for balance. Having never been to Belgium, I can’t say how well they nailed it, but those in the know say this place is the real deal. They’ve got a contraption right there, built into the bar itself, that power-washes each glass before the beer is poured. Of course, the glass has already been washed in the back, but THE TRAPPIST takes an almost fetishistic approach to cleanliness, which is certainly admirable and which greater mortals than I have opined is the one of the sacred keys to a great-tasting beer. Hear hear!

There were about a dozen or so beers on tap, so I picked out four I’d never had for a “sampler”, where the drinker puts down $12 for four 5-ounce tastes. I felt that was more than fair, considering the beers available. You can gather a pretty good impression over 5 ounces – that’s at least 6 sips and 6 gulps by my count. Here’s what I tried:

KONINGSHOEVEN TRAPPIST QUADRUPEL – a big, bold 10% ABV quadrupel, which is a style we absolutely love over here, and from one of the few true Trappist monasteries to boot. You can taste that alcohol immediately, and it’s a very sweet but complex beer, with fruit tastes and lots of character. 7.5/10

LAS RULLES CUVEE MEILLEURS VOEUX XMAS – bit of a disappointment here. More dry that I had expected for a Belgian Christmas ale, without much pizzazz or flavor. Smooth, and clean-tasting, but that was about it. 6/10

ST. BERNARDUS WIT – A really understated, whiter-than-white ale from the mad faux monks of St. Bernardus. Really thin-bodied, and piled high with notes & scents of orange and lemon. Hard to argue with a witbier this classic. 7.5/10

BRASSERIE D’ACHOUFFE LA CHOUFFE – The night’s winner was this excellent Belgian strong pale ale, which was absolutely delicious. Tasting of apples and darker fruits like plums & figs, LA CHOUFFE has this awesome “pillowy” feel to it, and is a real treat than I’m going to be seeking out as much as possible. 8.5/10

After that lineup I needed something that was going to calm, not challenge, so I went for a brand new beer/brewery on the local scene, LINDEN STREET COMMON LAGER. These guys just opened up in Oakland as well, within 5 miles of The Trappist, and this is their first beer. I’m not much a lager guy, and this one, which was touted as being much like a “steam beer” or California Common, didn’t really do it for me. Clean but bitter, and mildly reminding me of cigarettes. Not “steam-like” at all, if steam-like means Anchor Steam, which it does to 99.9% of us. 5.5/10.

Trappist trivia: proprietor Chuck Stilphen, the other half of the Trappist team, used to be in 80s punk band GANG GREEN, but, alas, not on the “BOSTON NOT L.A.” material – more the skateboard ramp/Budweiser-era Gang Green. Anyhow, you gotta get yourself to this bar, it’s fantastic, and well worthy all of pre-hype that we & others threw at it.

2 comments:

beer-retard said...

Man, this place sounds good. Anxious to hear your impressions of Monk's Kettle in the Mission. I hear they opened their doors this week...

justinsloe said...

Being from Boston, Gang Green were a big deal to me when I was younger. Who would have thought a band that had an album like "Older, Budweiser" would eventually foster a fine proper beer drinking spot some 3000 miles away?