Top 5 beers to try this week

Bachelor Bitter — Deschutes Brewery

Marzen Lager — Heater Allen Brewing

Hit Me With Your Best Haze IPA — Wild Ride Brewing

Hazelnut Porter — Kobold Brewing

Sticky Hands Double IPA — Block 15 Brewing

For a brewery known for its strong, complex Belgian-style beers, the latest special release from Monkless Belgian Ales, Curtain Closer, sets a new bar in strength and complexity.

Curtain Closer is described as a Belgian-style quintuple ale that is aged on cocoa nibs and raspberries and contains 12% alcohol by volume.

The limited offering will be brewed in January of each year and released annually in March, said owner and brewer Todd Clement in an email.

“We canned 48 cases and are in the process of releasing it into the wild. Several cases have already been released in Central Oregon. We also have three kegs left — two going to Portland next week … with the last keg being saved for the X-tap at Bend Brewfest.”

Though labeled as a quintuple in style, Curtain Closer belongs to the family of Trappist beer styles that includes dubbel, tripel and Belgian dark strong ale, the latter of which is also sometimes known as quadrupel. It’s a style that ranges in strength from 9% to 12% alcohol by volume and focuses on complex, rich malts that exhibit dark fruits and caramel flavors.

The term quadrupel or even quad tends to be used more often by American brewers than by Belgian beer makers. Beer writer Jeff Alworth wrote, “Very strong beers aren’t new, but the name ‘quadrupel’ is,” in a 2015 entry for The Beer Bible. “La Trappe coined the term to describe a beer that has some of the darkness of those other dark abbey ales, but enough amber-orange luminosity to connect it to popular tripels. Fortunately, no brewery has yet tried to pioneer a quintupel. Yet.”

Since that time, a number of breweries have, in fact, begun using the term to style their strong Belgian-styled ales.

Clement is aware of the irony in attaching the quintuple designation to his beer.

“It was an attempt to poke a little fun at a really big, off-the-wall beer — reminiscent of the pastry stout craze but a little more in line with our brewing philosophy,” he said.

Clement was able to try the draft version at Monkless several weeks ago. He found it to be wonderfully complex and dessertlike without being cloying or over the top. The aroma showcases dark cocoa powder and raspberry syrup with a bit of Belgian yeast character, including stone fruit and a hint of clovelike spice.

Curtain Closer is full of rich and complex malt flavors, including toffee, leather, dark dried fruits (dates, prunes) and a toasted nuttiness. Bittersweet chocolate and a subtle raspberry flavor gives an overall impression of a chocolate-­covered berry. For all its rich malt complexity, there’s a welcome dry cocoa note, and the beer is well attenuated (fewer residual sugars for a thinner, drinkable body). A mild bloom of alcohol heat hints at the strength.

The recipe for Curtain Closer went through several iterations. “We used Ecuadorian cocoa nibs (lightly crushed in a food processor) at the end of the boil, which worked nicely to impart a cocoa aroma and a bittersweet finish on the palate,” Clement said. “The complexity came mostly with balancing the raspberry flavor such that it was not overwhelming, and the cocoa could shine through. We brewed three pilot batches to dial in that component as, unbeknownst to me, raspberry aroma and flavor can be quite overpowering.”

Though it won’t be brewed again until next January, you can still find cans of Curtain Closer available at the brewery, as well as beer stops such as Broken Top Bottle Shop and Market of Choice. It’s strong enough to age well if you decide to put a can or two away, and often such beers will hold up even after several years.

Of course it’s quite drinkable now, and the 16 oz. can is an ideal size to split with a friend.

— Reporter: chuggnutt@gmail.com

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