Rochefort: 8 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 9.2% ABV)
Visual: Dark brown. Large bubbled brown froth head.
Nose: Raisins. Wheaty. Figgy pudding. Smoke. Burnt grains. Brandy cream. Bready. Fortified red wine. Cherries. Chewy.
Body: Very vinous. Sour grapes. Sweet port mixed with Madeira cake. Black liquorice. Bready – both brown and unleavened. Lightly creamy.
Finish: Dry sultanas. Malt drinks. Madeira cake. Liquorice. Brown bread slices. Lightly earthy feel and peppery.
Conclusion: One day I will have to do Rochefort 8 and 10 side by side – I always seem to end up describing them with similar notes. Then after drinking both I will instantly collapse due to my weak alcohol resistance before their strong abv levels.
From memory this sets very neatly between the 6 and the 10. It has the big, fruity and vinous character that is similar to the 10, but without the wonderful, indulgent, malt load sweetness. It delivers the wine and plentiful dark fruit in a drier style, matching it with liquorice working against the sweetness. I’m not a huge fan of liquorice in beer most of the time, so that is a mark against it, but generally it is a very good set of flavours.
From the style of the 6 comes that bready, slightly Orval like drier character, which is what prevents the beer reaching the insane 10 like sweetness. For such a big beer in flavour and abv it feels very well attenuated, ending up dry and slightly peppery. It makes it a reined in rather than dessert like beer.
When the beer is cool it learns a bit too much towards the dry side for my tastes, but at room temperature it becomes fruitier and more fell – and here it is the standby of the Rochefort crowd – managing the flavour of the ten but without the excesses.
Despite that, I must admit I prefer the 10, I just love it, it is one of my favourite beers. This, I will admit, is the better balanced beer though, even if it is not my favourite of the three. It is still very impressive, and will age to a true gem of a beer if you give it time. So, if you prefer sweet go with the 10, if you prefer dry go with the 8. Any which way you will find a great beer.
Background: For ages I thought I had already done notes on this one, for a long time the Rochefort beers were my favourite Trappist ales and I grabbed them whenever I could. So, once I realised I had not yet done notes on them, there was only one thing I could do. Grab a bottle (from Independent Spirit again) and take my time with it. As you are probably aware, there are very few places allowed to call themselves Trappist beer producers – of which the majority are in Belgium. The brewing needs to be done, or overseen by the monks for it to count. Drunk while listening to Iron Maiden: Book Of Souls – an odd album in that I enjoy it, but none of the tracks really stand out by themselves.