Tag Archives: Belgian Dark Strong Ale

2017 Advent Calendar – Day 14 – White Pony Dark Signs

Photo Credit

Day 14, amazing. It seems like every year the progress through this calendar goes fast. I always enjoy it and I am again this year. I hope that folks enjoy reading these write-ups. I find it interesting to learn about the various breweries and to remind myself about the styles. For the local beer scene, I’ve got some news I’ll be putting out tomorrow. Lots of things happening around town and great beers available from local breweries now!

Today’s beer comes to us from an Italian microbrewery called White Pony. It is a Belgian Strong Ale that has had a post fermentation addition of orange peel and coriander.

White Pony is in the Citta di Padova in Italy. This small town in the northern part of the country is only 92 square kilometres but boasts a population of 214,000. That gives a population density of 2300 people living on each square kilometer. That’s quite a packed town. White Pony is the project of the son of an Italian-Belgian family who has a passion for brewing beers in the Belgian style. Using Belgian yeasts, bottle fermentation, they make unpasteurized, unfiltered and bottle conditioned beers.

They brew a variety of different beers throughout the year to compliment their core beers. They focus on trying to be innovative while still sticking to some of the old brewing traditions. They even have a barrel aging program for some of their beers.

The style of beer we are trying today is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale. To compare, Belgian Darks are similar in strength to a Belgian Tripel but they don’t have quite the hop profile. They are more like a big dubbel and border on being called a Quadrupel. They are heavily malted, very sweet and bring dark fruit notes along with subtle spice elements. They are smooth, almost creamy, and bring a rich complexity of flavours that, when done right, can be dangerously easy to drink. Let’s get to it.

Appearance – Pours a dark amber with a thin, quickly fading, beige head.
Smell – Big caramel malt sweetness, candied sugar, plum, figs, and some real booze notes in there too.
Taste – That candied sweetness comes through right at the beginning before giving way to some of the more malt forward caramel sweetness and that dark fruit. The finish is smooth, sweet, and warming.
Mouth feel – Full bodied, smooth, sweet warm finish.
Overall – This is exactly what I’d expect from this style of beer. It brings big malt sweetness along with candied sugar, dark fruit notes and rich smooth and complex overall profile. There are subtle spice notes in there at the finish and this beer is rather easy to sip.
Do I like it? 
– I really did like this. I think that it represented exactly what it should and brought a beautifully complex and delicious beer. It’s dangerous, given that the nearly 12% of alcohol in it is hard to identify. I wouldn’t drink more than one of these.


Deschutes – Pinot Suave


It’s been a little bit since I’ve written a post and it’s nice to be back at it. I have had some exciting changes in my life recently which have prevented me from posting as often as I would like. My wife and I welcomed our daughter to the world on November 4th and it’s been a whirlwind. It is probably the best and most significant change I’ve ever had in my life and I’m really happy, if not a little sleep deprived.

While I am scheduling follow-ups with many of the local breweries in the city, I wanted to take today’s post to give a write-up on a unique beer that has arrived on Liquormart shelves. Pinot Suave from Deschutes is a pricey bottle of beer ($29.99) and many might be wondering whether it’s worth it or not. I’m not here to tell you one way or the other, but I wanted to give it a try and figured I’d give you some background on the beer, style, and my notes.

Deschutes is a family and employee-owned brewery located in Bend, Oregon. Starting as a public house in 1988, Deschutes believes that every pint of beer should be worth sharing. Deschutes is all about finding the balance between community, experimentation, and ingenuity and drinkability, quality and consistency. With a variety of all-year, seasonal and specialty brews, Deschutes makes some typical and atypical beers for folks to enjoy. We’ve been fortunate to have some of these come to Manitoba and I know I’ve enjoyed many of them.

Along with this passion for beer, they live by a motto of sustainability as well. Since 1988 they’ve followed the practice of “do your best and next time do it better” in all things. They employ a sustainability team to work at ensuring they use less resources while maintaining productivity and quality in product. You can read more about their commitment to sustainability here.

On-top of their commitment to sustainability they have a strong tie with the community of Bend. Since 1988 they’ve endeavored to be a part of the community and are always looking for ways to help other community organizations be successful. They contribute one dollar of every barrel they sell to charitable organizations throughout the territories they sell their beer. In total, they contributed $850,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

The specific beer that I tried was their Belgian Dark Strong Ale called Pinot Suave. It gets its name from being aged for 18 months in French and American oak barrels that had previously contained Pinot Noir. They’ve also made an addition of pinot grape must and sour wort to the beer giving it a really unique flavor profile that contains both an acidity and wine like characteristic.

Belgian Dark Strong Ales are, oddly enough, very strong Belgian ales with an ABV of between 8 and 12%. Overall these beers typically have a blend of malt, dark fruit and spice characteristics and are often described as smooth, complex and dangerous because of their ability to hide the ABV amongst the flavours. Historically these beers are unique in character depending on the brewer and often produced in limited batches which end up being highly sought after. As always you can read more about the style in the BJCP guidelines (Page 53-54).

The beer comes in a 750ml bottle that has been waxed on top and given the alcohol content, this is one that you would be able to age should you so choose.

ABV – 11.9%

Appearance – Dark amber/brown with a medium light tan head.

Smell – Very interesting aroma. Wine grapes, caramel, oak notes, some toffee and a boozy aroma as well.

Taste – Taste begins clean and crisp with notes of oak, rich sweetness, grape must and some light tartness. The grape notes are quite noticeable and the finish is very tannic giving this beer a wine-like characteristic. It’s almost like a combination of wine and beer.

Mouth Feel – Soft carbonation with a dry tannic finish reminiscent of a red-wine. Boozy warmth is ever-present.

Overall Thoughts – Very unique combination of flavours. Comes across as more of a wine-beer hybrid. The Belgian strong-ale base is definitely there and brings a really deep malty-sweetness that works well with the tannic and tart notes from the wine aspect of this beer. Overall a very interesting Belgian style of beer.

Do I like it? – I enjoyed drinking this beer. I found that the combination of flavours was something I hadn’t really had before and it was enjoyable. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the beer and , while I would certainly be interested in having another one, the price-point on this makes it a little less approachable. I did buy another one to age and will be trying that down the road.

As always, I encourage people to try new beers whenever they have the chance and make up their own minds. Hopefully my notes help.

Thanks so much for continuing to read this blog. I’ve got a follow-up with Little Brown Jug and Nonsuch in the works and hope to be following up with others in the near future. I also got my hands on the craft beer advent calendar again this year and I’ll be posting about each of the beers every day in December. If you haven’t already, follow me on twitter @beerwinnipeg

-Beer Winnipeg