Tonight, as I settle down for another exciting night of index-preparing for Texas' Legendary Chicken Ranch, I've poured myself a mug full of Real Ale Brewing Company's Black Quad, an imposing beer in the Belgian style. I'm a big fan of their Devil's Backbone Belgian Tripel, so I'm optimistic about this one going in. It pours a dark cola color, not quite as dark as I'd have expected however. There's little head at first, but after a bit a foamy caramel head of about a finger's width grows over the course of a minute the veeeeery slowly subsides, leaving prominent lacing behind.
The nose is not as bold as I'd have thought, either. There's some coffee, a little malt but the overall impression is yeasty. First sip is sweet caramel with plums, dark cherries and a sharpness reminiscent of... cranberries? It quickly transitions to dark chocolate then with a coffee-bitter aftertaste that grows quickly before subsiding. Subsequent sips reveal more complexity of flavors--there's banana and vanilla underlying everything, with maybe a hint of oak. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, not quite a robust as I'd expect (I'm saying that a lot, aren't I?). Unlike others of this type I've had, the malty sweetness isn't so prominent as to disguise the 10.5 percent alcohol content. There's a definite alcohol burn present throughout, so this isn't a brew that's going to sneak up on you.
Overall, it's well-balanced and competent, nothing here to complain about, but nothing that makes me sit up and say "Wow!" It's a decent beer at a very nice price, but not operating at the same level as Devil's Backbone, and as such, a little bit of a disappointment. I'd drink it again, but Backbone is definitely a superior interpretation of a Belgian classic.
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