Unibroue Brewing Co – 17 Grande Reserve

There are some brews I search for and set out to buy, and yet, there are others that I just happen to find.  I’ve been holding on to this bottle for a few weeks now; however, when I went to the store this week I really just tried to search out a few good brews to enjoy that I’ve never had or heard of before.  One of the easiest ways for me to figure out beers I think I might like is from the weekly tastings I try to attend at my local store: Rick’s Wine and Gourmet.  This bottle from Unibroue found its way on to the tasting a little while ago, and I’m really glad that it did.  It’s interesting how they can get me to buy a bottle that I wouldn’t normally purchase.  I haven’t had a whole lot of beers from these guys, and I don’t really find the bottle all that compelling to purchase.  I’m definitely a visual person, so I typically purchase based on name and design.

Unibroue is a Canadian brewery that may be the most highly respected Canadian brewery out there.  Interestingly, they are a Canadian brewery that makes perhaps some of the best Belgian beer outside of Belgium.  They started way back in 1990 with the intention of using brewing techniques and practices typically used by trappist monks.   They tend to focus on beers that are produced “on lees”, which means they typically have active yeast inside the bottle, or it is bottle fermented as well.

This particular beer is an interesting one.  It was first brewed back in 2007 for the 17 year anniversary of the brewery.  It, however, gained so much praise they decided to bring it back in 2011.  Interestingly it won an international platinum medal three years in a row and the title of “World’s Best Dark Ale” when it had been in the been in the bottle for three years.  This little fact just makes me wish I had another bottle to get in my cellar for aging.  This beer is considered an extra strong dark ale which is also French oak aged and bottle refermented.

This one pours out a dark brown color with a lot of hints of orange and auburn in there as well. The beer has an ample tan and brownish head that develops on top of the beer.  There is some really light lacing you get with a swirl of the glass; however, you get little to no sticky residue.  The liquid is certainly very dark and hazy, but you can see a lot of carbonation and an overall ton of activity in the glass.

The nose is full of lots of spices and yeast.  The clove from the yeast is certainly very prominent and very obvious when you take in the aroma of the beer.  Beneath the spice and clove is an ample amount of very sweet malts.  These malts have the fig and raisin scents heavy on the aroma side of your typical darker Belgian ale.  One of the most prominent spices I get out of the aroma are some very big candied orange peel.

The flavor that immediately overwhelms the palate is the big sweet fig and raisin flavors.  These are the ample sweet malts that kick start the flavor profile of this beer.  Before the yeast comes in, you get a lot of welcoming orange citrus flavor.  The orange is by no means the featured flavor of the beer, but it is a very pleasant additive that does a lot to add to the complexity of this beer.  The huge yeast flavor comes in with a lot of clove as well.  Following the big hit of yeast and clove you get a lot of dark red fruit flavors and, shortly there after, the big booze flavor sneaks in as well.  The beer finishes with some lingering booze, sweet malts, and a very obvious leftover spice.

The mouthfeel manages to be somewhat confusing.  The beer is quite heavy 10% ABV; however, you really don’t start to notice the heavy booze flavor till the end.  There is a ton of carbonation at the start of the beer and a lot of yeast in the middle that manages to make the beer seem more light and refreshing in the beginning to middle portion.  The booze comes in near the end, but it makes the beer seem quite complex and interesting.

This isn’t the first beer I’ve had out of Unibroue, but it might be the most memorable for me.  I’m quite impressed with their ability to create a very complex beer with a lot of different flavors and feels to it.  I really wish I had bought two of these.  The bottle stats that it will stay good until 2016.  I don’t know if I could wait that long to drink the second bottle, but I would love to see what this one does with some age behind it.  I would certainly recommend picking this one up if you can seem to find it.

Teacher Grade: A



  1. I love this brewery. I haven’t had this beer from them yet, but I’ll have to seek it out. Very thorough review.

  2. Great review! I haven’t had this one yet, but love Unibroue’s other brews (especially La Fin du Monde). This one just got added to my must find list.

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