The last time we BrewViewed BROTHER THELONIOUS was in October 2013. Before that, it had been about 2 years since tried it. We wanted to updated our BrewView for 2015 with new pictures, and new tasting notes. And as in 2013, a 750 ML bottle was still only $6.99 at Liquor Barn in Redding, California. So of course, the value and quality of the beer outweighed the great price!


A pioneer in the Craft Beer movement, North Coast Brewing Company opened in 1988 as a local brewpub in the historic town of Fort Bragg, located on California’s Mendocino Coast.

Under the leadership of Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich, the brewery has developed a strong reputation for quality having won more than 70 awards in national and international competitions.

In addition to Red Seal Ale, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Scrimshaw Pilsner, and other fine North Coast brands, the brewery has resurrected the old Acme label with a heritage dating back to the San Francisco of the 1860s.NorthCoastBrewing-BreweryPicThese exceptional beers are available in 47 states now and also are exported to Europe and the Pacific Rim. North Coast Brewing Company has been previously voted as one of the Ten Best Breweries in the World by the Beverage Tasting Institute.

North Coast Brewing Company has always supported regional creative talent in the distinctive beer imagery that goes with each of their brews. When it came to the creation of the Brother Thelonious beer, they sought out the talent of local Mendocino artist Eduardo Smissen. The resulting packaging design by Colored Horse Studios featuring his spirited painting of Thelonious Monk as a Belgian Abbey Monk highlighted one of the most successful beer launches for North Coast Brewing, and won a Gold Medal in the Creativity Category from the Beverage Testing Institute’s World Beer Championships Packaging Competition. View Eduardo’s work here.

Why is a skull on the Brother Thelonious label?

From Eduardo: It’s a “memento mori,” a Latin phrase that may be freely translated as “Remember that you are mortal,” “Remember you will die,” or “Remember your death.” It names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely from one another, but which all share the same purpose, which is to remind people of their own mortality. The chief thrust of “memento mori” was the theme of “carpe diem,” “seize the day,” which  entailed the advice to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” And as the motto for North Coast Brewing is “Carpe Diem Vita Brevis”—”Life is short, seize the day”—I thought it an appropriate Style for the Brother Thelonious label. (Source: North Coast Brewing Company)


North Coast Brewing Co. is proud to partner with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in support of Jazz education. The Brewery makes a donation to the Institute for every bottle of Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale sold.

Like a Belgian “Dark Strong Ale,” this beer is rich and robust with an ABV of 9.3%. The package features a label picturing the Jazz master himself, and comes in either a 375 or 750 ml bottle with a traditional cork and wire finish, or 12 oz. 4-packs.

Vital Statistics
Style: Belgian Style Strong Dark
Color: Dark mahogany
ABV: 9.4%
Bitterness: 32 IBUs

When you buy Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale you also help to support the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz whose mission is to offer the world’s most promising young musicians college level training by America’s jazz masters and to present public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the world.  All of these programs are offered free of charge to the students and schools.

Silver- 2006 World Beer Championships


ABV: 9.2%. Served at 57° F in an open-mouthed Trappist style goblet. Pours with a 2-finger head that is dense,  rocky, tightly bubbled, with a light tan, off white color. The beer color is a deep burgundy / mahogany. The meniscus is medium rising, rim variation color is deep golden.

The Brussels lacing in the glass as the beer is consumed is even-sheeted. After around 5 minutes into consumption time, the beer still held a nice 1/4″ head, tightly bubbled. Nearly 10 minutes into it, the head still held a 1/16″ height. There is no yeast at the bottom of the bottle, therefore the clarity of Brother Thelonious is good. When held up to a bright white light, the color is beautiful to look at.

Deep rummy, raisiny, bouquet. Brown sugar mixed with a bit of black cherry, and a slight toasty, nutty maltiness. There is also a fresh herbal hop aroma undertone. Caramel, (almost a smoky caramel), toffee… the toasty maltiness reminds you of slightly burnt toast from the toaster- we love that aroma! We purposely let this beer sit for a good bit to let it warm up and allow the bouquet to express itself in greater depth. Around 5-6 minutes, subtle tropical fruit esters develop in the bouquet. We got soft, bruised banana aromas in that time.

Deep burnt caramel (think of a Werther’s Original Creamy Caramel filled hard candy), burnt toast, raisiny, molasses, dark brown sugar, with a gentle hop bitterness in the background.

Medium bodied, medium effervescence. Pleasant to drink, the carbonation level and how that sensation fills up the olfactory senses is a bit better this time around. Because of the 9.2% ABV, the initial sip gives you a slight prickliness at the tip of the tongue. The maltiness coats the sides and the back of the tongue. The finish is nutty- walnuts, chestnuts. The caramel and toffee notes really linger. The gentle hop bitterness mixed with the nutty, caramel notes invites you to try that next sip.


Extra sharp white or yellow cheddar cheeses, blue-veined or washed rind cheeses.  A great Charcuterie platter with assorted meats and a good portion of peasant bread would be excellent.

Enjoy this with barbeque Ribeye steak, Prime Rib, or even smoked salmon. Many Mongolian and Mexican dishes would pair well. Duck a l’orange with a side of asparagus or sweet potato mashed potatoes would be a nice mix with the caramel and nutty notes in the beer. Carbonade flamande made with Brother Thelonious would impart nice malty notes into the beef.

Anything caramel or nutty. Liege waffles for sure. Speculoos, Baklava, Banana coffee cake with pecans, maple walnut pie, Caramel almond ice cream torte. Or as we mentioned earlier, get a hold of good quality hard caramel candies and savor them as you sip on the beer…

BROTHER THELONIOUS has improved in its aroma and taste. It continues to evolve. We like that the aromas are ever-changing as the drinking time goes by.

Due to the efforts from the brewery, this beer is available year-round in wide variety of retail outlets, pubs, restaurants, etc. We found our bottle for $6.99 at the Liquor Barn in Redding, CA. For the price, it is a great value. Brother Thelonious is a very well made beer from a classic California craft brewery.


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