The label says it all. There's the ice-capped mountains, the amber waves of grain and the pretty plains of Anderson Valley depicted in all their glory—and right there in the middle of this splendor is Brother David with his sick, furry mustache and his favorite death-metal monk hood. (Brother David also looks suspiciously like the mid-’90s cab-driving spokesman for MTV.) The point is this Abbey-style dark ale is unique in a way that takes some getting used to: It's not how you might have made it, and it kinda sticks out, but it touches you nevertheless.
Your first moments with this beer are filled with anxious puzzlement. The first note is heavy banana and clove, almost like a hefeweizen. But the sweetness sticks around, getting pruney and deliciously bread-like. The booze is there (it's 9 percent alcohol by volume, after all) but its balance is surprising. The carbonation is restrained, which makes for a slow-dissolving head that froths around with a translucent sugar sheen.
Like a geek in a Metallica T-shirt, this Belgian is unpredictable and yet familiar. It's a niche beer and it's lovable. But like that same geek, you don't necessarily wanna spend all night with him. The Black Album gets old after a while.