Top Shelf Belgian Ale

Top Shelf Belgian Ale
22 oz bottle, $7, 6% ABV

Purchased at the brewery, Manchester

tsbelgTop shelf Belgian beers – think certain lambics like gueuzes and krieks or the better tripels and quads – will run you north of $20/bottle, easy. I splurge once in a while, as long as I know what it is I’m buying.

Top Shelf Belgian Ale set me back seven beans. So, which is a better deal in the battle of Top Shelf Belgian vs. top shelf Belgians – with price a consideration.


Okay, that’s just not fair. Top Shelf had existed in Manchester, CT for all of 3 months when I bought this bottle from them. Some Belgian breweries have been around for centuries. I’m being silly.

Silly, like Belgium? No, that would be silly.

No, I’m talking about Silly, Belgium.

What’s so silly about Belgium?


Don’t call me silly.

You? I’m talking about Silly, Belgium.

I’m going to punch you.

Look. Here. Click on this you dumbass.

Oh. Let me regroup and you can read what Top Shelf has to say about this beer.

Top Shelf says:

Complex full-flavored Belgian style pale ale with notes of citrus and tropical fruits.

Again, it should end there. Never mind that this ale had no citrus or tropical fruits, but the fact that it probably meant to have them is good enough for a label. Alas, they continue:

Beer is a product of science, art and faith. Science defines the process to yield predictable results (brewing). Art is the unique expression of this process (recipe). Faith is the confidence in nature to run its course (fermentation). Nothing embodies this concept better than the monastic ales of Belgium. Our Belgian style ale is a tribute to the marriage of American and Belgian brewing traditions. Cheers!

Okay. I discussed this a bit over on my review of Top Shelf’s “Smoked Belgian Ale,” which you can enjoy right here. No point in rehashing it, except to say that if you only have “faith” in fermentation, you should rethink that. It is a testable and repeatable process. Pure science. No faith required.

But let’s move on. How did this stuff taste?

ItsNotMeItsThemMeh. I know what they were trying to do here; get the yeast warm, get some Brett going, impart some fruity esters… but, no. Just wasn’t happening. We now know there is a town called Silly, Belgium, but I wonder if there’s one call Sad too. This is sad Belgium.

The beer was okay, just not well-made or really doing anything “Belgian” at all.

And y’know, after writing so many difficult reviews of a newer CT brewery, I have been checking the review sites to see if things have turned around. Overall, one would believe they have – and at least one trusted beer friend told me, “at least their beer tastes like beer now.”

But then I still see way too many reviews like these two I’ve now shared with all of you. This is a recent one and it appears that phenol infection (rubber) is still a problem at Top Shelf.


My Belgian Ale was, again, okay. And didn’t taste like a condom or window cleaner. Things are looking up!

Overall Rating: C-
Rating vs. Similar style: D-

Top Shelf Brewing Company
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