North Coast Brother Thelonious Caramel Apple Tart

15 December 2013 by bri

Hello there internet!

Life has been distracting lately, but I’m still here and now so is this fruity, spicy, belgian beer-y apple tart. It’s the perfect dessert to satisfy your inner- (or outer-) beer geek after a holiday feast.

A deep apple craving always hits me this time of year, and I always seem to have a deafening desire for a good belgian dark strong during the long winter nights. North Coast’s Brother Thelonious doesn’t need me to wax poetic – the brew can speak for itself, for sure… and it really sings (or “tickles the ivories”) with a few tart apples.

This is an apple tart that celebrates winter and new beginnings. I moved, and am finally accepting the new kitchen. Learning to take photos again has been a journey – new light takes some adjustment.

Let me ramble on some more about inspiration. Beer-spiration, as it were.

Beerstock this year left me humbled.

My enthusiastically devised dessert creations ended up winning the beer-in-food award. A beautiful glass beer stein emblazoned with “5060 – 4″ – the number of the initiative that gave us the right to legally hold this gathering of homebrewers (and it was the fourth embodiment of the festival – time flies!) – is now a member of my beer glassware collection. (See below, it was a good home for some Bro Thelonious).

I am exceedingly grateful for this recognition, especially given my worthy and inspiring competition. Two fellow club members made some highly sophisticated Beer for Dessert that I thought was deserving of the award. Joe made a great Beeramisu (made with Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout and the Duchesse!), and Boyd made some mouthwatering date bars with North Coast Pranqster.

So many beer fests lately have left me stupid with inspiration. I have so much to say — but I think for now I’ll just practice giving you the highlights (if you know me at all, you know I’m not into the whole brevity thing).

The Phinney Neighborhood Association hosts an incredible winter beer fest every year, and this year was my first time attending. Populuxe was definitely one of my favorites with their Plum Porter and a fantastic Imperial IPA that I may have sampled more than once. Lantern Brewing inspired some of my homebrew with their Cranberry Wit.

After a recent trip to Portland (Apex, how I love thee for having the J.W. Lee’s Harvest Ale (Lagavulin) on tap, as well as some Crux Mosaic IIPA to satisfy my end-of-summer hopheadedness), a coffee beer fest near my hood inspired the memory of Naked City’s Coffee IPA from Seattle Beer Week 2011.

From Portland I brought back the muse for this apple tart – a bottle of the Crux Double Cross (Belgian Dark Strong) and loved it. One of my favorite beers lately – I enjoy the middle-of-the-road body and the heavy dried fruit flavors.

Brother Thelonious is a better choice for the apples, because it’s got more warming spice notes than the Crux.

Plus I’m horribly inspired by great pianists lately.

For the apples, I usually like pink lady, but I thought I’d switch it up and went with one Cameo and one Gala.

(Side note: growing up in the desert I always thought there were only two kinds of apples: one green and tartly delicious but with something about my grandma in the name, and the other red but not very delicious as the name would suggest. Imagine my surprise when moving up here for grad school to discover a world of apples, and all my friends have their favorites. None of which include the word “delicious.”)

The beer:

North Coast Brother Thelonious

Style: Belgian Dark Strong (BJCP category 18E). This beer should be very in-your-face with sweetness from the malt, caramel notes and a bready or biscuity aroma are acceptable. It should definitely have notes of dried fruit (raisins, figs, etc…) from the yeast and can have some moderate spiciness. Not too much in the hops department.

I love that the BJCP style guidelines aptly describe this style as “complex, rich, smooth, and dangerous.” A beer not unlike myself in personality. ;)

Tasting Notes: Definite dried fruit notes, plums, raisins, figs. A moderate to moderately-high warming spice flavor, and a great cloying mouthfeel to accompany the caramel notes in the malt profile. It’s definitely one of those “abbey” versions with a thicker body.

Other beers that would be appropriate:

Crux Double Cross: Like I said, the muse for this tart. It’s a favorite of mine lately. Definite dried fruit notes with a middle-of-the-road body. A bit more refreshing than the Brother Thelonious, but lacking in the warming spice notes. Add a pinch of cinnamon or allspice to the apples if using this beer.
Rochefort 8: A classic example of the style, lighter bodied and middling on the warming spice notes. Dried fruit notes are prominent and very fruitcake-like.
N’ice Chouffe: One of my all-time favorites. It has some thyme in the brew, so you get some great herbal notes.
Sound Entendez Noel Belgian Quad: A favorite from the recent WA Winter beer fest. Not being a belgian dark strong, it has some other fruity notes – peaches and such. Enjoy. Tough to tell this sucker is 10% abv, so beware when consuming the leftovers.

The pastry recipes:

Use my pate sucree recipe from here for the bottom crust. I added about 1 oz of crushed Special B malt to the dry ingredients. (For the non-homebrewer, Special B is one of those roasts that tends to bring out all sorts of dried fruit notes, so go ahead and add some dried cranberries or raisins to the pate sucree instead if you like).

I blind bake the bottom crust for about 10 min at 350 °F with parchment paper and beans, to weigh it down. Then take the paper and beans out and bake it for about 7-10 more minutes until you form a very light skin. (Note I am using this fancy rectangular tart mold – feel free to use a round one).

Brother Thelonious Apple Tart Filling
(makes enough for one 8-inch tart)

2 ea apples, cored and sliced (I used 1 cameo and 1 gala)
3 T North Coast Brother Thelonious
2 T (1 oz) unsalted butter
1 T brown sugar
1 T granulated sugar


1. Toss the apple slices with the beer in a bowl and leave them to marinate for about 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Heat the butter over medium heat in a pan large enough to hold all the apple slices without crowding.

3. When the butter is melted, stir in the sugars until dissolved. Add the apple slices and beer and cook until the apples are half-candied. Remove the apple slices, return the juices to the pan and reduce to a thicker consistency (a little apple pan caramel sauce!).

4. Mix the pan caramel sauce back in with the apples.

5. You can make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to a week.

Brother Thelonious Custard Filling
(makes enough for one 8-inch tart)

1 C (7 oz) granulated sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
2 ea eggs
1 T butter, melted
1 T North Coast Brother Thelonious


1. Mix the eggs with the sugar and the beer in a large bowl with a whisk until combined.

2. Add the flour and mix well.

3. Add the melted butter last and whisk to combine.

Ready to build the tart? Get your blind-baked tart shell and follow these instructions:

1. Make sure the oven is pre-heated to 350°F.

2. Arrange the cooked apple slices in the tart shell.

3. Pour the remnants of the pan caramel over the apples.

4. Pour the custard over the apples until it reaches to top of the tart shell.

5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the custard is puffed and brown.

6. Make some of the caramel sauce from this recipe (using Bro Thelonious) to top your cooled tart.

Do something fancy on a plate with the caramel sauce to impress your friends. Also, new photo of me in my new baking space! Complete with flour-y apron and my beloved Beerstock glass.

Well, cheers to winter. Winter beer (Double Mountain Fa La La La La, Deschutes Abyss, SN Celebration, Jubelale (of course), Jolly Roger… thank you Beer Gods), chess, homebrewing, the fireplace, old friends, new friends, family, lights, eventful music, and epic food.

I’m looking forward to more Beer for Dessert and homebrew inspiration during the holidays and the new year. I’m sure my friends are, too. Perhaps there’s a Holiday Cookie Swap in my future as well?


  1. Keely says:

    Awesome! So glad to see you again and I will be making that tart…yummy. Thank you.

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