Dipping into Dubbel

Welcome to Belgium, loyal reader! We're spending the spring tasting beers from this small country. Last week, we tasted Belgian “table beers”; this, we're moving onto dubbels. This style (like many of the others we'll taste over the next several weeks) has its roots in the traditional brewing culture of the Trappist, a Christian monastic order that originated in La Trappe, France.

 

Dubbel has an oddly specific origin — it can be traced back to single batch of strong brown ale brewed in the Abbey of Westmalle in 1856. This week, we'll taste a few American examples of dubbel, then we'll move on to the Belgian versions.

 

Smuttynose Single Digit Dubbel
Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle
ABV: 6.6%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP Discount Beverage
Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing reddish amber with a thin off-white head. Aroma has warm malt, sour cherry, and damp oak. Initial taste is round and sweet. There's a slightly sour fruity flavor — a mixture of stewed prune and preserved plum, mingled with a sweet, sticky toffee. A boozy clove complexity lingers under the sweetness. The initial sweetness dries a bit, revealing sour fruits — quince, cranberry and black cherry. A warming puff of alcohol rounds out the flavor. The aftertaste is heavy on the fruit, lingering tantalizingly on my palate.

 

Allagash Dubbel  
Format Sampled: 750 ml corked bottle
ABV: 7%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP Discount Beverage
Tasting Notes: Pours a fizzy amber, with a thin tan head. Aroma is subtly metallic and fruity, with raisin, orange and clove. Initial flavor is dry, yet fruity. There is sour cherry rye, and the delightfully damp character of damp new hay. A tannin, spiced rye note supports the fruit, lending balance to the mixture of flavors. There is a tremendous mineral structure too — dry, with a gritty, solid character like granite. The aftertaste has clove, old books, and dried cherries. This is a remarkably simple, well-made dubbel. The body is light and the flavor profile is admirably dry and complex. I don't think of dubbel as a highly drinkable style, but this example certainly is! This would be an amazing accompaniment to a stew.                                                         

 

Sierra Nevada Ovila Barrel-Aged Belgian-Style Dubbel *

Format Sampled: 750 ml corked bottle
ABV: 8.5%
Availability: Purchased at RSVP Discount Beverage
Tasting Notes: Pours a rich nut brown, with no head. Aroma has flavors of rich concord grape, currant, and brandy. Initial flavor is searchingly complex, with bright, sour grape, Merlot-soaked oak, and a distinctive caramel-cream note on the finish. This is elegantly transgressive, with the progression of flavors occupying a Venn diagram where brandy, wine, beer and crème brulee intersect. The finish is opulent, nutty and sweet without being sticky or cloying. This amplified, artful interpretation of a dubbel has all the complexity of a well-aged port, but the playfulness of a creamy dessert tart.

 

*Brewed in collaboration with the Abbey of New Clairvaux

 

Last modified onWednesday, 29 March 2017 14:52