Dubbel Delicious

Friday, June 08, 2007

I received a request from a loayl reader for a review of something from the Jolly Pumpkin brewery in Dexter, Michigan. I will do that next week, I promise. I didn't have time to get to my Beer Mecca yesterday to pray at the huge building and get such a beer. I will make the journey and try the Jolly Pumpkin. I used to not like their beers so much, but from what I had at the Winter Beer Fest this year, I think they have made some improvements.

I digress.

Today I was really in the mood for a Dubbel. The reason is that I am formulating a recipe for a dubbel and I wanted a good example produced in the States, as I feel like I could not ever truly reproduce the real style from the monks in Belgium. It's sort of like a pastrami sandwich from anywhere but New York City: it's pastrami...sort of...but it just isn't the real deal.

I recently traded with a buddy of mine via FedEx some Michigan Brewing Company and Founders beers for some New Belgium beers from Colorado. One of the bottles he included was this lovely little Dubbel called Abbey Belgian Style Ale.
Color me impressed! I like Belgian beers, but they can sometimes be a little cloying and they are not always a "session" beer, meaning they're not necessarily meant to park it on a bar stool for 6 hours and do one after another. This beer, though, I found to be very drinkable and...maybe even "sessionable!"

Dubbels are bottle-conditioned beers, so I poured carefully to avoid too much yeast in my beer: hurts the overall taste and clarity a bit, and makes you fart really hard. It poured a lovely copper color with beautiful red highlights when held up to light. It had a large, dense head that produced thick, sticky lacing down the glass.

I got a lovely creamy phenolic not on the nose with a heavy dose of plums. I thought I smelled some bananas which while rare for the style is acceptable. More spiciness, alomst a licorice/anise and black pepper. I did smell a mildly solvent-like alcohol in the back, which is a little harsher than the style should allow. Usually with Dubbels it's a softer alcohol, but it's not like I'm gonna stop drinking it....

Ahhh! What a taste! A rich, complex malty sweetness is the real backbone of this beer. It's medium-bodied with a nice medium-high carbonation. Malty with dried fruit all over the place, like raisins. It does have a hard alcoholic note which is not as smooth as it should be, but it indeed emboldens the beer. I got some breadiness in the finish, which was also semi-dry with a fading bitterness that didn't last. Throughout the whole beer, and especially into the finish, is that strong malt backbone; not sweet like a bock, but just a complex malty flavor. It's got just the coolest malt-alcohol-phenol interaction to it that makes it a very thoughtful beer.

A note on phenols: usually, this is a band-aid or antisceptic smell that is indicative of improper sanitation. But it is a proper smell in a Belgian and imparts a clove- or vanilla-like smell and taste. In this beer, I oberved that it was more on the clove-like end of the scale.

This was very drinkable and surprisingly comparable to the real Trappist beers like Orval and Westmalle. I was extremely impressed and have a Hell of a model to follow for my own recipe.

A note on Dubbels from the Wikipedia entry: The first dubbel-style beer, from which the beer style derives its name, was the Westmalle Dubbel, which has been brewed in the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle since 1856. The name of the beer is indicative of its higher alcohol content in comparison with the Trappist monks’ usual lunchtime beer (more...or double...malt).

Kinda makes me want to be a monk, especially if this is what I get to drink for lunch.


Bob 11:51 AM  

Shipping beer. Is that legal?

You know, it is such a bummer that we have a hard time getting certain beers here or there, but at the same time, state regulation is producing a protectionism of sorts which probably increases the number of beers available. Without it would there be as many Michigan beers? If state regulations drop we may be stuck with only what the big producers make. This is just a theory anyway.

Where is the "Beer Mecca"?

As usual, very nice review.

Smitty 12:15 PM  

Shipping beer. Is that legal?

Shut up.

Where is the "Beer Mecca"?

Oades Big 10 in Clippert and Kalamazoo, right by the 127 enterance/exit ramp.

The hard time getting certain beers has nothing to do with state regulation and everything to do with the market. It's all up to the beer distributors as to what we can get here. Thus, it's unregulation that has created as diverse and prolific microbrew selection of Michigan-brewed beers as we have right now. Can't get a good dubbel? One of our breweries will brew one. I just wanted to try this particular dubbel.

Bob 12:29 PM  

"It's all up to the beer distributors as to what we can get here."

A very limited, regulated group of distributors that have regional monopolies. I'd say our market is regulated.

goota go, Mrs. Smitty is calling me.

Bob 12:30 PM  

OK, Oades is my Beer Mecca too. Just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing another beer Mecca.

Rickey Henderson 12:41 PM  

Rickey needs to know where the beer Meccas are by him in Westchester, NY. Any ideas where he'd go to find that out?

And if you can now ship wine, there's no reason for not being able to ship beer. End of story.

George 4:12 PM  

What's the alcohol on this dubbel? Always interesting to know.

You sure make it sound like I'd be much happier if I was drinknig one right now. The rest of the folks at my job might not be too happy though.

Smitty 8:25 AM  


Go to beeradvocate.com. Sign up...it's free. Then you can look up Beer Meccas by state and city.


7% abv.

Mike 7:07 AM  

7% ABV is kinda low for a Belgian Dubbel, no?

Anyhow, nice to see more American brewers busting in on the Abbey Ale scene, my loyalty to NYS's own Ommegang notwithstanding.

Smitty 7:57 AM  


Ommegang is an amazing brewery. Rare Vos and Ommegang are beers to live and die for. That brewery is like a transplanted Belgian brewery.

7% as low? I'd say it's about average. Even Westmalle and Orval are 7 - 7.5%. It's as crazy Americans that make everything 915% abv.

Mike 6:10 AM  

Ok. Must be thinking about Trippels.

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