It’s time for another additional for Know Your Styles. This week’s style, the Belgian Dubbel, is being brought to you by Brad Mock. Brad is a local homebrewer with the St. Louis Brews. If you attend the meeting, he’s one of the guys that brings you beer and food, which means you should always be nice to him. Also, a thanks to Paul from The Wine and Cheese Place for supplying beer for this feature. Without further ado, the Belgian Dubbel.
What you should be smelling: Malty sweetness is the tops for this style. Since it’s slightly towards the darker end of styles, you may pick up some caramel flavors, but never roasted or burnt. Fruit flavors are often found that would be similar to raisins or plums, but also banana, apple or even dried cherries. On top of the sweetness and fruit, you might get some spiciness accented with clove, pepper, or perfume like notes. It shouldn’t have a very discernible hop aroma. Lastly, you may smell alcohol. Though this style isn’t the highest on the ABV ladder, the alcohol has a tendency be apparent in the aroma and flavor. The only notes were that the St. Bernardus had a very sweet and pleasant aroma when poured and the Chimay was slightly yeasty.
What you should be seeing: The first thing I saw was that the two Belgian beers blew over once I took the cap off. That speaks to the high carbonation associated with this style. While the BJCP lists the color as dark amber to copper, I found the true Belgian samples had a straight brown color with no hints of red. The commonality is the head, which is long lasting creamy off-white. The New Belgium was clear, but the other two had a slight haze. Again, the BJCP guidelines list the style as clear.
What you should be tasting: Once again, this style’s flavor is very similar to its aroma. You should find very malty sweet with the added complexity of the fruity esters, spiciness and alcohol. I think it’s a little like raisins soaked in spiced rum. You may find a hint of bitterness, but it shouldn’t last into the finish. The St. Bernardus was spicier, the Chimay more like candy alcohol and the New Belgium was old, stale fruit.
How you should you be drinking this: If you follow the traditions of the brewers making these beers, you will be drinking from a goblet. The large opening at the mouth allows more of the complex aroma to escape than a regular shaker or a tulip. Dead cold is not how to drink these. All of the flavors and aromas are more appreciated closer to 45-50 degrees. Also note…after drinking all three in a short time for the sake of the assignment, I advise drinking them sitting down.
What you should be buying: In addition to the ones I sampled, others listed for the style available in the area include Westmalle Dubbel and Corsendonk Abbey Brown. I’d like to try Russian River Benediction, Flying Fish Dubbel, Lost Abbey Lost and Found Abbey Ale, and Allagash Double. Be sure to ask your local beer store clerk for your options.
Related Styles: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Quad