Posts Tagged With: dubbel

Gordon Biersch This Monk’s Gone to Heaven

Beer:  This Monk’s Gone to Heaven
Brewery: Gordon Biersch
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 6.2%


Serving Style: Draft (Cask)
Glassware: Snifter
Drinking Establishment: Churchkey, DC
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Consumption Companions: A DC resident

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dark honey colored body with a very bright white head that disappears into nothingness instantly.

Scent: For a Dubbel, it’s oddly phenolic. Also, it smells like overripe red delicious apples and aging pears.

Flavor: Wait, is this a Tripel? I’m confused. This has the iconic banana clove taste that is ubiquitous in Tripels. But as I drink it, I do detect a little hazelnut in there, too.

Feel: Like all cask ales, this is flat and creamy.

Concluding remarks: This has the color of a Dubbel, but the taste of a Tripel. However, it’s local (Gordon Biersch is based in DC), served cask-style, AND REFERENCES A PIXIES ALBUM… so props, but I wouldn’t have it again.

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Iron Fist Dubbel Fisted

Beer:  Dubbel Fisted
Brewery: Iron Fist Brewing Company
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 8.1%

Serving Style: Draft
Glassware: Snifter
Drinking Establishment: Churchkey, DC
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Consumption Companions: A DC resident

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dark crimson with a white dissipating head that leaves a light coat of lacing on the edge.

Scent: Super roasted malt smell that almost covers the pronounced alcohol note.

Flavor: Slight tanginess from the yeast strain used. Ends with a ripe date and nut taste.

Feel: Low carbonation. Velvety body with a satin finish, using paint terms.

Concluding remarks: Pleasant enough in taste, but overall I find this Iron Fist’s attempt at a Dubbel lame. It’s lacking almost every quintessential aspect of a Dubbel, except for the name on the bottle. Not bad, but I wouldn’t pick it first for kickball.

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Ommegang Abbey Ale

Beer:  Ommegang Abbey Ale
Brewery: Brewery Ommegang
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 8.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Opaque deep copper body. Tall tan head brimming with carbonation bubbles. Thick lacing on glass.

Scent: Caramelized brown sugar, raisins, and Belgian yeast.

Flavor: Layered flavors–raisins and nuts at front, citrus at back. Underlying taste of dark bread. Lingering flavor of anise and clove.

Feel: Thin-to-medium, slightly creamy mouthfeel with perfect carbonation.

Concluding remarks: Ommegang’s Abbey Ale is one of the best, if not the best, Dubbel I have had this month. While perhaps a little more intense than the traditional Belgian Dubbel style, the rich fruit and candy flavor profile is highly enjoyable. Try this; you’ll forget that this beer wasn’t brewed by the hands of the holy and was actually divined 3,264 miles from Belgium.

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River Horse Tripel Horse

Beer:  Tripel Horse
Brewery: River Horse Brewing Co.
Style: Tripel
ABV: 10.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Cloudy, light honey color. Two-inch bright white, fluffy head that leaves thick lacing on glass, and fades quickly.

Scent: Bananas, bananas, bananas. And bubblegum. And yeasty esters (why, hello, alcohol).

Flavor: BOOZE. Geez, I know this is 10% and all, but taking my first swig of this reminds me of my first shot of vodka at the young age of…ahem, 21. After I get passed that, I taste the banana phenols and a little bit of the advertised spice: cloves and coriander. It’s actually quite difficult to taste anything but the stinging alcohol note. It tastes sort of like a Band-Aid as I finish it (for those who know me, I like a good Penicillin, so this taste does not bother me, but rather, is just part of the drinking experience!).

Feel: Almost perfect body (hot damn).

Concluding remarks: Listen, for $1.99, a bottle of this is a pretty righteous deal. The flavor profile is nothing to write home about, but this is surprisingly DRINKABLE (ugh) considering the high alcohol content. There are some decent flavors in here, but they are hard to access with this alcohol frontin’ every sip of the way. I’ll echo what I said about the Boaks Two Blind Monks: this is a fine beer. And it is always good to support local businesses (River Horse hails from Lambertsville, NJ). However, River Horse’s Tripel Horse drowns in the river (groan). I like the old-timey type on the label, though.

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Boaks Two Blind Monks

Beer:  Two Blind Monks
Brewery: Boaks Beverage
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 7.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Muddy dark amber body with a thin beige head.

Scent: Deep, rich malts manifest into a butterscotch smell. Slight sweet cherry at the end.

Flavor: With all of the butterscotch and cherry aromas, I was hoping for a sweetness in this beer. However, the malt taste is overpowering. Finishes with a faint taste of fig and raisin.

Feel: Surprisingly thin body, but nice carbonation.

Concluding remarks: I’ve had the Two Blind Monks before, and enjoyed it. So I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with these two blind monks from New Jersey (Boaks Beverage is located in Pompton Lakes, NJ). However, the reunion wasn’t with the Two Awesome Blind Monks I once knew, but instead, Two Blind Monks Who Blindly Forgot to Add the Flava. People change over time, I understand. Maybe this bottle was old? Maybe my tastes have matured and are more discerning? Be it as it may, this beer is fine. I hate using the word “drinkable,” but it is drinkable. If you see it at your local beer store, support a local small business and pick it up.

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Allagash Dubbel Reserve

Beer:  Dubbel Reserve
Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 7.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Ally’s sister’s abode
Primary Consumer: Ally
Consumption Companion(s): The Fant Family

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OVERALL RATING:

Sight: Dull, opaque amber, with about 3/4-inch creamy tan head that leaves a noticeable lacing on the glass.

Scent: A sort of nondescript sweetness, most closely reminiscent of caramel.

Flavor: Butterscotch/caramel notes blended with citrus zest (you know, the slightly bitter peel, not the sweet juicy part), with a hoppy aftertaste.  Very mild flavor overall.

Feel: Not too thick or creamy; more so crisp, with a moderate amount of carbonation.

Now as a sort of forewarning, I’ll say straight off: I love Belgian beers.  So overall, even a bad Belgian is going to rank slightly higher than most in my book.  However, as far as Belgians go, this award-winning brew (it has won both gold and silver medals at the World Beer Cup in years past) from Portland, Maine’s Allagash isn’t so award-worthy to me.  It has your classic Belgian sweet-fruity flavor, but the taste is mild, even weak–in essence, nothing special.  It’s still a fine drink that I’d choose hands-down over, say, a Blue Moon, but it’s not as flavorfully exciting as I would’ve hoped.

And yes, I know, “flavorfully” is not a word.

Concluding remarks: In my own personal Beer Cup, it’d reach the podium, but would only get a bronze.

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Belgian Ales: the 1, 2, 3s of the 2, 3, 4s

And so…onto the next month! And what better way to celebrate the month of February than with the sweet, sweet ales of the small but mighty country of Belgium?  (We’ll let the whole government-falling-apart thing slide because of their contributions to the beer world).  Surely we could write a dissertation on the history of all beer in Belgium (and surely it has been done by some genius and/or ambitious fool). But, instead of trying to tackle all of the outstanding libations Belgium has to offer, we are going to explore the 1, 2, 3s of the 2 (Dubbels), 3 (Tripels), 4s (Quads). And while we acknowledge that even this is a fool’s mission, we will do our best to paint a picture of the style, nuances, and best (and possibly worst) of these Belgian–and wannabe Belgian–ales.

But first! A brief explanation about the (non) separation of church and beer unique to Belgium. (And the Netherlands, in one instance.)

Some of the most popular and delicious Belgian beers are produced by Trappist monks (god bless their souls). The modern day Trappists (or Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) are a Roman Catholic order of “cloistered contemplative monks” that was founded in the 1660s as a reaction to the relaxation of monastic practices. Trappist monks follow the Rules of St. Benedict, one of which states, “for then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands.” Thus, Trappist monks make a number of sellable goods, including cheese, coffins, and yes, BEER!

There are 174 Trappist monasteries in the world; seven of them brew beer (six of which are in Belgium!). Trappist ales are recognized to be some of the most delicious in the world. Thus, many other monasteries and secular breweries have imitated the various Trappist styles. The International Trappist Association was founded in 1997 in order to distinguish authentic Trappist beers from the poseurs–look out for their official “Authentic Trappist Product” insignia.

As the Trappists separated their beer production from other monasteries and breweries, the other monasteries wanted to separate themselves from their secular counterparts. Thus, the Union of Belgian Breweries introduced the “Certified Belgian Abbey Ale” label, qualifications for which are that the beer must either be produced in a monastery, or the brewery must donate some percent of proceeds to a monastery.  Who knew beer could be so holy and righteous?

(Credit: The Guardian.)

 

The History of the 2

The Dubbel was brought to us for mass consumption by the kind Belgian Trappist Monks of Westmalle Abbey in 1856, allegedly. While the Abbey had been brewing beer twenty years prior, it was just a weak ol’ witbier.  (Think Hoegarden, but better.) These Monks decided that this low-alcohol-by-volume brew was not getting them toasted fast enough (it’s cold in those old Medieval monasteries, from what we hear), and thus, they decided to brew a stronger version; and it became progressively stronger as the years went on–because, really, why not?

The popularity of the Dubbel was undeniable. It was so popular, in fact, that other monasteries copied the recipe in order for their monks to also enjoy the strong brew also. Even further, the secular community was intrigued: by the late 1800s, this style was being imitated by brewers all across the Western world. The style became increasingly popular after World War II, and was dubbed the “Dubbel” by a number of breweries, part as marketing strategy, part as a way to indicate its strength.

The History of the 3

The history of Tripel also has it roots at the Westmalle Abbey. (Someone was doing something right over there!) While the style has been around for quite some time–Westmalle had released a strong blonde ale in the 1930s–it wasn’t until 1956 that the Abbey named this strong pale ale the “Tripel.” And much like the history of the Dubbel, the style and name caught on: In 1987, Koningshoeven in the Netherlands (another Trappist brewery) released  La Trappe Tripel. The style has took the secular Western world by storm post-war, and an imitation style can be found at many non-Trappist, non-Belgian breweries.

The History of the 4

Remember Koningshoeven Brewery? They are the only Trappist abbey that brews beer outside of Belgium. And they also were the only abbey that had the balls to produce La Trappe Quadrupel, a much stronger Tripel, which appeared on the market in 1991.  So even though Netherlands lost in the last World Cup, they still have a pretty kick-ass claim to fame: being the originators of the Quad.

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What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 2:

As mentioned, the name “Dubbel” is derived from the fact that these brews require twice the grain as a “regular” beer, thus making them a stronger beer. Beneath a large, dense, creamy off-white head you’ll find the Dubbel’s ruby-tinged dark amber coloration, which comes from the use of dark candi sugar rather than dark roasted malts. The candi sugar, which is a Belgian sugar commonly used in brewing because it boosts the alcohol content of the beer without adding extra body, provides the sweet aromas and flavors of raisins, chocolate, or caramel. Notes of earthy qualities, such as herbs, plums, bananas, apples, spices, and black pepper, can also be found in a Dubbel. Because a relatively low amount of hops is used, the Dubbel usually has a malty sweetness, but tends to have a dry finish.  The best Dubbels are bottle-conditioned (which means the beer is unfiltered to allow for final conditioning to occur in the bottle), and this gives them a strong amount of carbonation to complement their medium-to-full body. Although you might not know it from the taste, the alcohol by volume of the mighty Dubbel is on the higher side, typically ranging from 6% to 7.5%.  Like all three of the Belgians we’ll be exploring, the Dubbel is best served at around 45-55°F in a chalice, tulip, snifter, or goblet.

USE THIS!

What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 3:

If a Dubbel derives its name from using twice the grain as a typical beer, we can presume (and be correct in our presumption) that the Tripel gets its name from requiring three times the amount of grain.  The Tripel is deep yellow to golden in color–a shade or two darker than your average Pilsner–with a dense, creamy white head that usually leaves lacing on the glass. The aroma can be spicy, floral, and fruity (like an orange, or a banana), and the flavor can be lightly sweet and lightly malty, with a low-to-moderate hop bitterness that comes through mostly as a spicy or herbal quality–so all in all, pretty darn complex. Despite having an alcohol by volume of 7% to 10%, a good Tripel should not taste like one glass of it is going to get you tipsy, even though it probably will.  Despite its get-you-drunk quality, however, the Tripel should be medium-to-light-bodied, which is achieved at the brewery by adding that lovely Belgian candi sugar to the brew kettle.

What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 4:

The Quadrupel, which we can correctly assume is stronger and bolder than the Dubbel and Tripel, is typically a dark brown-garnet red brew with a thick, fluffy, tan-colored head that you’d want to curl up in on a cold winter’s night.  The aroma is that of lightly roasted malts and fruitiness, with a tinge of caramel.  Again, candi sugar is added to increase the alcohol content, and as a result, the Quad is a medium- to full-bodied brew.  Its complex flavor is that of rich malty sweetness and dried fruits (like raisins and plums), with the occasional slight spiciness; no hoppy bitterness here.  Typically, traditional Trappist versions of the Quad are on the drier side, while Abbey styles tend to be sweeter.  Either way, the all-powered Quad is going to run you into the 8% to 11% alcohol-by-volume range.

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And with that…time for a four-week trip to Belgium via our beer-traveling machine.

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