Tag Archive: Abbey Dubbel

La Trappe: Dubbel Special Edition 2018 (Netherlands: Dubbel: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Good sized frothy beige head.

Nose: Orange zest. Peppery. Malt chocolate. Crushed lemon drops. Yeast funk touch. Lightly nutty.

Body: Peppery. Palma violets. Vanilla. Tobacco. Malt chocolate. Yeast touch. Slight resin and hop oils. Orange zest. Lemon drops.

Finish: Tobacco. Milky chocolate. Praline. Nuts. Yeastie. Peppery. Slight orange skin. Lemon drops.

Conclusion: Ok, I need to do an admission up front. It has been bloody ages since I last tried La Trappe’s standard dubbel, so I can’t really compare this to that. Sorry. I’m just going to have to treat it as a beer in itself. Hope that is ok.

This feels like a, comparatively, gentle dubbel for the style. There is malt chocolate, but not the full on brown sugar, chocolate liqueur, or the rough gem edges that you see in some expressions. What stands out instead is a peppery, slightly oily and resinous hop character, along with a decent yeast funk that makes this feel akin to a dubbel mixed 50/50 with an orval.

That is the main flavour hit for a while – a slightly more hop influenced, orval like, dubbel. Late on though the flavours twist to show new facets – orange zest and lemon drops come out giving a slightly hard sweet citrus style as a gentle additional character.

This, above and beyond everything before it, makes it interesting. The more gentle dubbel character now means that these lighter notes have room to roam.

It feels like a more new wave hopped orval, albeit not as awesome as you are now imagining from that description. It is quite easy drinking, especially considering the abv – the subtle hop bitterness helps encourage further drinking.

It is never super exciting but it is interesting – wearing the light hop flavours, yeast character and light dubbel notes pretty well. At a lower abv this would be a session god of a beer. As is, it is worth trying, but probably not one I will return to often.

Background: La Trappe. Probably my least visited of the Trappist beers (well of the ones I have tried – there are a few new ones I still need to dive into), but this one caught my eye. A variant of their standard dubbel, this one is made with an experimental hop variety, which they say gives a spicy aroma and floral character. Or at least that is what google translate tells me they said. Take with a pinch of salt. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, had in the cupboard since tail end 2018 – decided to break it open now. I went again with the haunting electronica of Marie Davidson as background music.

Duvel Moortgat: Maredsous: 8 Brune (Belgium: Abbey Dubbel:8% ABV)

Visual: Dark red brown. Uneven mounds of milk chocolate coloured bubbles.

Nose: Milk chocolate. Prunes. Liquorice. Grated chocolate dust. Slight sour fruit and tobacco.

Body: Bitter and with bitter chocolate. Wet oak. Sour black cherries. Malt load. Coffee.

Finish: Dry. Liquorice. Feels well attenuated. Faint sour sweets and bitter chocolate. At the end finally gives slight sweetness as brown sugar. Raisins.

Conclusion: Dry is the word I would use for this beer. Despite the heavy chocolate influence it never feels very sweet or even particularly slick. In fact for most part it eschews the usual brown sugar lacings that go with the style, instead focusing on the slightly tart dark fruit.

This dryness combined with the heavy, but not overly hop based, bitterness, creates a beer that goes distinctly against the more populist interpretations of the style. It is distinctly in the deep and challenging end of the beer spectrum.

It rewards time taken to explore it by opening up more fruity elements mid body, to expand out amongst the heavier elements. It is in this mid body that the attenuated feel finally gives way slightly to release a fruit richness and some milk chocolate that was originally concealed.

Recent reviews of American takes on the dubbel style have commented on their smoothness that seems excessive to fans of the original Belgium styles. This is the kind of beer that shows exactly what I am referring to.  The roughness of character and slow reveal stands in contrast to those more open entities. This is a puzzle that keep you hooked throughout the glass as it slowly reveals its charms,

A mix of dry body and chocolate , then a revealed fruit filled body. A beer of dedication. If you are willing to sacrifice some time on it’s alter then the beer will reward your piety will full flavour and a fine crafted taste.

Background: I’ve touched before on abbey and trappist ales.  Trappist ales need to be made on abbey grounds. Abbey Ales are beers that run in the same usual style as trappist beers, but have no such monastic link.  Trappist beers are nigh universally excellent. Abbey Beers, often not so much. There are two stand outs in the crowd though. Saint Bernardus and Maredsous.  This isn’t saying that they are the only good ones, but they are the most universally recognised. Since I reviewed a St Bernardus a while back it was time to give Maredsous a look.

Lost Abbey: Lost and Found (USA: Abbey Dubbel: 8% ABV)

Visual: Clear reddish brown. Large frothy sud like toffee coloured head.

Nose: Candy cane. Raisin. Slight oak. Chocolate dust. Brown sugar. Light cinnamon dusted coffee.

Body: Very smooth. Chocolate drinks. Plums and raisins. Sugar mice. Figs.  Brown sugar. Almonds. Candyfloss and chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Loose chocolate. More figs. Almond. Apricot. Chocolate liqueur. Light apple.

Conclusion:  This is a delicate one. Initially the beers seems weak on the tongue. A few moments with it though allows you to realise that this is just the immense smoothness of the main body. Roll the beer around the mouth for a while and the flavour builds up slowly, layer by layer. Even as each element is added on the abv is nigh completely masked, an impressive feat which I wonder how they achieve.

It is smooth and chocolaty, the dark fruits also call to the heavier interpretations of the abbey style.  The flavours, while taking a while to build up, last long, especially the chocolate. There are lots of lighter flavours as well, candy floss and sugar cane. The smoothness of the delivery is the thing here, from sugar cane to chocolate the delivery makes them seem like delicacies of the type.

I’m not sure if the added ingredients, such as raisin make much difference here. The flavours are close to what you would expect from the style anyway so it is hard to say what came from the beer and what from the raisins. I would imagine from my drinking of it that they enhance the current flavours rather than adding new ones to the beer.

As you can probably tell already the flavours build up well over time, there are new notes that come out over time and with changing temperatures.  I think my only real reservation is a personal one. It’s greatest strength can also be its main weakness. The smoothness seems a great contrast to the Belgium style it emulates. The Belgium beers tend to be much more evident in their flavours, even light abv beers are full flavoured and they never hide the force of the body. You are always well aware of what you are drinking.  The difference in intensity here is enough to almost seem a difference in type.

This smoothing out in the American interpretation could possibly be a call to different drinking cultures of the respective countries and expectations of the beers therefore, but it does cause some separation from the enjoyment of the beer for me as my expectations and the beer at hand clash.  This is however a personal thing as mentioned.

Overall it is very good, very smooth, and personal bias not withstanding it is very well done.

Background:  Lost Abbey (Aka the Belgium beer style producing side of Port Brewing) are widely viewed as one of the best makers of Belgium style ales outside of Belgium.  This bottle, which was shared with friends, is an attempt at the dubbel style which has had a raisin puree added to it for a little extra twist.  Picked up from Brewdogs guest beer section I had high hopes for this.

Ommegang: Ommegang Abbey Ale Dubbel (USA: Abbey Dubbel: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Surprisingly clear dark red to brown. A good size coffee brown froth.

Nose: Lots of liquorice. Brandy cream and ritz crackers.  Slight fruit, possibly raisins or maybe just dry fruitcake. Slightly floral.

Body: Quite bitter with evident liquorice again. Slightly fizzy texture as well. Raisins again. Definite fruitcake. Quite bready and ginger bread. Smooth feel under the light fizz but the flavour makes it seem chewier than its pour would indicate

Finish:   Dry bitter chocolate. Liquorice again. Port. Digestive biscuits. Light cloves influence and coriander. Touch of orange juice.

Conclusion: This is quite the subtle take on the dubbel, which incidentally should not be taken to mean not flavoursome. It’s a pretty good take at that with subtle chocolate and dark fruit influences.  The subtlety seems to come from the fact that the force is much more restrained that a lot of this style with a complete lack of alcohol burn.  Which is a good thing in case you are wondering.

Despite being more open to slight chilling of beers these days after a bit of experimentation in the recent heatwave I would stand by the fact that this beer is much better close to room temperature The delicate flavours seem far too easily bruised by chilling which makes the liquorice too evident.

Now this wont unseat the very best of Belgium dubbels, but for anything short of that summit it most distinctly holds it’s own and then some.  It has a unique range of flavours for the style, being even slightly floral at times, and it stands above the vast majority of dubbels of any home.

Frankly a very good light and fruity take on the style, the only reason it isn’t one of the top of the style is that there are such great beers in the style to fight against.

A very good relaxing beer.

Background: Ommegang have always had a reputation as one of the early breweries from the USA that made Belgium style ales and made them well.  I’ve seen their bottles around a few times on my travels but there has always been some enticing rarity next to it which meant I never picked it up.  This was eventually grabbed in York after deciding I really should give them a try.

Chimay Premiere (Red) (Belgium: Abbey Dubbel(Trappist): 7% ABV)

Visual: Ruby red (imagine that) with a fizzy brownish head of no life. Light carbonation.

Nose: Black cherries, brown sugar and plum. Lots of candy cane as well. Liquorice hints and hot cross buns. Very sweet and fresh.

Body:  Blackcherries, plum brandy. Buttered malt loaf. Honey. Barley and malt. More brown sugar and some nuts.

Finish: Malt loaf, liquorice. Slight bitter. Harvest influenced flavours. Peanuts.

Conclusion: I have heard this described as the most English ale styled of the Chimay beers.  While I do not entirely agree with the comparison I can see where the statement was coming from.

The nose is full abbey dubbel style, full of fruit and sugar. The body is where the comparison comes into play, with the fruit flavours and sweetness having a slight similarity to some of those found in Fullers 1845 for example (a good thing in my opinion considering the high quality of that beer) It is still distinctly a Belgium beer however, with just a hint to the English ale that earned this digression.

A weighty Dubbel, with a masked ABV. You could imagine drinking it pint style without realising its potency until your head hits the ground.

A very solid top quality beer. Then again it is trappist ale so I expect nothing less.

Background: A kind gift from Paul (thanks guv). Chimay was, to my recollection, the first Trappist, and possibly first ever proper Belgium (by which I mean not “wife beater” Stella Atrois) beer I ever drank, back when I was in the Evil Eye Lounge in York. As such it is a beer I thank as one of my break through beers into the quality beer world.  As an authentic Trappist beer (one of only six such breweries in the world) it is made at the abbey by the monks themselves.

Westmalle Dubbel (Belgium: Abbey Dubbel(Trappist): 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark slightly reddish brown with a decent light coffee brown froth head.

Nose; Malty hops, brown sugar, washing up liquid freshness but not aroma. Aniseed and liquorice. Figs and raisins. Overripe fruit sugar. Slight sourness, bitter chocolate and spice. Cane sugar

Body: Malt and barley, charring, liquorice and brown sugar. Raisins, bitter back. Slight cream and dark fruits.

Finish: Charring, aniseed, black hard liquorice buts, treacle. Bitterness and wheat.

Conclusion: If I remember rightly this was the beer that started my long love affair with Trappist ales.

It’s a dark sweet and just slightly sour beer, full force and slightly harsh and distinctly bitter flavours into a massive wheaty endgame.

Combine this with liquorice, aniseed and treacle and you have a harsh uncompromising beer, but one that appeals beyond its force. It has just enough release from the brown sugar and bitter chocolate to make it welcome.   In fact this has been brought along to several house parties and was found very welcome by drinkers who had not previously been exposed to its charms

Fantastically gripping and heavy beer, full of cane sugar and kicks far more that its not insignificant abv would suggest, this full of flavour that grips and manhandles you, but eases just enough to make you continue.
A great beer.

T Smisje Dubbel (Belgium:Abbey Dubbel: 9% ABV)

Visual : Light hazel brown. Large latticed head that gradually diminishes leaving cobwebs on the glass

Nose: Dusty churches; hint of hops; slightly sour

Body: Harsh burnt wood, still a delightful bitterness, burnt malts, dates.

Finish: Bitter, possibly proper bitter dark chocolate, nuts

Conclusion: Challenging and demands attention – compares well to its more sugary brethren. A drink for contemplation and discussion of philosophy and not to be hurried.

Corsendonk Dubbel (Pater) (Belgium:Abbey Dubbel: 7.5% ABV) 

Visual: Dark ruby/brown, almost black. Frothy but short lasting head

Nose: Dry leather and milk chocolate

Body: Dry malt, a touch of dried fruit, maybe raisin, and an almost coffee granule taste at the back of the throat.

Finish: Heavy liquorice

Conclusion: The body hints at flavours but does not completely finish them, but it is still a solid beer and not to be dismissed

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