I’ve realized that many call it the Red Burgundy of beer, and rightfully so. Going from my last writing about one of my least favorite styles (American IPA), I’m going to talk about one of my absolute favorites, and one of the beers that galvanized me into the world of craft beer over 15 years ago: Dubbel. That rich, sweet, chewy, fruity Belgian specialty that’s true heaven and satisfaction in a goblet. Not as potent as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, or as delicate as a Saison, Dubbel to me is one of those beers that I reach for when the world just isn’t right.
History of Belgian Dubbel
Although Belgian Dubbel originated at monasteries in the Middle Ages, we have the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle to thank for providing it to the masses. 1856 was the year it was in its infant stage, when the abbey had been brewing a sweeter, lower alcohol Witbier that served the purpose as a table beer for the monks since 1836. Dubbel was designed as a stronger version of a brown ale, with the first official sale of the beer taking place in 1861, and in 1926 it was “reformulated” again to be even more potent. Like many other Belgian styles, the beer’s popularity ramped up post World War II, and was given the name “Dubbel” by many breweries for commercial purposes. Westmalle being the innovator, the beer was copied by numerous other breweries in the region, gaining more and more popularity as the years went by, and by the time of this writing, there are multiple fantastic examples both domestic and European available.
Belgian Dubbel Characteristics
Dubbel has a rich, complex, malty, sweet nose, with whiffs of chocolate, caramel, toffee and toast, but never roasty or burnt. Fruity, estery notes will swirl around in your tulip glass, and that will include raisins, figs, cherries, plums, currants, and even some banana and apple. Look for some spicy clove or peppery undertones and a bit of alcohol heat. Very little hops will be here. The appearance of Dubbel is a dark amber, with a gorgeous ruby depth of color, clear with a large, dense, creamy off-white head. The flavor of the beer is very similar to the aroma; that robust, fruit basket medley with balanced, sweet malty tones, and no bitterness. Expect a medium to full bodied beer, much akin to a hefty red wine, with medium to high carbonation and low alcohol warmth. Lastly, be sure to enjoy Dubbel at its proper serving temperature (45-55 degrees) and in a chalice, tulip, snifter or goblet. Grab a red wine glass if you don’t have any of those. To me, serving this beer in anything else would be a major crime.
Belgian Dubbel and Food Pairing
What types of food go well with a Dubbel? Well, a big, complex, and intensely rich beer should pair with similar foods. Game, slow roasted pork, and full-flavored sausages are total winners here. Any kind of barbecue is ideal, meat stews, or even a good steak – I have a marinade that I use frequently that incorporates Dubbel. If you’re thinking cheese, a washed-rind abbey type (many made by the same great Trappist breweries that produce the beer ) is ideal, or possibly a French Morbier or Havarti, Brie, or Gouda. Desserts? Anything chocolate, doesn’t matter what it is.
Deron’s Top 5 Belgian Dubbels
As you might have suspected, and as always, picking out a Top 5 for one of my favorite styles was no picnic this time around. Many, many fine commercial examples of Dubbel exist, and I am extremely picky about what I drink in this category. Admittedly, there is definitely some “predictability” to my list, but what can I say…they’re all on there for very good reason. Please try to obtain one of the ones I have listed – they all represent one of the reasons we drink good beer. Cheers!
[techtags:BEER REVIEWS, BELGIAN DUBBEL, ABBEY ALE, DUBBELS, DUBBEL HISTORY, DUBBEL CHARACTERISTICS, DUBBEL FOOD PAIRINGS]