Belgian Dubbel


My first introduction to Belgian beers came while I was in college.  Two of my good friends had worked at a bar called “” and had a chance to try various Belgian beers.  One night, as classes were winding down, they picked up a bottle of to share.  Well, I can safely say that I had never had anything like it.  I can also say I did not really like it that much.  I am not a huge fan of weisse beers, the banana flavors tend to dominate and turn me off, and that is what I remember from Chimay.  It was so fruity and struck me as very sweet.  Because of this, over the next few years, I tended to avoid most of the big bottles of Belgian beers.  I enjoyed English ales very much, and generally stuck to those when I wanted to have a nice beer.  Then I tried a , and I was blown away.  It was not nearly as fruity (this is relative, the beer is very estery, just not so much as the Chimay)  more malty.  However, as opposed to the beer being so different, I think it is more likely that I was just ready to try these beers again.

I received a copy of Stan Hieronymus’ excellent book “” (thanks!) and was able to dive a little more into the history and culture from which these beers arise.  After reading this, I had to give a Abbey style beer a shot, so here was my first attempt:

9.00 lb       Pale Malt (2 Row) Malteurop (1.8 SRM)
1.00 lb       Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)
1.00 lb       Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM)
0.50 lb       Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)
0.50 lb       Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)
1.50 oz       Willamette — rebel [4.70 %]  (60 min)    Hops         24.2 IBU
0.50 lb       Candi Sugar, Amber (75.0 SRM)
0.50 lb       Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM)
1 Pkgs        Belgian Ale (White Labs #WLP550)          Yeast-Ale

OG: 1.074, FG: 1.012, ABV: 8.1%.  I mashed this beer via a single infusion at 151F for 60 minutes.

Taste:  Light brown in color, crystal clear.  There is light, clovey/spice note on the nose, with malt.  Some banana in the background, and you can appreciate some alcohol, but not to hot.  The taste starts malty, and moves to some caramel sweetness, a touch of the bananas again, and a slightly sweet finish.  The mouthfeel is very smooth, deceptively so for the alcohol content (those damn Belgians!) and it finishes with some slight sweetness and malt.

Critique:  Well, for my first attempt at a Belgian style beer, I am pretty happy with it.  I really like how it is so smooth.  It is not heavy or overly sweet.  The Belgians use sugar to help thin the body, while keeping the alcohol content up, and what can I say, it works well.  The hops are very minimal, this is a yeast driven beer, and the character really shines through.  I enjoyed using this yeast, and will likely try it again in the future.

I did submit this to a competition, the judging sheets are below.

Judging sheet #1

Judge Sheet #2

The beer did well, coming in 2nd in the Belgian Strong Ale catagory.  The thing that I really enjoy about the beer, how easy and smooth it is going down, was one of the knocks on it from the 2nd judge.  That is ok, as a first attempt I think I did well, and I kind of like the body as it is, even if it is not quite to style.  One thing I did learn during the summer last year is that my basement gets up around 70-73F, and as I don’t have a dedicated refrigerated fermentation chamber (yet) I will likely focus more on brewing some Belgian beers when the temps get this high.  These yeasts are quite comfortable working at higher temperatures, accentuating the ester profile as the temperature rises.

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