Belgian Beer Roulette and Maredsous Dubbel

One of my favorite beer-store games is what I’ll call Belgian Beer Roulette*. I’m sure you’re already familiar with the concept of Russian Roulette, but a quick google search yields a Belgian variant where instead of placing a single bullet in a revolver, you place rounds in all but one chamber, spin the cylinder, point the gun at your head and pull the trigger. Fortunately, Belgian Beer Roulette is not nearly as insane or deadly to play. To play, you need 5-10$ and a bottle shop with lots of Belgian beers you’ve never heard of. Purchase one of said unfamiliar Belgian beers, chill, and drink. I’m quite the fan of Belgian beers, so I daresay that my odds of “winning” are probably more like Russian Roulette (5 out of 6 win) than Belgian Roulette (1 out of 6 win).

Generally I look for something with a tasteful label (I’m a total sucker for a coat of arms). This is, of course, not always the most reliable indicator, but that’s how I stumbled on to some of my favorite Belgian breweries, like Westmalle and Affligem. So one day, I see a series of beers from Maredsous. Nice clean label design and the store had a blonde, a dubbel, and a tripel (i.e. styles I love), so I picked up the Dubbel. As I write this, I now find out that the Maredsous brand is actually brewed at the Duvel Moortgat brewery. Maredsous is a Benedictine abbey, apparently famous for their cheese, but in 1963, they also began to license their name to Moortgat. I don’t know how much the monks contribute to the actual brewing of the beer or the recipes or whatnot (sometimes monks direct brewing efforts outside their abbey, but I can’t tell what’s going on in this case), but I’m willing to bet that they drink a shitload of the stuff.

Maredsous 8 - Dubbel

Maredsous 8 – Dubbel – Pours a nice reddish brown color, decent head with bigger sized bubbles in it. The nose is a bit light, but that typical spicy Belgian yeast aroma is there and maybe some dark fruitiness as well. Taste has a sweet malt backbone, with a little spiciness and just a hint of tartness in the finish. Ample carbonation and a medium mouthfeel make it readily drinkable. Alcohol is reasonably well disguised too. Certainly a solid effort and a good representation of the style, but not particularly close to the top of my favorite dubbels. B+

Beer Nerd Details: Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet. Drank on 2/19/11 (yeah, I’m really behind on this review.)

It seems my thoughts are pretty much in line with the Beer Advocate nerds, and they say the other Maredsous beers are about equal quality. I won’t be rushing to the store to pick some up (and now that I’ve had one, I see them every where, so it’s not like it’s a rarity or anything) anytime soon, but I’ll probably get to the other two varieties at some point…

* I’m not the originator of this term as a way to describe this process – I have Jay from the Hedonist Beer Jive (now just Hedonist Jive) to thank for that. It’s a fantastic term though, and it fits how I sometimes shop. Thanks Jay!

Dubbel Feature

See what I did there? Sorry, I can’t resist beer puns. The numeric Trappist beer style conventions are a bit odd as there really isn’t much consistency between them or a real, objective measure. In general a dubbel is stronger than your average beer, and a tripel is stronger than a dubbel, and a quadrupel is stronger than a tripel. But then, it’s easy to find examples of each that are stronger or lighter than expected. In any case, the dubbel is a really interesting style. It’s very strong, but not too strong. It’s usually a dark color beer, but it doesn’t usually feature the roasty flavors of stouts and porters. As such, it makes an excellent gateway beer for folks who don’t think they like “dark” beers. I’ve been making my way through a variety pack of St. Bernardus beers, and of course, there are two different dubbel style beers to be had. St. Bernardus isn’t technically a “Trappist” brewery since the beer isn’t brewed within the walls of their Trappist Monastery, but in general, their beers are every bit as good. So here are their two dubbels:

St. Bernardus Pater 6

St. Bernardus Pater 6 – The word “Pater” is latin for “father”, which seems rather appropriate (if not especially descriptive) for a beer directed by Trappist monks. It pours a dark red/brown color with a big head featuring lots of bigger bubbles and some lacing as I drink. Smells of dark fruit and bready Belgian yeast, with some spiciness and maybe even pepper as well. Taste is fruity, sweet, and spicy. Very well balanced and surprisingly easy to drink (perhaps due to the relatively low ABV). Lots of carbonation and a medium/full body. As dubbels go, this is a bit light, but still fantastic. Perhaps the Belgian version of a session beer! Of course, at 6.7% ABV, that’s way too high, but still manageable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

St. Bernardus Prior 8

St. Bernardus Prior 8 – A “Prior” is also a term meaning “father”, but it is generally considered to be just a step below Abbot in the hierarchy (which makes sense, considering that the next beer up in St. Bernardus’ lineup is the Abt 12, a Quadrupel that I actually didn’t like as much as either of the two beers in this post). Pours a deeper, darker brown color, with only a hint of red. Again, big head with lots of bubbles and some lacing as I drink. Smell is similar, but with a hint of additional caramel. Taste is also on the similar side, but this is more complex and intense. That being said, it’s still quite drinkable. Well balanced, lots of carbonation, maybe a bit of a fuller body. As it warms, the carbonation settles down a bit, making for a smoother, boozier feel. Definitely one of my favorite dubbels, though not quite at the very top of the list. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (330 ml). Drank from a goblet.

Well, what do you know? It turns out that these are technically the first dubbel-style beers I’ve reviewed on this blog. More are certainly coming! I’ve also got two St. Bernardus beers left from my variety pack, both tripels, so look for another double feature post soon.