Tag Archives: Dubbel

#108 – Het Kapittel Dubbel

#108 - Het Kapittel Dubbel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

I started to outline the Het Kapittel beers right at the beginning of this journey when I tried the Het Kapittel Pater (#2). That seems like an age ago now, but I would like to revisit the history of the Van Eecke brewery.

Although the Van Eecke family only started to brew in Watou from 1862, the actual premises date back as far as 1629 where the small farm brewery sat adjacent to a local castle owned by the Earls of Watou. This flourished in the local community until the French Revolution, when of course the buildings were first plundered, looted and then burnt to the ground. The Earls of Watou escaped by fleeing to England, and thus it was left to a local farmer to revive not the castle, but the brewery. The motto at the time in the village was “Revolt all you want, but we still need beer here!” – wise words indeed.

The brewery became the ‘Gouden Leeuw’ (the Golden Lion), and despite the proximity of Watou to the French border, the locals were very keen to keep the Flemish name. In France, as in England, the Golden Lion was a very popular inn name, translating as ‘Au Lion d’Or’, which is pronounced exactly the same as ‘au lit on dort’ –which means ‘in the bed one sleeps’. This would have been a much more apt title if they had kept the French translation as the local farmer turned the brewery into a proper inn with rooms for travellers. The inn stayed true to the village motto and continued to quench the thirst of its locals until 1862 when the Van Eecke family took over the brewing and began to push the boundaries on improving the stock of top fermenting ales. The range of beers, especially the Het Kapittel beers remain amongst Belgium’s finest.

The Het Kapittel Dubbel however was about the seventh beer of the evening and therefore I couldn’t tell you in great detail exactly what made this beer so nice. It was about 4am, and we were on somthing like our fifth game of Scrabble, which was naturally held up while we talked utter rubbish and fawned over this beer. I recall it was dark, delicious and definitely one I would try again sober – definitely much better than the Pater.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Van Eecke

#92 – Abbaye de Malonne Brune

#92 - Abbaye de Malonne Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.3 %

There isn’t much more to be said about the Abbaye de Malonne which I feel I amply covered when introducing the blonde (#14). There is going to come a time when I run out of things to talk about a beer that is as indistinguished as this, but rather than rush off it would be worth taking some time to look at the range of brown beers, and in particular those from Belgium.

It would be easy to look down any supermarket aisle these days and see brown ales as the minority; beer made for the discerning gentlemen only, however historically beer has almost always been brown. This was until the 20th Century when technology started to improve. In fact in Belgium in the 1930s, 80% of beer was brown. I would hazard a guess that these days the variety of brown beer in Belgium would be as low as 25%.

Belgium was world famous for its early brown beers, with varieties such as oak aged browns from Oudenaarde, and Trappist dubbels (#16). As we have already seen in other tales though, the rise of blonde beers and lagers began as these were cheap and simple to make, and the brown beer began to fall in popularity. In fact, one might even argue that was it not commonplace these days for breweries to make a range of beers to satisfy all their customers then there may have been even less around. The quality though of course can be up for question in many of these, where brewers have found simple ways to turn blonde beers to brown with the simple switch of a button.

The above issue does illustrate a pertinent point however; that of brown beers being generally made from similar ingredients. Darker forms of malt, or a higher concentration of caramelised sugars can turn any beer brown, and these are often used as a replacement for hops to attain the preferred degree of bitterness. I have always been a massive fan of the Belgian brown ale, although have been quickly learning on my Odyssey that just because it is brown it does not guarantee quality. I would advocate that the Abbaye de Malonne Brune is a decent example of this.

It was a particularly dark beer, almost stout-like in appearance, although my final impression was that of prune juice. It was silky and soft on the palate, but the flavour never really got going and was particularly limited. Compare this to something like the complexity of a St. Bernardus Abt (#46), and you can understand where this beer sits in the pantheon of brown beers in Belgium – inherently pleasant but distinctly average – although better than the blonde of course.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Haacht

#50 – Super des Fagnes Brune

#50 - Super des Fagnes Brune

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

I have reached a milestone. Just like the first beer (#1) when I started this pilgrimage, there is no great celebration to commemorate my 50th Belgian beer. Lets face it, Super des Fagnes Brune is not the Real Madrid of the Belgian beer world. The fact I am in rural Belgium and picking up local regional beers is more than enough for me.

Tash and I had stopped in a local campsite in the Namur countryside, and what spare gaps we had left in the car had been filled up with a bottle stop at a wonderful beer warehouse in Couvin. If we had had the time we would have called in to the Brasserie des Fagnes, but we didn’t. So much later, on a warm balmy evening we settled down, cooked an amazingly fragrant Ardennaise sausage dish on our Skottel brai and cracked open a few local Belgians – one of which just happened to be from Fagnes.

The brewery, opened in 1998, is actually named for its geographical location. The Hautes-Fagnes is a highland situated in both Belgium and Germany, between the famous Ardennes and Eifel highlands, of which the highest point is Signal de Botrange near Eupen. It is a fairly wet area, and thus often very swampy and several rivers begin here – notably the Vesdre, Ambleve and Rur. The Hautes-Fagnes translates into English as the ‘High Fens’, and is probably well represented on the label – and to be honest, that’s about as exciting as it gets. The evening was perfect and the beer wasn’t at all bad but I would remember the evening more for the location and the cuisine, and of course the celebration of the half century.

The Super des Fagne Brune looked great as it bubbled away after the initial pour, with a deep burgundy appearance with hints of russet and orange when held up to the light. It smelt great, and was surprisingly malty and treacly on first taste, and as it continued there were some great aftertastes – particularly of liquorice. A good holiday feeling from a less than famous brewery.

(Post-Script) – Less impressive however is the Super des Fagnes Blonde (#56). One to Avoid.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Dubbel, Deer, Duck, Fagnes

#26 – Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin

#26 - Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

The beers of Steenbrugge are steeped in a rich beer-fuelled history – 925 years to be exact! It was then in 1084 that a certain Arnold of Tiegem – the dude kissing the potato waffle on the label – founded St Peter’s Abbey in Oudenburg in West Flanders, where he wished to escape a life of fighting. It was here that St Arnoldus started to brew some serious beer, as monks tended to do at this time as it was healthier than water. History suggests however that there was a certain magic to his brews and that those that drank his beers would be healed – and he eventually become the Patron Saint of Brewers. Yes, we do indeed have St Arnold of Tiegem to thank for this gift to life, and if you are ever in Brussels in July, you can join the throngs honouring him on the ‘day of beer’.

The item on the label is not actually a potato waffle, nor either a Belgian waffle – it is in fact a mashing rake, used while brewing to stir the mash. Anyway, long after our good friend Arnold had gone, the years took its toll on the monastery, but in 1898 a certain Abbot Amandus Mertens decided to recreate the beers to honour his St Peter’s Abbey. Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin is one of these.

I think its possibly one of the most attractive labels but quite under-drunk beers. The head was fine and lasted well, over a thin dark underbelly of beer. The smell was bright and hoppy, as was the taste. It continued to sparkle with thin warmth in the mouth and remained clean cut and distinguished but nothing of that remarkableness I was hoping for from a beer of St Arnold.

(Post-Script) – for something with a bit more bite you might want to try the Steenbrugge Tripel (#103)

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Palm

#16 – Westmalle Dubbel

# 16 - Westmalle Dubbel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

The third Trappist brewery of my adventure already, although the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle (or Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) was only founded in 1794, and not conferred Trappist status until 1836. In the same year abbot Martinus Dom began the brewery, which is now the biggest of the Trappist sites with a brewing capacity of 45,000 bottles per hour !

It is often said that the terms ‘dubbel’ and ‘tripel’ hailed from the Westmalle Abbey, and the dubbel from the original recipe that was first brewed way back in 1926.

A trappist dubbel is usually dark in colour, and invariably sweet, with complex flavours comprising malt, caramel and sugar. It was said the original meaning of the term ‘dubbel’ was that it needed double the malt of a regular beer. Breweries often play with these recipes to add spices, and fruits to enhance the complexity. They are also usually pretty strong normally topping 7% ABV. I would be lying if I said a ‘dubbel’ couldn’t be blond, but it is unusual.

I still think that the bottle is better than the beer but it is still a fine brew, with a complex dark smell and extremely malty flavour with a long dry taste.  This is certainly not a guzzler but one to sip and enjoy early in the evening. Beware on opening though as it frothed a brown auburn ejaculation causing me to smash my favourite Orval (#37) glass as I frantically tried to avoid wasting the beer on my groin.

A better beer is by far the Westmalle Tripel (#149).

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Trappist Beer, Westmalle

#9 – Grimbergen Dubbel

#9 - Grimbergen Dubbel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

In 2007 as previously mentioned (#8), Alken-Maes was a bit-part of the major deal which saw Heineken team up with Carlsberg to usurp British giant Scottish Courage. Heineken effectively then became the worlds second largest brewing company after AB-InBev. The Grimbergen range however does survive just as a tiny flea does in the fleece of its strutting master. In fact, Heineken owns two more Abbey brands of beer in Affligem and Postel and the beer drinking world awaits the fate of these in the face of the dog-eat-dog business world that Heineken et al dominate.

It is fair to say however that Heineken has never been a major player in Belgium. Where the Dutch and British mass market have been quaffing Heineken lager by the hectolitre, the Belgian undiscerners have preferred the equally indistinguishable Jupiler (#192), Stella Artois (#116) or Maes. This may all change though as Heineken is the largest multinational brewery in Europe, and is active in over 170 countries. In 2008 alone she saw 125.8 million hectolitres pass under their umbrella, and at least half of that was sold within the European Union. You may have heard of the following beers which are also Heineken staples – Zywiec, Cruz Campo, Birra Moretti, Murphy’s, and 33 Export. While this is something of a success story for the beer business started by Gerard Heineken in 1864, it is a major worry for small regional breweries who struggle to compete financially. The decline in the numbers of breweries over the last fifty years threatens everything we all love about craft beers. I hope this story isnt a portent of things to come in Belgium.

The Grimbergen Dubbel has rich brown chestnutty hues yet remains clearer and thinner than many other brown beers. With more head than the blonde and a definitively smokey aroma, the taste is surprisingly sweet and uncomplicated, yet very pleasant indeed. As you continue to drink, hints of mushroom leap out at you in a brew that is far too drinkable for a dark/dubbel. With availability in UK supermarkets this beer goes very well in a slow cooker casserole *

* (Post-Script) – this has fast become a favourite meal of mine, whereby recently becoming decadent enough to replace the Grimbergen Dubbel with a couple of Trappistes Rochefort 8 (#31) – a la bloody carte if I say so myself !

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Alken-Maes, Phoenix