Sunday, May 18, 2014

What's Jayme drinking?

A couple of weeks ago, a former intern of mine preparing for graduation stopped by the office and gifted me with a bottle of Westmalle Trappist Ale Dubbel to say thanks for helping him out and offering advice over the past year (thanks, Andrew). We took a photography course together last spring, and during the course of the semester had several conversations about beer--particularly, what makes a good one. Apparently he paid attention to my likes and dislikes.

I chilled the dubbel in the refrigerator (the bottle recommends serving it in the 50-60 degree range) and them popped the cork. Which promptly exploded from the bottle, ricocheted off the ceiling and flew across the room, startling my family. Fortunately, it didn't gush too much, and I caught everything in my beer mug. It poured a dark, translucent brown with a seriously thick caramel-colored head that lasted forever. When it did slowly subside, it left behind persistent lacing. The scent was malty but not sweet, with some floral notes, pepper spice and toast.

The flavor is a good example of the dubbel form: Fruity plum is the first thing I tasted, along with oak and leather. There's a touch of malty sweetness mixed with a sharp undertone of citrus, but overall the flavor is dark, finishing up with a restrained hoppy bitterness. I couldn't really taste any alcohol at all, somewhat surprising for a Trappist ale with 7 percent alcohol. In fact, the mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for all that's going on here, reminding me a lot of that Flemish sour I had back in September, although without the sour (well, without a lot of sour. There's a little bit hiding there off to the side). To be honest, the mouthfeel of this dubbel is very "dry" despite the malt. That's a contradiction, I know, but this one does a good job of balancing the various competing elements.

This dubbel is not as complex as some of my favorite beers, but there's a lot here to keep someone's attention. I'm not as nuts for it as some of the reviewers I've seen online, but I will agree this is a very good example of a dubbel. I think if it had a fuller, richer body I'd be more in love with it. As it is, this is a good "step-up" beer for someone who has perhaps developed a taste for the black lagers that are starting to gain in popularity, such as Shiner's Bohemian Black and New Belgium's Enlightened Black Ale/Lager (which I myself am partial to). It's good stuff, but as I mentioned before, that 7 percent alcohol is well-hidden and could sneak up on you if you're not careful. Otherwise, Westmalle's dubbel is a very drinkable beer. Recommended.

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