Straw to Pale / 10 – 17 SRM
Low / 15 – 25 IBU
ABV 6 – 7.6% (OG 1.062 – 1.075 with FG 1.008 – 1.018)
Sweetness low to medium
You’d be right to think that monastery brewing is one of the oldest and richest continuing traditions in the world, so it’s sometimes a shock to find out that most of the beer styles we associate with monks came about during the last century. You can read more about the long history of Trappist brewing in our post on the Trappist Single style, but for now it’s good to know a few important things about that history. First, in world conflicts, Belgium nearly always gets the raw end of the deal. Second, monks in the Trappist order were committed to providing for travelers and sustaining themselves through their own work, both commitments that could be fulfilled by brewing.
Since the very early days of monastery brewing, when monks brewed for travelers and guests, they brewed different beers of varying qualities for the different classes of guests that might visit them. The Dubbel—both in name and style—is a modern outgrowth of that early aim, being both darker, higher in ABV, and more fruity and malt focused than the Trappist Single, which is still traditionally brewed for the monks to drink rather than for sales.
After World War I, many of the monks came back to brewhouses that were completely destroyed. Westmalle, which had only been producing beer at their monastery in 1836, rebuilt after the war, and began selling beer by the early 1920s (they also built a new brewery in the early 1930s to accommodate new technology and expand their capacity). During the 1920s, the brewing monks sought help from a distiller and fellow brewer, Hendrik Verlinden, for issues related to what they called at the time their “Dubbel bruin.”
This kind of camaraderie and sharing of brewing knowledge was ubiquitous among the Trappist order, especially in the earlier years. Many times, one or more of the brewing monks from a sistering monastery would travel to help another set up and run their brewhouse (monks from Westvleteren founded Chimay, and Father Anselme from Achel traveled to Rochefort, though Achel’s monks didn’t start brewing until much later). It’s no surprise, then, that Chimay had a precursor to their Chimay Red in the Biere Forte (strong beer) they brewed in the nineteenth century as well.
One of the final steps toward the modern recipe was the addition of dark candi syrup in 1922 at the Westmalle brewery. Though they also use a dark malt for aroma, according to Stan Hieronymous’s Brew like a Monk, the majority of the color in their Dubbel comes from this syrup. Simple sugars play an important role in a lot of Belgian and French brewing traditions, which you can read about in our posts on Biere de Garde and Belgian Tripel. For the Dubbel, it helps not only to darken the color, but also to boost the ABV without creating a full-bodied beer.
You’ll certainly find Belgian Dubbels on tap lists in the states, but they’re a little more rare than Tripel and Belgian Dark Strong. This style can tell you a lot about the Belgian brewing tradition, however, so it’s worth seeking out examples if you’re able. When you open one (and you should have to, they’re meant to be bottle conditioned), you’ll find a very light-bodied, highly carbonated, refined, malt and yeast focused beer with a complexity typically reserved for beers with much higher ABV.
Aroma – Rich maltiness, baked bread and toast.Strong fruitiness from malt, sugar, yeast, and alcohol. Light (if any) noble hop aroma.
Appearance – Amber to copper.
Flavor – Balanced toward malt.
Mouthfeel – Dry, highly carbonated.
Serve fresh in a goblet or Munique glass at 44º
A deep reddish-copper, moderately strong, malty, complex Trappist ale with rich malty flavors, dark or dried fruit esters, and light alcohol blended together in a malty presentation that still finishes fairly dry.
Complex, rich-sweet malty aroma, possibly with hints of chocolate, caramel and/or toast (but never roasted or burnt aromas). Moderate fruity esters (usually including raisins and plums, sometimes also dried cherries). Esters sometimes include banana or apple. Spicy phenols and higher alcohols are common (may include light clove and spice, peppery, rose-like and/or perfumy notes). Spicy qualities can be moderate to very low. Alcohol, if present, is soft and never hot or solventy. Low to no spicy, herbal, or floral hop aroma, typically absent. The malt is most prominent in the balance with esters and a touch of alcohol in support, blending together for a harmonious presentation.
Dark amber to copper in color, with an attractive reddish depth of color. Generally clear. Large, dense, and long-lasting creamy off-white head.
Similar qualities as aroma. Rich, complex medium to medium-full rich-sweet malt flavor on the palate yet finishes moderately dry. Complex malt, ester, alcohol and phenol interplay (raisiny flavors are common; dried fruit flavors are welcome; clove or pepper spiciness is optional). Balance is always toward the malt. Medium-low bitterness that doesn’t persist into the aftertaste. Low spicy, floral, or herbal hop flavor is optional and not usually present.
Medium-full body. Medium-high carbonation, which can influence the perception of body. Low alcohol warmth. Smooth, never hot or solventy.
Most commercial examples are in the 6.5 – 7% ABV range. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle).
Originated at monasteries in the Middle Ages, and was revived in the mid-1800s after the Napoleonic era.
Belgian yeast strains prone to production of higher alcohols, esters, and phenolics are commonly used. Impression of complex grain bill, although traditional versions are typically Belgian Pils malt with caramelized sugar syrup or other unrefined sugars providing much of the character. Saazer-type, English-type or Styrian Goldings hops commonly used. No spices are traditionally used, although restrained use is allowable (background strength only).
Should not be as malty as a bock and should not have crystal malt-type sweetness. Similar in strength and balance as a Belgian Blond, but with a richer malt and ester profile. Less strong and intense as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.
OG: 1.062 – 1.075
FG: 1.008 – 1.018
ABV: 6 – 7.6%
IBUs: 15 – 25
SRM: 10 – 17
Affligem Dubbel, Chimay Première, Corsendonk Pater, Grimbergen Double, La Trappe Dubbel, St. Bernardus Pater 6, Trappistes Rochefort 6, Westmalle Dubbel
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.060-1.075 (14.7-18.2 °Plato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.012-1.016 (3.1-4.1 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.0%-6.0% (6.3%-7.6%)
Bitterness (IBU) 20-35
Color SRM (EBC) 16-36 (32-72 EBC)
Similar to a Belgian Dark Strong in flavor profile, but with less complexity and alcohol. Similar in strength to a Bock, but with more yeast character, noticeable alcohol, and less malt character.
AT THE BREWPUB: Charcuterie
SWANKY DATE NIGHT: Dubbel braised duck legs with sweet honeyed polenta
DESSERT: Bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce
Add whiskey and BF Aromatic Bitters to mixing glass with 3 x 1 inch ice cubes, stir 42 times. Pour into Munique Goblet and top with 4 oz BF Belgian Dubbel. Gentle stir and serve. Garnish with fresh cut & twisted orange peel.
We used a mixture of Pale Malt, Munich II, Caramunich II, Aromatic
Carafa II, Special B and Czech Saaz hops with a Trappist Ale yeast.
An aroma of bread crust, molasses, and dried fruits fade pleasantly into flavors of fig, raisin, and spicy phenolics, with a touch of cocoa powder and banana. Complex but not confused, dark and flavorful yet crisp and refreshing.