Last week Wisconsin Brewing Company
unveiled another brew in their Forward! Series. This time out it was a Belgian dubbel, a smoked dubbel, no less. With the Summer of Rauch 2016 having precious few weeks left, The Dulcinea and I headed out to Verona to give the beer a taste.
The last time
I reviewed an entry from the Forward! Series I found myself wondering who brewed these beers. Was it brewmaster Kirby or was it his minions? The veil was lifted last week as it was revealed that Smoked Dubbel was brewed by a production intern named Adam.
The beers of Belgium are certainly ones that require more of my attention and that of my mouth. It's not that I don't enjoy them, it's that, well, I've been neglectful. While I've read a tad about Belgian beers, I am probably on par with a proctologist's knowledge of the human heart. I know they're out there and I am happy for it. I just don't know a whole helluva lot about them.
As a style, the dubbel is apparently a Trappist ale or abbey ale, if you don't happen to be a Trappist monastery. "Trappist ale" is a legally protected appellation like "Kölsch" or the letter M printed in yellow and is produced by just 11 breweries around the world. As someone who enjoys medieval European history, I revel in the thought that contemporary monks are following in the footsteps of their forebears of many centuries ago. For my part, when drinking one of these beer I like to envision myself as a monk – think Remigio from Name of the Rose
- having a quick pick-me-up before starting my shift at the scriptorium. It's like drinking history.
A small, white head that was very loose disappeared quickly leaving me with a glass full of a light copper color that had perhaps a very modest red tint. It was very cloudy and I didn't see much in the way of effervescence. I'm not sure if the beer should be clear or not. I tend to think of these brews as at least having yeast remaining in them so I wouldn't be surprised if clarity isn't an issue.
I had to do a double-take with the aroma. It was very sweet with caramel but also had a big banana scent which was joined by bubble gum. Now, I know dubbels should taste fruity but I didn't think that they resembled a Weißbier so closely. I was just expecting some raisin to be in there too.
The first thing that struck me upon tasting the beer was the lack of carbonation which no doubt contributed to the very smooth feel on my tongue. While the banana made a return engagement, it was accompanied by stone fruit – think plum & apricot – and topped off with some caramel sweetness. The precious smoke was moderate at first and then quickly faded into the background to become a pleasant accent to the fruity flavors.
That banana taste lingered at the end along with some of the sweetness as some grassy hops made their presence known. While they didn't give a lot of bitterness or dryness, it was just enough to overcome the fruity sweetness for a nice contrast. There was no lacing left on my glass.
While I certainly wouldn't have complained about this beer having more smokiness to it, I enjoyed its subtle support of all the fruity esters and phenols and whatever other chemicals the yeast produced. This was cherry wood smoked malt which sounds like the perfect fit for this style. If you've ever had Karben4's NightCall, think that level of smoke. Although Smoked Dubbel had a lot of nice flavors, it was thin-tasting. I expected a much richer malt flavor as well as a fuller body than I got.
I give Adam credit for conceiving this beer but it just didn't come off correctly, to my taste. Hopefully he'll try again because a smoked dubbel sounds like a perfect autumnal alternative to "pumpkin beers".
Junk food pairing: Since Smoked Dubbel is only available at the brewery, pack your picnic basket with some Fig Newtons and Andy Capp's Cheddar Fries.
Labels: Beer, Belgian dubbel, Rauchbier, Smoke Beer, Wisconsin Brewing Company