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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Beer Here: Diablo from Ale Asylum
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Credit:Robin Shepard

How better to toast All Hallows Eve than with a brew offering a sinfully sweet yet spicy character, and named after the devil himself? Madison's east-side brewery, Ale Asylum, is celebrating Halloween with the release of its 2010 version of Diablo. It's a beer sure to bring out a little wickedness in all who plan to party, in costume or not.


What is it? Diablo from Ale Asylum.

Style: The Belgian Dubbel is a medium- to full-bodied, red- to dark-brown colored ale. It's known for hints of chocolate and caramel aroma, and a rich malty and spicy sweetness. Dubbels have low bitterness and a distinctive yeasty quality characterized by low levels of fruity esters like banana, raisin and plum. Belgian Dubbels are moderately strong, ranging from 6% to 8% ABV. The style originated at monasteries in the Middle Ages, and emerged to become an accepted beer style in the 19th Century.

Background: Diablo is a fall seasonal for Ale Asylum, always released around Halloween. Brewmaster Dean Coffey first made this Belgian Dubbel in 2006, and it was one of the original beers made by the brewery when it opened that year. Its recipe features Belgian malt and yeast to produce the beer's distinctive sweet, fruity and spicy flavors. Brewery co-owner Otto Dilba says this is a beer that he often recommends to customers who enjoy burgundy wines and want a comparable beer.

Belgian Dubbels often have names and imagery that reference the devil. Dilba says he conjured up the name Diablo when he was working late in the brewery on June 6, 2006 -- 06/06/06. And that's also when it dawned on him that his first initial and the letters of his last name could be rearranged to spell "Diablo." That was a little creepy, so he decided it was time to call it a night -- but not before grabbing a Diablo.

Diablo sells for around $5/glass $14/growler (refill) at Ale Asylum. It takes about seven weeks to make and finishes at 8.5% ABV.

Ale Asylum is hosting a Halloween party on Friday, October 29, an event that also marks the seasonal release of its Mercy Grand Cru. Both Diablo and Mercy will be tapped together at certain times, making for an evening of what the brewery calls a feast of Belgian debauchery.

In the past week, Ale Asylum has also expanded packaging of its two most popular beers -- Hopalicious and Ambergeddon -- into 12-packs for Madison-area retail outlets, though not at the brewery. The Asylum has also pushed its distribution of Hopalicious into Sheboygan, with plans to move into the Fox Valley later this year.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Light hints caramel malt amid an inviting spicy nose.
  • Appearance: Rich ruby-bronze color, with a medium-bubbly tan head.
  • Texture: Medium- to full-bodied.
  • Taste: Malt forward in the flavor profile, with warm and spicy hints of raisin and plum.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Smooth and malty with an alcoholic warmth in the spicy tones.

Glassware: The chalice or goblet shows off Diablo's brilliant ruby-bronze color.

Pairs well with: The malty sweet and spicy tones of Diablo go well with rich meats like wild game, sausages and stews that have modest sweetness to blend without trying to compete for the palate. It's also a nice beer with Havarti, Brie and Gouda cheeses.

Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).

The Consensus: A- (excellent) at Beer Advocate and an 82/71 (overall/style) at Rate Beer.

The Verdict: Belgian Dubbels are great malty, sweet beers with some fruity tones that are well suited for a crisp autumn day. Diablo is a wonderful version, with a ruby-bronze color that gives it a spellbinding evil-ish glow. The bold sweetness and warm spicy tones of raisin and plum make for a witches' brew that'll sneak up on you as the beer warms. Just be wary of the 8.5% ABV, which just might steal your sober soul.

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