Winston Churchill is credited with saying, "Most people hate the taste of beer -- to begin with. It is, however, a prejudice that many people have been able to overcome." That pretty much explains my growing fascination with the Belgian Dubbel.
Belgian beers, overall, offer some unique flavors. The yeast combines with an array of fermentable sugars to offer fruity, spicy, dry and warmth. Among Belgians, the Dubbel style, with its underlying spicy and fruity tones, is one that I've learned to like, if not always love. The Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb has one currently on tap: St. Bernard Abby Ale. If you crave the style, or just want to try a Dubbel for the first time, it's well worth a visit
What is it? St. Bernard Abbey Ale from the Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery of Mount Horeb.
Style: The Belgian Dubbel is a medium- to full-bodied, red to dark brown ale. It's known for light malty and nutty aromas. Dubbels have a solid but not overbearing malty sweetness, often with assertive spiciness. They have low bitterness and a distinctive yeasty quality that can impart fruity tones of banana, raisin and plum. Belgian Dubbels are moderately strong, ranging from 6% to 8% ABV. The style originated at monasteries during the Middle Ages.
Background: Grumpy Troll brewer Mark Knoebl makes St. Bernard with four different types of malts, including a light amount of Munich Oats for some additional body. He also adds Belgian candi sugar at three points during the brewing process, which adds to the overall strength and light sweetness of the beer. The beer is just lightly hopped with European hops. St. Bernard finishes at 6.5% ABV, and it sells for $4.25/pint or $8/growler (refill).
In naming this beer, Knoebl turned to good friend and regular customer Scott Weiner, who is a consummate beer traveler who enjoys the Belgian brews of New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. When he suggested the name St. Bernard, Knoebl took Weiner to mean the dog and fashioned a tap handle with a picture of a lovable pooch. Weiner joked later he was actually referring to St. Bernard Parish in Middleton, as a symbolic tribute to the traditions of making beer at abbeys.
St. Bernard should last into May at the Grumpy Troll. Once it's gone, look for a lighter-bodied Belgian Wit beer to take its place, just in time for late spring or a early summer.
- Aroma: A light maltiness with a suggestion of raisin sweetness that comes in later.
- Appearance: Clear bronze with a medium bubbly head.
- Texture: Medium bodied.
- Taste: A firm caramel maltiness up front, followed by a yeasty spiciness with hints of raisin and plum.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A light malty ending with just a hint of hoppiness.
Glassware: The Grumpy Troll serves St. Bernard in a common bar pint. But the glass chalice or goblet is much better suited to showing off the beer's vivid bronze color, while allowing the aromas to emerge above the glass.
Pairs well with: The malty sweet and spicy tones of St. Bernard go well with rich meats whose slight sweetness would blend with the flavors of the beer without trying to compete. From the Grumpy Troll's menu, try the pasta primavera with its medley of yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers and basil cream sauce.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: St. Bernard Abbey Ale is great local rendition of the style, with medium hints of sweet fruitiness. It's certainly not as aggressively malty as an imported Belgian version, but its firm and smooth caramel backbone, spiciness and warmth make this a solid choice for anyone who likes Belgian Dubbels. Its flavor has depth and complexity, and I enjoyed its overall maltiness and yeasty qualities, reflected in the accents of banana, plum and raisin. Its well-rounded yet distinctive dubbel flavors make it doubly good.