One of the more anticipated beers of summer is hitting shelves around Wisconsin this week. New Glarus Brewing just released its latest brew -- and it just might qualify as a religious experience for those who enjoy a malted beverage. Abt, or the Abbot, is a beer tied to the monastery beer making traditions of Belgium.
What is it? Abt from New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wis.
Style: New Glarus Abt is a "strong" Belgian Dubbel, which is a medium- to full-bodied dark amber to brown ale. It's known for malty sweetness with assertive notes of caramel and raisin. The aroma often gives hints of nut and of roasted flavor. It offers very little bitterness or hoppiness. Dubbels range from 6% to 8% ABV. Historically, the Dubbel style falls in the darker brown, Abbey and Trappist genres. The Dubbel emerged as a beer style in the 19th century.
Background: Brewmaster Dan Carey calls his latest creation Abt, which is a beer that Flemish monks made as a tribute to their monastery abbot or head monk. In the brewery's announcement of this concoction, it's referred to as fully illuminating the Flemish proverb: "In Heaven there is no beer, and that's why we drink it here!"
Carey says the beer is patterned after what those Flemish monks made in order to generate some money for their basic living expenses. Abt not a beer that the monks would become rich selling, rather, one that acquires a solid following in their community. It is indeed a special treat for those who follow the brewery's limited-release beers.
Abt is made with a dark Belgian Candi sugar and Belgian yeast that provide distinctive caramel and raisin sweetness. It is bottle conditioned and takes about eight weeks to make. Abt is sold in the New Glarus Unplugged limited series of 4-packs for around $9-$10. At 9.6% ABV, it does have some alcoholic strength that requires respect. Buy an extra four-pack and stash it away to age -- that should bring out more warm, raisin-maltiness and smooth sweet fruity tones.
- Aroma: Sweet, fruity, malty.
- Appearance: Brown with bronze highlights and a tan bubbly head.
- Texture: Full-bodied and bubbly.
- Taste: Smooth caramel maltiness with notes of baker's chocolate and raisins.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A spicy combination of caramel maltiness with rum, fruity sweet cherry and warmth.
Glassware: The Abt is a great beer to enjoy in a small crystal chalice, similar to what one might use to enjoy sherry or brandy. A small but heavy glass with a cut design on the sides of the chalice allows the beer to glisten while encouraging slow enjoyment of the rum and raisin flavors.
Pairs well with: This is a dessert beer all on its own.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Abt is a beer best served only slightly chilled. An above-average, if not warm serving temperature will really bring out the smooth, malty, chocolate and raisin tones. I found it too big in alcoholic warmth to fit my perception of most Belgian Dubbels, especially if you're looking for a sweet yeasty meal beer. But the beer's smooth, spicy character and warmth are very similar to what you find in that style, only with more accent on chocolate maltiness combined with a smooth mild sweet cherry. All that makes for a great after-dinner beer. Abt is something special to relax with on a summer night -- a great beer for sipping on the patio and contemplating the day, as the grill cools and the stars begin to appear.