Belgain Dark Ales and Dubbels

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Junior, Dec 4, 2017.

  1. Junior

    Junior Disciple (339) May 23, 2015 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    I have recently started in earnest to drink some Belgain Ales, mostly dark ales and dubbels (with one quad thrown in). My favorite one so far was Rochefort 8. My least favorite was Rochefort 10. Some of the others that I've tried were Bell's Hell Hath no Fury, Chimay Premier Red, and Ommegang Abbey Ale. The Rochefort 10 was just too boozy for my liking. For the most part I found the others very similar in flavor. I liked the carbonation present in the Rochefort 8 and Chimay Primier Red. The American Dubbels seemed to just be less carbonated. All in all, I really like these styles and plan to try several more in the future. But first I would like to pose a few questions:

    Are the differences between a typical Dubbel, Belgain Dark Ale, and Belgain Strong Dark Ale as subtle as I am perceiving them to be? Is there overlap between these styles similar to what we see with American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales and Imperial India Pale Ales? Based on my comments above, any that you would recommend?
  2. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,334) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    The carbonation being more so in belgian imports is that they could be bottle conditioned. You can find the style descriptors under the "beer and beer styles" tab.

    The booziness in some are subjective.

    My favorite American dubbel is from New Belgium. I also like Flying Fish Abbey from my homestate. Cheers.
  3. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,842) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Member

    Quads can be an acquired taste, as can a BBQ. I like them, but I also like BA beers. Not that I'm looking for drunk-for-the-buck value, it just seems like the quality beers I am drawn to are generally more expensive and it seems like they run up the ABV to help justify the higher cost. A quad of course is by design generally stronger than a tripel which is stronger than a dubel. And a strong dark ale is about as boozy as a quad. I like them all.
  4. CFCforlife

    CFCforlife Initiate (181) Jun 13, 2015 Ohio
    Beer Trader

    While it's not truly Belgian, Unibroue Trois Pistoles is a favorite of mine (though it may be heavier than you're looking for if you like dubbels more than Rochefort 10). Usually can find a four-pack relatively inexpensively, too.
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  5. Zorro

    Zorro Poo-Bah (4,222) Dec 25, 2003 California

    Unibroue - Terrible, try it.
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  6. LiquidAmber

    LiquidAmber Poo-Bah (5,617) Feb 20, 2009 Washington
    Premium Member

    Since there are so many Unibroue suggestions (and I agree, well made and available); when you're ready for a third great Belgian style, try Unibroue's Fin du Monde, a tripel.
  7. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,127) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium Member

    If you have a Trader Joe's nearby get their Vintage Ale. It's made by Unibroue but is usually a better price.

    You can read the differences in the style descriptions here:
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  8. Jacobier10

    Jacobier10 Poo-Bah (1,821) Feb 23, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Member

    Belgian Strong Dark Ales are going to be heavier and richer than a dubbel. Sometimes a little sweeter too, but not always.

    Sure, that's a fair way to look at it. The ingredients and profiles are similar but they are brewed to different strengths.

    The Chimay Red and Ommegang Abbey that you tried are two of my favorites. I'd also recommend St. Bernardus Prior 8 and Westmalle Dubbel. You might like Rochefort 6 but I feel there's a big dropoff in that beer from the Rochefort 8. Worth a try though.
  9. Dave_S

    Dave_S Initiate (122) May 18, 2017 England

    It's worth bearing in mind that the commonly-used division of Belgian beer styles was largely invented (AIUI) to make homebrew competitions in the US more manageable. Belgian brewers don't generally seem to have much interest in them, so they have limited use as a tool for understanding the style-relationships of actual Belgian beers.

    The best overview of the general landscape of Belgian beer that I've read is in Tim Webb and Joe Stange's Good Beer Guide Belgium, although there might be something else out there that I don't know about.
  10. Premo88

    Premo88 Meyvn (1,418) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    Dubbel recommendations?

    Every single one you can find.

    Westmalle, Rochefort 6, St. Bernardus Prior 8, St. Feuillien are all good enough for a spin (Rochefort 6, Westmalle are fantastic).

    If you like Chimay Red, my bet is you'll find all Belgian-made dubbels worth trying at least once and at least some American-made dubbels a fun sidetrack. From my experiences, we don't brew abbey ales very well in comparison to how well we nail many of the German styles, some of the English and even many of the other Belgian styles. Smarter BAs than me always point to the yeast as one of the biggest reasons, and there's no doubt that's true. Ommegang is by far the best American brewer of abbey ales of what I've tried, and again, most say it's because they've got the good yeast.

    Happy to see another big dubbel fan! I love quads a ton, but I don't ever sleep on the good dubbel ... pound for pound it's as good a style as any of the 104 listed here on IMO.
  11. Dave_S

    Dave_S Initiate (122) May 18, 2017 England

    Some good advice here. (Also Achel Bruin and Corsendonk Pater.)
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  12. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (1,938) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I agree that the spectrum of Belgian Dark Ales to Belgian Strong Dark Ales is pretty analogous to the spectrum of APAs to DIPAs. Not sure that Dubbels then fall in the middle in the IPA slot, but what the hell do I know?

    If you're into Dubbels though, Westmalle Dubbel should be first on your list to try. It's superb.
  13. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    There certainly is a modicum of overlap. Not as much with the European producers, though, as compared to US ones, and certainly not to the extent that APAs, IPAs, and IIPAs overlap.
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  14. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,774) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    With Belgians generally I often prefer the '8' over the same brand's '10 or 12'.
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  15. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    While I don't agree with that, I do agree that the "8" tends to be much more overlooked.

    Dubbels just aren't as cool as Quads, man.
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  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,377) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I agree with @Jacobob10 when he stated this is a fair analogy.

    Another thing to think about is cellaring/bottle aging. These beers will evolve with increasing bottle aging time. Over the years I have homebrewed Dubbels, Tripels and Quads/BSDA beers. These beers will evolve over time and with changing flavor profiles you may find you enjoy these beers more with time in the bottle. For example if you had cellared the bottle of Rochefort 10 for a few years you very well may have enjoyed the drinking experience more.

    I brewed a batch of Quad (my second time brewing this beer) and bottled it last June. I have consumed a few bottles already but the bulk of these beer will be consumed between Christmas of this year and over the next 5 years.

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  17. Junior

    Junior Disciple (339) May 23, 2015 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions.

    I have read the style descriptions here several times. The descriptions are pretty similar with some exceptions; primarily alcohol content but also fruit, hop, malt and spice flavors. In the limited number of belgain style beers that I have tried, I just wasn't picking up much difference between the darks, dubbels, and strong darks. The alcohol in the Rochefort 8 was well hidden. The Rochefort 10 did seem to fall into a separate category. I am a fan of some big DIPA's, imperial stouts and BA imperial stouts, that one just stood out to me a being boozy. In the future, I will try to find some that may be a little older or age them myself.

    Carry on.
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  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,377) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    If you are a patient person and have a cellar I would recommend that you try the "age them myself" method. In this way you have control of how the bottles are aged.


    P.S. Also try other Quad/BSDA beers besides Rochefort 10. I am a fan of St. Bernardus Abt 12 with 1-2 years of aging. Maybe you would prefer that brand?
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  19. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Defender (623) May 29, 2011 Florida
    Beer Trader

    Westmalle Dubbel May be my favorite Abbey beer.

    I would say my favorite Belgian, but there are so many amazing Saison, Lambic, Gueuze..
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  20. Leebo

    Leebo Initiate (171) Feb 7, 2013 Massachusetts

    +2 for Ommegang.
  21. Premo88

    Premo88 Meyvn (1,418) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    Thanks for the Corsendonk tip! The Achel I know about and hope to run into all of their stuff some day, but Corsendonk somehow hasn't popped up on my radar until now.

    I think there's a bottle of Westmalle dubbel in my fridge, and Monday (today) is my Sunday ... don't see how that Westmalle's making it to Tuesday with all this dubbel/quad/strong dark talk getting me excited. :stuck_out_tongue:
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  22. zid

    zid Savant (908) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    I'm going to go against the grain and say that the analogy to the overlap of pale ales and IPAs isn't a perfect one. Pale ale, IPA, and dubbel are more "styles" than "Belgian (strong) dark ale." The latter is basically a categorization of beers on a website more than a term used to market actual beers. I can organize a clothing store by size and put all of the XL shirts in one section, but that doesn't make XL a style of shirt. In my eyes, the style is bruin or brune and a modern "dubbel" is a type of bruin. Dubbels aren't different from bruins, but if a beer adheres to a certain ABV range and is associated with modern Trappist beer by being either:
    a) a Trappist beer
    b) an "abbey beer" inspired by the Trappists
    c) an American craft beer modeled after the Trappists
    ... then it will usually be put in the "dubbel" category. If it isn't, then it will probably be put in the "Belgian (strong) dark ale" category even though it would be better to call it a bruin/brune.

    With all of the talk about "dessert stouts" (or whatever you want to call them), in my mind, Westmalle Dubbel satisfies that niche in a superior way. It's like a chocolate cherry cake done as a Belgian beer without the use of chocolate or cherries.
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  23. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,145) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    Try Sterkens dubbel if you can find it.

    For BSDAs try Van de Kaiser Blau, Val Dieu Brune and Val Dieu Grand Cru
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  24. utopiajane

    utopiajane Poo-Bah (2,431) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    I had a good dubbel the other day and thank goodness because I was starting to think chimay was the only brewer who could make one. It was new belgium abbey dubbel.

  25. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Surprised that you'd bring up those two as their profiles are pretty different. I enjoy both of them, mind you, they're just different animals.

    What do you think about Ommegang and Unibroue?
  26. JBogan

    JBogan Champion (829) Jul 15, 2007 California

    First of all, may I just say that it's refreshing to read a thread that's not about IPAs, lol.

    With that out of the way, there have been some good recommendations here so far. My preference for the most part has been towards Belgian dark ales, and by that I mean the ones actually from Belgium.

    Certainly there are some very good ones from elsewhere, but to my taste buds anyway they tend to have a chalky flavor in trying to replicate the beers from Belgium.

    Whatever the case, try as many as you can, and you're sure to find some more that you will like.
  27. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (772) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Hazy beer RULEZ, brah!

    That is certainly the best place to start one's palate education.

    They are, unfortunately, few and far between, but they are out there.
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