A term dubbel (also double) is a Belgian Trappist beer naming convention. The origin of the dubbel was a beer brewed in the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle in 1856. The abbey had, since 10 December 1836, brewed a light coloured beer that was quite sweet and light in alcohol for consumption by the monks. The new beer, however, was a strong version of a brown beer: in 1926, the recipe was changed, and the first modern dubbel was released by Westmalle Abbey as Dubbel Bruin. The first written record of its sale by the abbey was on 1 June 1861. Following World War Two, abbey beers became popular in Belgium and the name "dubbel" was used by several breweries for commercial purposes.
Westmalle's Dubbel was soon imitated by other breweries across the world, both Trappist and secular, leading to the emergence of a style. Dubbels are now understood to be a fairly strong (6%-8% alcohol by volume) brown ale, with understated bitterness, fairly heavy body, and a pronounced fruitiness and cereal character.
Chimay Première (Red), Koningshoeven/La Trappe Dubbel, and Achel 8 Bruin are notable examples from Trappist breweries. Affligem and Grimbergen are Belgian abbey breweries that produce dubbels. Notable examples from the United States of America include Ommegang's Dubbel, Sound Brewery's Dubbel Entendre, and New Belgium's Abbey Ale. Abbey 1856 Dubbel is produced in Argentina.
Dubbels are characteristically known for being dark brown in color with a strong flavor of dark fruit including raisins, prunes, and dates. These flavors and colors are almost entirely resultant from the heavy addition of highly caramelized (or kilned) beet sugar, which ferments completely into alcohol, lightening the body of the finished beer and contributing to its dry finish. The caramelization of the beet sugar is also the major contributor of maillard flavors including chocolatey, caramel, and nutty tones that give the dubbel its wide gamut of flavor complexity. Because of the special strains of ale yeast used in their production, dubbels often carry a mild spice; coriander and black pepper are notable examples in traditional Belgian dubbels.
Because the dubbel style is so unique and prolific, most non-trappist breweries—including craft breweries in the United States—making their own dubbels usually attempt to make more-or-less faithful recreations of the original Belgian varieties.
- Geert van Lierde et al., In het Spoor van de Trappisten ISBN 90-261-0704-8, page 25
- Jef van den Steen, Trappist - Het Bier en de Monniken ISBN 90-5826-214-6, pages 33 & 41
- Belgium's Great Beers
- A history and guide to Trappist breweries in Belgium
- Another history and guide to Trappist breweries in Belgium
- The Belgian Beer Board
- The Belgian Beer Pub Map
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