What makes a beer a dubbel?

Answered by James Smith

As both a sommelier and brewer, I have had the pleasure of delving into the intricacies of various styles, including the beloved Belgian-style Dubbel. What sets a Dubbel apart from other beers lies not only in its appearance but also in its unique combination of flavors and aromas.

Appearance-wise, Dubbels typically exhibit a dark brown color, often with hues of ruby or mahogany. This rich and inviting appearance is a result of the used in the process. The use of darker malts such as Munich, Special B, or Belgian caramel malts contribute to the beer's deep coloration.

Moving beyond the visual aspect, the heart of a Dubbel lies in its sweet malt character. The malt backbone of these beers is robust, providing a solid foundation for the other flavors to shine. Dubbels often showcase notes of chocolate and caramel, adding a delightful richness to the beer. These malt flavors can vary in intensity, with some examples leaning towards a more prominent chocolate profile while others emphasize caramel notes.

One of the defining characteristics of Belgian-style Dubbels is the presence of fruity esters. These compounds are produced during fermentation and contribute to the beer's complex aroma and flavor profile. Dubbels typically exhibit fruity esters with hints of dark fruits such as raisins, plums, or figs. These fruity notes add depth and complexity to the beer, balancing out the sweetness of the malts.

Additionally, Belgian strains used in brewing Dubbels play a crucial role in shaping their flavor profile. These yeasts often produce spicy or peppery phenolic compounds, adding a subtle but distinctive spiciness to the beer. This interplay between the fruity esters and spicy phenols creates a harmonious and layered flavor experience.

When it comes to mouthfeel, Dubbels generally have a medium to full body, providing a satisfying weight on the palate. The carbonation levels are moderate, contributing to a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. This combination of body and carbonation enhances the overall drinking experience, making Dubbels a pleasure to savor.

While the general characteristics I've described capture the essence of a Belgian-style Dubbel, it's important to note that there can be variations within this style. Brewers may experiment with different malt profiles, yeast strains, or adjuncts to create their unique interpretation of a Dubbel. This creativity often leads to exciting variations that still hold true to the essence of the style.

To truly appreciate a Dubbel, I recommend pouring it into a tulip-shaped glass, allowing the aromas to waft up towards your nose. Take the time to observe the beer's appearance, noting its rich color and inviting foam. Then, take a sip and let the flavors unfold on your palate, savoring the interplay between the sweet malts, fruity esters, and subtle spiciness.

What makes a beer a Dubbel is its dark brown color, sweet malt character with notes of chocolate and caramel, fruity esters reminiscent of dark fruits, and the subtle spiciness from Belgian yeast strains. The combination of these elements creates a complex and enjoyable drinking experience that is unique to the Belgian-style Dubbel.