Friday, April 06, 2007
The Session #2 Dubbels: Maredsous 8
It is the first Friday of the month, that means it is time for The Session. Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog is hosting this month's edition and has selected the theme: Day of the Dubbels. Given the religious significance of this weekend, chronicling a style created by Belgian monks feels wholly (or is that holy?) appropriate.
Belgian and Belgian-style beers are one of my soft spots. I've been lucky enough to visit the country twice and drink in cafes where the beer selection can leave you as bewildered as, well, several 750-milliliter bottles of dubbel. The best Belgian beers are designed to be savored. Packed with flavor and high in alcohol, it might appear a bit odd that The Session is reviewing dubbels, but the truth is that these are indeed session drinks. You linger over these ales, enjoying a meal, talking sports and politics, or just relaxing in a shaded courtyard. And, at around 8 percent alcohol by volume, dubbels have 50 percent less alcohol than many wines -- with enough flavor to stand up to any Bordeaux.
For my dubbel selection I thought long and hard about the options. I considered going with an American produced dubbel -- Allagash Brewing in Maine and Brewery Ommegang in New York were two obvious choices. I decided that the style deserved a brew directly from Belgium. My choice: Maredsous 8, a dark abbey ale that is refermented in the bottle.
Maredsous pours a dark brown with reddish hints around the edges. A thick tan head remains throughout the time this beer is in the glass. You are immediately struck by a malt sweetness, yet a dry finish. The 8 percent alcohol is clearly present, yet not dominating or distracting. The hops do emerge at times and combine with the yeast to create a pleasant aroma that alerts you that you are drinking a well crafted brew.
I have had the opportunity to try Maredsous 6, 8 and 10, and feel that the dubbel is the best built ale of the trio. It commands your attention and never either bores you or overpowers you. I have enjoyed draught and bottled versions of this beer and find both to be extremely enjoyable. The bottled version is conditioned for two months before it is released and properly cared for will improve for sometime. I think it would stand up to just about any roasted or grilled meat, or would be perfect with a gourmet cheese plate.
Duvel Moortgat in Breendonk has been brewing Maredsous for the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous since 1963. The monks maintain control over the recipes and make sure the ales live up to their quality reputation. It's clear from the beer I enjoyed for The Session that the monks and the folks at Duvel are still paying attention to the details.
You can check out the other dubbels over the next couple of days by following the links posted on A Good Beer Blog.