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Archive for the ‘Style: Dubbel’ Category

Westvleteren 8

August 2nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brouwerij Westvleteren, Country: Belgium, Grade: A plus, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Pale Ale, Style: Dubbel

8% ABV bottled

Last Friday would prove to be one of the greatest extended drinking days of my life, and when all was said and done, I had polished off eight top 100 beers, five of them in the top 25, and three in the top 10.*  The centerpiece of the day being a much-anticipated blind tasting between the two best quadruples in the world:  Belgian trappist beers Westvleteren 12 and Rochefort 10.  Now these beers are often said to be nearly identical.  Rochefort 10 considered a worthy and accessible proxy for the rarer Westvleteren 12.  In fact, many people think the 11th rated Rochefort 10 to be every bit as good as the “best beer in the world” Westvleteren 12, save for the fact that it can pretty much be bought in every Whole Foods in America while the Westy is only able for purchase on a few days a year and straight from the source, the Abbey of Saint Sixtus.  I’d had one bottle of each beer previously, given each an enthusiastic A+, and though these tastings had been separated by several months, in my mind I believed that Rochefort 10 was the better beer.  In my notes I had thought it boozier and with a more pleasant candi taste that the muted Westvleteren 12.

Well…let the blind tasting speak for itself:  Westvleteren 12 absolutely humbled Rochefort 10.  The Rochefort–how can I put this?–smelled vomitous.  I thought I had a dirty glass at first, but no, it was certainly the beer.  And The Captain agreed with me.  Did we have a bad bottle?  No, I just suspect the Westy was so damn good it had rendered the Rochefort 10 worse in our mind.  Admittedly, though, the Rochefort’s taste was fine, even good.  Boozy, a little uneven, a dry maltiness and minimal candi taste.  The superior Westy though was sweet and incredibly smooth, liquid silk, with tastes of dark fruit, Belgian candi, and toffee.  And, this time, the semi-mocking quote marks came off and it was truly THE BEST BEER IN THE WORLD.  On this day at least.  I had never had a better single beer.  Which is what makes great beer interesting.  A different batch, a little more aging, a little less aging, and even the same beer can be eons different.  Perhaps the next time these two venerable quads face each other the results will differ, but on this one day in July, 2009, Manhattan, New York City, Westvleteren 12 was the ungodly victor.

Later, I got my first crack at little brother Westvleteren 8, a dubbel.  I can now proudly say I have had 21 of the top 25 BA-ranked beers in the world, only lacking four hard-to-obtain tap-only offerings.**  And, just like Westy 12, Westy 8 would quickly replace Westmalle as the best dubbel I’ve now ever had.  A creamy yeast and malt combination with some raisins, plums, and just a touch a smooth booziness.  Thinner mouthfeel and a tad more carbonation than Westy 12, which is to be expected.  Perfectly constructed.  Simply sublime.

A+

Westvleteren Blonde

5.8% ABV bottled

Finally, I got to complete the trappist troika with Westy Blonde, the low-ABV “table beer” for the Saint Sixtus’s monks.  This beer is obviously not meant to knock your socks off, and it doesn’t, especially since I don’t believe monks wear socks, but it is still quite solid.  Tart, fizzy, almost a little sour like a subtle Brett beer.  Just nice craftsmanship.  This is a very good session beer and a nice little bottle of “liquid bread.”  Don’t trade the farm to acquire some, but an interesting beer curio for sure, and I am happy to have had it.

B+

*R-L:  Three Floyds Dark Lord, Rochefort 10, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share bourbon and brandy barrel-aged, Westy Blond, Westy 8, and Westy 12.

My day would also include, among others:  Stone Imperial Russian Stout (on tap!), Goose Island Night Stalker (on tap!), AleSmith YuleSmith, and Brooklyn Locals 1 and 2.  Wow!

**For the record:  Pliny the Younger, Dark Lord Vanilla Bean, Dark Lord Oaked, and Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout.  I wonder if I’ll ever locate these bad boys or attend the rare events where they are tapped.

Sixpoint Dubbel Trubbel

April 14th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Sixpoint, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Dubbel

9.6% ABV from a growler

This beer was so hot off the presses when I tried it last week while watching the NCAA national title game that it still did not yet even have a Beer Advocate entry.  I’m not saying it lacked a single review, I’m saying it did not yet even have a placeholder for future reviews.  Now a week later, its internet presence is still pretty meager as it finally has a BA entry with just two reviews anda few more on Rate Beer, yet not a single mention of the brew on Sixpoint’s own website.  In fact, I’m not even one-hundred percent certain what this beer is actually called as in some places it pops up as “Dubbel Trouble.”  I prefer the more clever and elegant neologistic rhyming name which heads this post.*

If you’re one of the many people that sift through my Vice Blog entries like an archeologist, dusting aside the dirt of the staid beer review in order to get to the true gems, tales of humiliating dates, late night mayhem, transgressive behavior, french fry analyses, or funny technical terms for coital acts like “bag-piping,”** then I have to apologize, for you won’t find any of that here today.  Yep, this is just a boring old beer review.  But not to fear, I have a slew of tales to unleash in the coming weeks.  March Madness was madness indeed.

My friend forced his wife to pick us up a growler of this at the legendary Whole Foods Bowery Beer Room.  A 64 oz. growler ran a stiff $22, but it ended up being pretty much worth it.  Poured out in the nice “standard” dubbel raisin color.  A potent smell of dried fruits, dark cherries, and just a little spiciness.  Added tastes included Belgian candi, cocoa nibs, some banana esters, and a thick yeastiness.  Very boozy.  The beer was good, a success even, but ultimately just a little “off” for my tastes.

Sixpoint has emerged as one of the newer breweries to watch in America–though I should note that with Dubbel Trubbel this “newer” brewery was amazingly commemorating its 4th Anniversary–and they already have quite a few stellar creations.  I only wish they’d actually bottled stuff.  Hmm…I wonder what their predicted 5th Anniversary tripel will be called?***

After halving this, I was so drunk when I left my friend’s high-rise ’round 1:00 AM that I spent a good twenty seconds trying to open the front door before the doorman was forced to yell at me.

“PUSH!”

Ah yes, free at last.

Why is it always one’s natural inclination to pull when he’s drunk?

Something to ponder.

A-/B+

*I’ve never really understood why the brewery is Sixpoint as opposed to Six Point or Six-Point either.  Sixpoint what?  Where I’m from the logo is just a Jewish star tipped on end.  Ah, perhaps it’s a drunken Star of David that fell on its side from all the 6 point ABV and higher brews?  Har har.

**Axillary intercourse.

**The Tripel Crippel?  Trippel Nippel?  Trippel Rippel?  Nope:

Sixpoint Tripel Tippel.  Natch.

Portsmouth Belgian Dubbel

March 24th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Portsmouth, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Dubbel

8% ABV bottled

I don’t claim to be an expert at anything, save disappointing my parents, but my rampant autodidacticism has allowed me to become somewhat knowledgeable in quite a few fields.   Beer is one of them.  So is film.  Talking to women is yet another thing I seem to be fairly decent at.  And, you know, after something that happened to me a few weeks ago, I’m starting to think I’m actually falling better than “fairly decent” on the talking to women bell curve.  Though that has less to do with me and more to do with the rest of the populous.

Scooter, a good friend I rarely see, invited me out to a happy hour for his company over in the Turtle Bay part of town*.  I’d never met any of his work chums being that they are [blank] fund guys and rarely get out of the office.  Which also meant that they are still kinda fresh-faced when it comes to normal New York bar culture.  Not nerds by any means, certainly not by their mere appearance.  Not asocial either, just a little…out of place and wide-eyed if you got talking to them.

Nevertheless, we were all having a good time, especially the miserly Vice Blogger since these well-to-dos were putting his glasses of Jameson 18 neat on the company card.  Any how, after a few drinks everyone becomes virtually the same.  The sharp and cool become more bumbling and thus less cool, the stuffy and nerdy become looser and thus cooler, and pretty soon every one is pretty close to each other in a besotted middle of sophomoric behavior.  Alcohol is the one true equalizer in this world, especially the more it is drunk.

At one point, Scooter headed to the bathroom leaving me alone for the first time all night in a circle with his chums.  Conversation died down for a bit as we watched a first round Horizon League Tournament game on the big screen.  I’d been admiring a girl at the bar for the previous few minutes.  Actually, I hadn’t been capable of admiring the girl as her back had been to me the whole time as she swigged a vodka martini, but I had been admiring her eye-popping boots on her legs hanging and dangling from the bar stool.

Finally, she turned to mindlessly look around the bar and I stepped in.

“Hey, I like your boots.”

She smiled wide and pulled me to her.  Fifteen minutes later, after our pleasant conversation had run its course, I returned to my new friends who were absolutely busting at the seams, greeting my voyage back to the group circle with a raucous round of high-fives as if I had just hit a game winning shot in Bruce Bowen’s face.

“Holy shit, how did you do that?!”

“Scooter, is your friend for real?”

“That was caaaaaa-razy!”

What in the world were they talking about?

“And that ‘boots’ line you started with!  Amazing!”

Oh, I see.  They were actually impressed I had talked to an attractive girl.  Even more impressed I had just cold opened with her using a “line.”  But you see, that wasn’t a line.  I did actually like her boots.  Bright, shiny, red cowboy boots.  Not ostentatious or anything, but with the rest of her conservative outfit they really popped.  Made her seem interesting, quirky, unique, or, at least, manufactured sui generis.

Even more amusing, I hadn’t hooked up with her, made plans with her, hell, even gotten her phone number or e-mail address.  Or caressed those lovely cowboy boots.  I had simply had a nice, little conversation with her.  Yet the [blank] fund guys were impressed with me.  Which raises the point of how sad it is how most men interact with women.  How most men think one has to interact with women.

Listen up:

YOU CAN’T “FAIL” IN A CONVERSATION WITH A STRANGE WOMAN.

How silly does that line read in print?  Incredibly silly.  Yet I meet so many men that are absolutely frozen and lock-jawed at the idea of simply talking to a woman they may or may not have an interest in.  They think they need strategies and “games” and lines, but it’s not that hard.  Conversation is incredibly basic.  Does one struggle to speak to an elderly woman or a dude or the guy at the deli counter?  Well, maybe the last one, his accent is very thick.

But you do talk to all those people without nerves and sometimes the conversations are great and sometimes they are terrible but you never “fail” in them.  Because you pretty much can’t fail in a conversation.  I’ve talked to thousands of strange women in my life–as have you–and what’s the worst thing that has every happened?  The worst?  Maybe the girl was a slight bitch to you?  Maybe she walked away?  Maybe she snickered at you with her friend once you left the scene?  Wow.  Big deal.

If that’s the worst that happens that ain’t so bad.  You can’t fail in a conversation.  You simply can’t.  You can only succeed if you want to, but you can’t fail.  So don’t worry about coming up with a perfect line, don’t worry about strategies, and for God’s sake don’t pay attention to what nerdy and creepy pick-up artists on VH-1 or the internet say.  Don’t be scared and just start conversations with women the same way you do with men, taxi cab drivers, and the guy slicing you some roast beef.  Next thing you know you’ll have a whole website full of stories.

And if you ever see a girl wearing some boots you like, go up to her and say, “Hey, nice boots.”

Portsmouth Belgian Dubbel

The same friend that scored me some Kate the Great also grabbed a bottle of the brewery’s dubbel when he was up in New Hampshire.  As much as I love a artistic label, I kinda dig how Portsmouth humbly uses the same label for every single beer they produce and then simply Sharpies in the style of beer.  (Notice how it only says “imperial stout” on the Kate the Great with ‘09 penned in.  Most breweries would celebrate such an iconic beer with a flashy label and a wax dipping and all sorts of other bells and whistles, but not Portsmouth.)  I was slightly disappointed with this brew as I’m a huge fan of dubbels.  A splendid smell but a little thin on the mouth. Still a nice taste of fruity banana esters, dark fruits, and candi sugar.  Thought it lacked a certain richness and boldness though, but still a worthwhile effort.

B+

*Have you ever heard ANY ONE call it Turtle Bay in conversation?!

The Lost Abbey Lost & Found Abbey Ale

November 5th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Lost Abbey, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Dubbel

7.5% ABV from a bomber

In the 1960s, Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a famous experiment. He gave a group of four-year-olds a single marshmallow, telling them they could have it to eat that very moment. However, were they to wait for just twenty minutes, he would then give each child two marshmallows. Tracking over the next fourteen years the one-third of children that chose to delay gratification and the two-thirds that chose to immediately consume the sole marshmallow, Mischel came to find that the group that deferred excelled over the other larger group in just about every facet. In fact, by the time they took the SATs, the one-third group had blown away their peers to the average tune of over 200 points better on the standardized test.

Statistics are damned statistics but I never loved this experiment. Perhaps that is because I would have, without question, immediately consumed the single marshmallow. Yet a lifetime of personal statistics show me to have scored in the 99th percentile on just about every standardized test I’ve ever taken. So what gives?

I think my paradoxical statistical outlier status in this scenario would come down to the fact that I’ve always felt it’s better to enjoy the guaranteed present over the hazy future. You know, a bird in the hand being better than two in the bush? Who knows what could have happened in those twenty minutes of delayed experimental gratification? I could have died. Mischel could have died and never brought back the second marshmallow. I could have become allergic to marshmallows. Or the marshmallow could have gone bad, if that’s even possible. You say those thoughts are silly and of course they are, but that’s cause the marshmallow experiment was just a meager microcosm. In the real world, those twenty minutes could be days…or more likely, years.

I’ve always thought about these things and always concluded that waiting for a better future is just silly. The present needs to be enjoyed at all costs lest you needlessly squander it. 401Ks? Savings? I’d rather have the money now to enjoy than maybe have it at 65 when there’s a decent statistical chance that I’ll be dead and overwhelming odds that I’ll be a bitter old Jew with a cock that barely works and a dank odor coming from body that I’m unable to extinguish.

The great Dostoevsky felt similarly. A success even in his day, the second he got his book money, he spent it, fueling his gambling compulsions with week-long binges. Giving him an immediate joy and a craziness of life that forced him to always hunger to be better, write more, and earn more money.  And it probably made him the legendary author still not read by AP English students today.

I’ve always realized that living in the present makes me happier. People more concerned about the future are people that are unhappy. People that are never able to enjoy life. To enjoy what they have this very second. Did Scarlett seem ebullient when she exclaimed, “Tomorrow is another day!”? Did Annie seem to be having fun when she said, “Tomorrow…you’re only a day away!”? No?  You know why? Because they were fucking miserable! Annie a little orphan and Scarlett alone at a worthless plantation with her beloved not giving a damn about her.  They would have been better off trying to improve their presents that wishing for a better future.

That is why I try to concern myself about a future I have no control over and instead focus on the day in front of me which I can control. So cellaring beers? Uh uh. If I got good shit, it’s time to enjoy it post-haste, surrounded by hopefully a collection of bonhomonious men and women.  Thus, when a friend was able to score a bottle of Lost & Found, I wanted to consume it as soon as possible, never having had a beer from the legendary Lost Abbey before. Delayed satisfaction is for the birds.

I’m not sure if this was the most signature one to start with, but it was still solid. I drank it the same night I drank a St. Bernardus Abt 12 bomber and it made for an interesting comparison.  Lost & Found has much more muted flavors.  I expect a dubbel to overwhelm me a little more than this.  Didn’t feel that complex either.  It has a slight chocolaty sweetness and the raisins shine through quite a bit but other than that it somewhat bored me.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and quite well-crafted, but my expectations were incredibly high and they simply weren’t met.  And drinking this 7.5% beer on the heels of St. Bernardus just made it seem overly weak, like I was throwing back Coors Light.

I’m still excited to try further Lost Abbeys though, but I won’t concern myself with that future.  I got better things to do now.

B+

(Also, if you haven’t yet, please join The Vice Blog FACEBOOK group. I’m trying to get the #1 ranked beer blog on Facebook.  Link in the upper right hand corner of my page!)

New Belgium Abbey Dubbel

September 11th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: New Belgium, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Dubbel

7% ABV

memo to bosses re: hungover workers

When someone in your employ arrives at the office with two 32-ounce bottles of Gatorade, a large black coffee, and a greasy, greasy bacon, egg, & cheese sandwich, all of which he summarily devours at his desk in under five minutes–well that’s a hungover employee on your hands. Leave him alone for a bit.  He’ll work things out.

Last night I revisited old favorite 123burgershotbeer* with a pal and after an evening of aggressive drinking, found myself near comatose this morning. I needed a three-egg, sausage, and cheese breakfast burrito grease-missile, an extra-large iced coffee, two Propels, and a Diet Mountain Dew just to get me back to sea level, just to get enough synapses firing in my gray matter in order to pen this piece…

You can’t deny your honest feelings, but I still feel somewhat bad for bashing Fat Tire yesterday. New Belgium is a company that obviously takes beer seriously, that’s for certain. Like most microbreweries, I assume Fat Tire is their money-maker, their beer made for the masses, their beer made to fund the rest of the brewery’s more unique efforts. You can’t expect the public to consume high-ABV barley wines, saisons, and stouts in bulk. They need weak little sissy beers for their sensitive and unadventurous palates.  So enter Fat Tire. A beer snob should be concerned when everyone and their mother likes a certain brew. Everyone and their mother doesn’t typically know shit. Everyone and their mother loooooooves Fat Tire.  It’s a maxim I knew yet still didn’t follow.

Thus, I was glad my friend also brought back New Belgium’s version of a dubbel. It looked fantastic on the pour. And smelled just like the brilliant Westmalle. Wow, I was excited. Could an American brewery possible emulate with accuracy a trappist beer?!

Eh…

Not quite. It does not really have a strong flavor at all.  The most mild hints of banana, sweet bread, and malt.   Dubbels should have more body than this.  More bite.  This beer has about as much bite as a newborn still not teething.  The Abbey simply lacks the “oomph” that makes Westmalle so special and world-class.

Having said that, this dubbel was undeniably drinkable and still a very worthy effort.  I wish more American breweries had dubbels. I have a feeling that someday I’ll have a New Belgium I truly love. It’s inevitable.

B+

*Re-review of 123burgershotbeer–The burgers are still a buck and tastier than I recall, I recommend dressing them with this spicy chipotle sauce condiment on the bar. The goofily-named shots still cost a Thomas Jefferson and are still only ordered by the kind of men that say “Woooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” and then give each other homoerotic high-fives post-shot slam. And the beers are still gloriously chilled and three bucks, though poured into deceptively small mugs which I would reckon are only 10 ounces. The waitresses and female bartenders there continue to make 123 a (marginally more) upscale Hooter’s, wearing hot pants so short one can see ass curvature in the back and labium in the front. And, I now realize why 123 has such a pricing scheme. It’s not a gimmick, no, it’s just so the Communist bloc cuties and the modelishly handsome lunkheads manning the bar don’t have to think so hard to compute one’s tab. I couldn’t see, but I imagine the cash register only has three buttons: a giant Fisher Price-sized 1, 2, and 3. Oh, you ordered six beers? The drink-slinging dummkopf goes to the register and mashes the giant 3 button six times before the See n’ Say voice says “18 dollars.”

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

July 31st, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Adbij der Trappisten van Westmalle, Country: Belgium, Grade: A plus, Style: Dubbel

7% ABV from a bottle

I’ll spoil this review right off the bat and tell you I’m giving this beer an A+.

After giving only two A pluses in my first 100 reviews, this will now be my second A+ in my last nine. I’m starting to feel like a grade-inflating Harvard professor, doling out A pluses to every single student because we all know that every one that goes to an Ivy League institution is a brilliant, exceptional, and hard-working child that deserves nothing but the highest marks. Or, rather, they have rich parents that will make blackmailing claims of withdrawing their monetary contributions should their kid get (gasp!) a B.

Perhaps, I’m being unfair to myself. Look at my grade categories in the right column. Four A pluses, fourteen As, and fourteen A minuses compared to only eleven total Ds and three total Fs. If you plotted my grades out on some graph paper, it certainly wouldn’t be a bell curve, in fact, its “bell” would be very far to the extreme right, more so than even Jim DeMint. It would look like I’m a classic grade inflater. But I’m not. It is just that on a daily basis I am relentlessly searching out what are considered the best beers on the planet. Intentionally avoiding macro shit that I know would get Ds and Fs from me in order to drink quality. I see no reason to tipple Miller High Lives and Natural Lights and Milwaukee’s Bests* with the same frequency I drink quality stuff, just to get an accurate-looking bell curve. That’s life. That’s science. And those are my findings. And you can’t argue with scientific findings. Just like the findings have found men to be smarter than women and Jews to be the best lovers on the planet**.

So fear not, dear reader, that I will ever intentionally overrate or underrate a beer, simply because I “need” a grade. I will always honestly score them and if I keep finding myself drinking A pluses I shouldn’t be upset, I shouldn’t think it “bad” for me and my blog, but of course I should be exuberant–I’m drinking another fucking masterpiece!

Thus, after last week’s brilliant Westmalle Trippel tasting I knew I’d have to try their Dubbel.

I expected it to be great but slightly “worse” than the Tripel, a solid A brew. If you don’t know a lot about beer, you probably think what I used to think, that a dubbel is essentially just a less-alcoholic version of a tripel. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Both smell and taste amazing, no question.

But while tripels are pale in color, dubbels such as Westmalle pour an almost stoutish dark black, with hints of ruby red appearing. While tripels have light, sweet, and citrusy flavors, this dubbel had some serious bite. Dominant tastes of malt, burnt sweetness like coffee, darker rich fruits such as plums and cherries, and caramelized sugar as if full of toffee.

And, most interesting to me, while the Westmalle Tripel was light, almost refreshingly light, on the palate, the dubbel was far more potent, despite it being 2.5% less alcoholic. A paradox!  Being a fan of bold barley wines and strong ales, though, this is just how I like my beer.

The Westmalle Dubbel is imminently drinkable, it tickles your tongue all the way down to your throat. I wish this beer wasn’t so expensive ($5.99 for a 12 ouncer is what I paid at the store) because I could drink these all night, every night. It’s so hard to savor because it is just so delicious and near perfect in every way.

I would even dare say that the Dubbel is better than the Westmalle Tripel.  It is, at least, as good.

I enjoyed this with a friend, a girl who absolutely does not drink beer–ever–and who even hates the smell of it to be near her. I urged my friend, whose drinking standards run the gamut from pear vodkas to peach vodkas with an occasional raspberry vodka when she feels like branching out, to give the Dubbel a try.  I was so impressed with the beer I needed to share it with someone else.

She refused at first, but I urged her on.

Trepidatiously, she took a small sniff. Then a little sip. The look in her eyes showed that even she was shocked she wasn’t revolted.

“This is the first beer that I actually understand how people could like it. I get it!”

What better praise then that? A beer so good even non-beer-drinkers understand its brilliance.

Now I’m only mad that Westmalle doesn’t have any more beers for me to try and award A pluses to!

A+

*Other than the fact that the worst beers seem to produce some of my funniest essays.

**Masters, William H. & Virginia E. Johnson & Robert E. Kolodny, “Human Sexuality,” 2nd edition, 1984, page 784