Abbey Ales -- A Brief History

Belgian beer styles can be tricky to navigate. Unlike their German neighbors, Belgian brewers are not bound by strict ingredient regulations, and tend to brew beers that defy neat categorization. Their beers, paradoxically, have deep historic roots and are ever-evolving, blending ancient traditions with modern tastes. This seamless blend of old and new is easy to see in the Trappist breweries and abbey styles--namely dubbels, tripels, and quadrupels--and we’ve taken a cue from these brewing practices for two of our new brews, Batch 44 / Dubbel and Batch 64 / Maple Tripel.

Monks have been brewing in Belgium for centuries, a practice that is still alive and well today in Trappist monasteries, where brothers adhere to the strict standards of conduct (including vows of silence) that have long governed their abbeys. But the beers they brew today are not the same ones their medieval brethren once made. The French Revolution and two World Wars saw monasteries sacked and breweries destroyed, with the monks forced to rebuild and resurrect their breweries based on surviving knowledge and resources. Though inspired by older beers, the dubbels, tripels, and quadrupels we know today were actually developed in the 1920s.

There are many different interpretations of these styles, but as a general rule dubbels tend to be the darkest of the abbey-inspired beers. Unlike other dark brews, like porters and stouts, dubbels get their color from dark candi sugar rather than dark roasted malts. They are closer to deep red than black in color--hold Batch 44 up to the light and you’ll see lovely ruby highlights. Dubbels also lack the coffee-like bitterness of most other darker brews. Instead, expect toffee-like malt with hints of dark, dried fruit (think raisins, dates, or prunes).

Tripels tend to be paler, and can range from sweet to hoppy. Batch 64 / Maple Tripel falls more on the sweet side of the spectrum, though the months it has spent barrel aging has helped smooth out the maple sweetness and give a clean, dry finish.

Barrel aging is a departure from traditional techniques, but we find it has given both brews more depth. This is especially noticeable in Batch 44, which spent six months in port barrels soaking in tawny port-like flavor and warmth.

Batch 44 and Batch 64 may not be the same kind of abbey ales the monks would make, but we think it’s still pretty damn good.

Want to know more about Belgian-style beers? We’ll be happy to answer any questions over a flight of our most Belgian-y brews.

Sante!

Dan & Peter