Belgian Dubbels…an unscientific study of the OG and a new breed

Author’s note: I am an employee of Bay Cannon Beer Company, but I’ve not been asked to write this post. It is simply my own opinion.

Imagine my surprise when, Joe, the head brewer at Bay Cannon Beer Company, told me we were going to have a Belgian beer on tap when we opened this past August. It’s not a beer style you typically see a lot of in this part of Florida. Plus, it’s a not a beer style I’ve been particularly fond of (infant palate, you know?).

The Belgian Dubbel (or double) is a popular style originating from Belgium’s Trappist monastery breweries. The theory is that the terms Dubbel and Tripel were born to differentiate the strength of these beers in the 19th century. According to Garrett Oliver of The Oxford Companion to Beer, “the modern dubbel style was essentially invented by the Trappist  brewery Westmalle in 1926.” They doubled the amounts of raw ingredients to produce a new stronger beer. Thus, the Dubbel was born

Dubbels get their brown color from “candi sugar,” a caramelized sugar syrup, rather than roasted malts like British and German brown beers. As you’ve probably noted in my reviews of brown ales, they tend to have notes of coffee, chocolate, and nuts. However, candi sugar gives off notes similar to dark fruit and burnt sugar, giving it a sweeter taste on the palate than traditional brown ales. Dubbels should be dry and sweet, yet hiding it’s higher alcohol content very well making it a very drinkable ale.

So, needless to say, I was intrigued and excited to try Bay Cannon’s Belgian Dubbel. I’ve had a few Dubbels in my day but nothing really stood out except Taxman Brewing’s Deduction and Chimay’s Première (Red). However, for this blog post, I’m going to compare our Bay Cannon Belgian Dubbel with the originator, the Westmalle Trappist Dubbel.

Forgive me for this not being terribly scientific (SCIENCE!!!), as the Westmalle version was bottle conditioned, but the Bay Cannon version is from a crowler. So with that being said, let’s get down to it.

Bay Cannon Belgian DubbelThe Teku glasses are creating a ton of foam for both beers. This should be poured into a goblet, but I only had one so…Or maybe I just suck at pouring beers. That Cicerone Certified Beer Server is working out for me, right? HA! As you can see from the pics, the foam and the beer itself is darker in the Westmalle version. Very interesting. Let’s dive into the Bay Cannon (BC) Dubbel first.

The BC Dubbel pours a deep copper color with a thick off-white head. The aroma is pleasant, sweet and earthy.  There’s a hint of sugar that comes through more on the tongue than it does on the nose. Dark fruit sweetness and a slight smokiness (in a good way) mixes well on the palate. I’m pretty sure Joe told me this was his first time using this Belgian yeast, and it burned through this beer quickly. It made our Belgian Dubbel extremely dry, which I like. There are some nice earthy tones on the back end as well as some pleasant spice, making me glad I have 32 ounces of this to sip. Also, I can confirm that the BC Dubbel is fantastic with food. I just drank part of this crowler with my own recipe for wings (which is fantastic) and it was straight gold.

Westmalle Trappist DubbelSo, let’s check out the originator of the Belgian Dubbel. Held up to the light, Westmalle’s Dubbel almost looks like a stout. It pours a dark brown, opaque, with a fluffy tan head. Aroma is extremely sweet, like a fig newton on steroids. On the tongue, the Westmalle Dubbel is a malt bomb. Holy goodness, it’s too much malt. There’s a ton of fig notes here, which adds a boat load of sweetness. It just tastes rich on the tongue. The spiciness is muted on the back end, and it’s less dry than the BC version.

ComparisonI love doing these side-by-side tastings. It really allows you to taste things that you wouldn’t normally get when you’re just drinking one over the other. Westmalle has had nearly 100 years to perfect their recipe, but to be honest, I like their version a little less. Now, it may very well be my own palate limitations, but the BC Dubbel edges it out. I really dig the spiciness and dry back end of our Dubbel. Westmalle’s is a malt bomb, which I would enjoy more if I was drinking an Oktoberfest beer or a Bock. The Belgian yeast really adds a ton of sweetness to their version, which makes it perhaps too much sugar on the palate for me to tolerate. It’s definitely a slow sipper. The BC Dubbel is nearly the same ABV but just seems so drinkable (read: DANGEROUS!) that I don’t feel like sharing my crowler.  🙂

Well, sadly, the Bay Cannon Belgian Dubbel is currently on its last keg so, of course, Joe has cooked up a Belgian Tripel for everyone to enjoy. And I must say I almost like it more. It’s heavy (9%!!!!!!!), and just so darn tasty with notes of pear and peppery spice. However, we seem to be pouring a ton of it, which is a good thing, so get it while you can! Maybe I’ll do a side by side with our Tripel and a Trappist Tripel, but I can guarantee when we do a Quad (oh yeah!) the side by side will definitely be forthcoming. Cheers!

Beer Stats

Bay Cannon Belgian Dubbel

  • ABV: 7%
  • IBU:  N/A
  • Untappd Rating:  3.71
  • # of Ratings:  51

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

  • ABV:  7%
  • IBU:  24
  • Untappd Rating:  3.73
  • # of Ratings:  143,584

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