This week’s beer is Val-Dieu Brune, a Belgian dubbel from the Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu located in the town of Aubel in Liege Province, Belgium. The abbey was founded in 1216, and brewing began not long thereafter. While the abbey church was destroyed and rebuilt four times over the course of several hundred years, the abbey as a whole was the only one in Belgium to have survived the French Revolution towards the end of the 18th century. The brewery which exists today was founded in 1997 and remains true to the brewing practices of the original Val-Dieu monks.
Belgian dubbels are a medium-strength brown ale with an alcohol content typically in the range of 6-7.6%. They have a rich, malty sweetness which may include notes of chocolate, caramel, and toast. Belgian yeast strains are commonly used to produce fruity esters with such aromas and flavors as raisin and plum, and phenols, which may lend a touch of spiciness. Alcohol is often present, though it should be smooth and well integrated, contributing a characteristic ‘warmth.’
Val-Dieu Brune has an ABV of 8%, a little high for the style. It uses Belgian Pilsen malt (grainy, honey-like) and roasted barley malt (coffee, burnt toast). The hops used are Saaz (a finishing hop with low bitterness and an earthy, spicy character) and Spalter (an aromatic and flavorful German noble variety which can be used as a Saaz alternative). Val-Dieu’s beers are bottle conditioned, meaning they undergo an additional fermentation after bottling. The sugar listed in their ingredients is most likely Belgian candi sugar, which boosts alcohol without adding body and which serves as a primer in bottle conditioning. No flavorings or spices are used.
Val-Dieu Brune pours a cloudy, dark brown body with ruby highlights; it has a pale tan head that doesn’t last especially long. The aroma is lightly sweet (banana?) and molasses-like; it’s a touch smoky and sour with a crayon-like undertone. There’s plenty of rich, malty sweetness in the flavor along with some toasted bread crust. The alcohol is notable but works well with the spicy, dried fruit-like flavors. There’s a bit of that crayon-like taste and some mild accentuating bitterness. Some alcohol lingers, followed by a fruity and malty aftertaste. The carbonation is smooth, frothy, and mouth-filling; there is surprisingly little dryness from the alcohol.
Although a bit straightforward, this dubbel is overall flavorful and solid. The sweet roasted malt, dark fruity flavors, and frothy carbonation make for an enjoyable experience. The alcohol is fairly strong, though it does seem to mellow out over time.
Today’s beer was purchased at Yamaya in Ota, Gunma.
―The Mad Capper