Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tasting: Jaggery Dubbel

I realized recently that I haven't done a formal tasting of my Dubbel with Palm Sugar (Jaggery).  The brewday was a little off, with the power going out for a little over an hour as I was coming up to boil. Luckily I hadn't added my hops yet.  If I had, the alpha acids would have started to isomerize, turning the flavorful oils into compounds with bitter tastes.  This reaction happens above about 180°F from what I've read.

Dubbels are dark, high gravity beers.  Usually they are lighter in mouthfeel and residual sugar (the sugar left after fermentation has finished) than other high gravity styles like Imperial Stouts or especially Barleywines.  This is because they have simple sugars like table sugar (sucrose) that are easier 
than the sugars derived from the grain (maltose) for the yeast to turn into alcohol and CO2.  In this brew, rather than using table sugar or a traditional specialty Candi Syrup (flavorful caramelized syrups), I used a sugar from the local Asian grocery store called Jaggery or Palm Sugar depending on who you ask.  And, as you can probably guess, it is derived from sugar palm trees as opposed to sugar cane or beets (or agave or honey or maple trees or, well, you get the idea). 

I like to make my homebrewed Dubbels even more dry than commercial examples, because it's really easy to drink and something unique.  Mine finished at 1.005 (and 10% ABV) whereas commercial examples usually finish somewhere around 1.012-1.018 according to this very detailed document about designing belgian ales by the BABBLE Homebrewers. 

Well, enough talking, on to the tasting.

The beer is a nice brown, with surprising red hues when held up to the light.  It is clear, but not transparent.  I'm glad the power going out didn't have any affect on the clarity. It initially poured with no head, but as the pour finished it developed a 1/2-1/4 inch cream colored head that quickly faded away for some reason.  Maybe I'll toss some wheat in next time.

Right after opening it, it smelled like caramel.  As it warms, I'm getting a lot of burnt sugar and a lot of fig.  The fig is likely from the Special B malt, which is sort of an extra toasted Crystal malt, which also gave it all of it's color.

For as aromatic as this beer is, there isn't as much going on taste-wise. At least not in the front of my mouth. I get some of that caramel/burnt sugar/fig taste on the back of my tongue and some alcohol warmth as is goes down my throat. No hot alcoholic fusel notes.  There is a really spice coming out as it warms, and it's playing really nicely with the sugar and fig flavors.

Surprisingly viscous for 1.005.  A lot of lingering sugar, which is to style, but not what I was expecting since my last one was described to me as "airy".  Not as much carbonation as I wanted, which is kind of odd since my last dubbel was almost over-carbonated, and I used a tad more priming sugar this time.  This bottle has managed to stay in the fridge longer than the other bottles I've saved, maybe they've carbonated a little more.

Overall + Thoughts
I can't believe I haven't opened all of these yet.  It's surprisingly easy to drink, I would never guess it is 10% ABV.  Eventually I'll do a sugar experiment with dubbels to see which one is the best, but this dark Palm Sugar is pretty solid.
This beer reminds me a lot of Ommegang's Abbey Ale, but it has been over 6 months since I last had it.  I may have to pull the bottle out of my cellar to do a side-by-side. (At 8.5% and 10% I may end up getting Dubbel wasted...)

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