Belgian-Style Baseball | Dubbels & Tripels
This time of year nothing’s more American than watching a baseball game with a beer in hand. Everyone knows the power of singles, doubles and triples in baseball’s major leagues, but few are familiar with Belgium’s similarly-named heavy-hitters. Belgian-style of Dubbels and Tripels often cause confusion since they aren’t as intuitively familiar as counting the bases in the ballpark.
Starting with the basics, the majority of craft beers fit the category of a single, or table beer as the Belgians would say. These beers typically fall into the 4 – 6 percent ABV range and encompass a wide range of styles and flavors.
Warming Up With Dubbels
Looking to get more punch out of every brewing at-bat, Belgian monks created Dubbels, which pack an ABV in the 6 – 8 percent range. The first thing you’ll notice is the dark color, anywhere from medium-red to brown. The flavor profile sits on the malty side of the spectrum and the introduction of Belgian candi sugar generally provides some sweetness. Brewers also use the sugar to add body and most importantly to bump up the alcohol.
Dubbels aren’t all sweetness and malt, though. According to Charlie Gottenkieny, co-owner and brewer at Bruz Beers in Denver, a great Dubbel has bitterness for balance. “Part of the bitterness as you get in stronger Belgian beers comes from the alcohol. In addition to the hops itself there’ll be a little bit of alcohol bite in there.” The key to a classic Belgian-style Dubbel is adding enough sugar to keep the yeast busy, which produces more alcohol and creates a dry finish.
Brian Grace, head brewer of Thirsty Monk in Denver adds that Dubbels usually have some dried fruit and raisin flavors. This helps round out their flavor profile and pair well with food.
On Fire with Trippels
Stepping up in the power ranking, Tripels bump their ABV into the 8 – 9.5 percent range. Just like baseball’s designated hitters, these beers bring hidden power to the plate. On the surface their lighter color and body might fool you into confusing them with a single. However, these characteristics cleverly mask the underlying muscle of Tripels.
According to Gottenkieny, Tripels are always blonde and although they pack alcoholic power, “Tripel is basically a pretty delicate beer. They have lots of nuances despite their relatively simple list of ingredients.”
Thirsty Monk’s Grace describes the flavors as “citrusy and effervescent but not super heavy.” The Belgian-style Tripel often come across as lighter, more refreshing and less complex than a Dubbel. As a result, American drinkers often get confused – and drunk – because lighter is typically associated with lower ABV.
Since Tripels don’t taste particularly boozy despite the high ABV, drinking them like a regular Helles or Kolsch can cause trouble – and errors – fast. Similar to triples in baseball, Tripels also aren’t everyday occurrences. “They were intended to be more of a special beer” explains Gottenkieny. He adds that Tripel is by far the most popular beer style in Belgium.
Quadrupel: The Homerun King
Of course we would be remiss if we didn’t briefly mention the homerun king Barry Bonds of Belgian-style beers: the Quadrupel. As Gottenkieny describes it, a quad is “a Dubbel on steroids.” Clocking in at a powerful 9 – 12.5 percent ABV, both Grace and Gottenkieny note that quads often have alcohol in the taste. Similar to Dubbels, these dark-colored beers pack lots of dark fruit flavors and maltiness into their heavy bodies.
For those wanting a full nine innings of Belgians, Bruz Beers offers a monthly class called “The World of Belgian Beers”. During the class Gottenkieny explores the 15 major styles of Belgian brewing with plenty of hands-on guided tasting. Check out Bruz’s website for upcoming dates.