Beer Review 0593: New Belgium Abbey Belgian-Style Dubbel
New Belgium began production in 1991 after Jeff Lebesch biked through Europe and was inspired by all of the good beer over there. Upon returning, he started New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colorado; they became the first brewery to be powered by wind, showing they have an environmental conscience — and they offer ownership stake to anyone that has been employed by the brewery for at least one year.
Jeff’s wife, Kim Jordan, is New Belgium’s CEO. She was the company’s first bottler, sales rep, distributor, marketer, and financial planner. Whew! Today, New Belgium are about to expand to a second facility on the east coast, in Asheville, North Carolina. While the process has been delayed a few times, New Belgium expects to open its Asheville facility in 2015.
Abbey, a Belgian-style Dubbel, was one of Mr. Lebsech’s first Belgian-style homebrews. Brewed with five different malts (Pale, Chocolate, Carapils, Caramel 80, and Munich), reviews were mixed, at first. But the beer went on to win eight medals at the Great American Beer Festival, and has remained in the New Belgium core lineup for years. The beer is 7% ABV (alcohol by volume), 20 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), and uses an authentic Belgian yeast. The bottles are bottle-conditioned.
The pour issued an average size, creamy and billowing head that was composed mostly of tiny bubbles. It lasted atop a dark brown beer that had red highlights; the body was slightly clouded, but not as cloudy as I expected (or that New Belgium described). There were no particles or sediment. Lacing was excellent, solidly coating the glass in foam all the way around. Abbey is a fine looking beer.
The nose is highly toasted and roasted, with notes of bread crust and burnt toast mixing with the already bready yeast. The Belgian yeast throws off some banana and clove; the malt backing features plenty of sweet, sugary caramel and milk chocolate. As it warms, the scent gets quite toasty, even containing a gentle puff of smoke.
On the palate, there’s thick notes of sweet, sugary caramel up front that instantly mixes with milk chocolate. This brew starts things off cracking and never really lets up — the gentle, almost creamy chocolate turns toasty in the middle of the taste, bringing out more of the raw roasted and downright smokey character of the brew. The finish offers a healthy dose of spice and banana, and ultimately concludes with more caramel, toasted bread, dry dark chocolate, and a pinch of dark fruits. Abbey is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
Without a doubt, this is a very fine example of a Belgian Dubbel, and one of New Belgium’s best brews. I don’t think I could drink this brew all the time, but when the mood called for it, I would easily reach for it. That said, it’s quite drinkable and approachable, and I think even a novice drinker would think so, too. And let’s not even get started on how great of a value this beer is… we’re talking $8.99 six-packs here.
New Belgium Abbey Belgian-Style Dubbel, 91 points. Price: $1.79 US for one 12 oz. bottle.