It is a tough old job but someone has to do it. I picked up these two from the Trappist Monestary of Westmalle Belgium separately, the dubbel to the right at Finger Lake Beverage Center in Ithaca, NY and the tripel to the left at the good old Bath Road LCBO in Kingston. Interestingly the tripel's labelling is for the Euro market with its label in French and Flemish plus that neck sticker in English making it safe for Canada. The dubbel was imported by Merchant Du Vin of Tukwilla, Washington, USA and is all in English.
Westmalle is one of the five remaining monestaries in Belgium where their method of ale brewing continues so getting your hands on one of these bottles for 3 bucks or so it a pretty snazzy event if you think about it. What other fine traditional craft product is available at such a bargain? Here is a good article from a 1998 visit to the monestary and here is a website with some good pictures of the cafe across the street where the ales are served on draft. Merchant du Vin notes that these ales are not really that old:
The monestary is located in the village of West Malle, Province of Antwerp, Belgium, and was founded in 1794. Both the Dubbel and the Tripel are considered by many tasters as the benchmarks for the style. Westmalle Dubbel was first brewed for consumption within the Abbey around 1836; Westmalle Tripel was introduced in 1934.The Abbey's own website in Flemish is a real treat giving you a sense of the serenity of their surroundings as well as the rather low place their brewing holds compared to their other good works. Having worked in Holland years ago, I can work through the test. Try switching th's for d's and "y" for g's and j's and a bunch of other things and you may bet the hang of it. So I take this bit from the page on their choice of yeast:
Elke gistvariëteit is uniek en heeft een grote invloed op de uiteindelijke smaak van het bierto mean: "our variety of yeast is unique and has a great [err..something] on the [something-like] taste of the beer." Oh, well - it's always the adjectives that get you.
The tripel pours a very attactive honey straw with a rich white head. It is very carbonated with cloudy chunky yeast flowing around in the glass. This, I have decided, is my favorite tripel, going from memory, as - while there is the burn you should expect at 9.5% as well as the tell tale taste of light candi sugar - there is plenty of pale ale malty grain as well. Think of a chunk of light bread crust with candy cane minus the peppermint. Sort of. Under all that there are fruit notes as well, light one like pear and maybe banana as well as some hoppy white pepper spice. The yeast is creamy, giving some relief from the heat. Beige yeast settles at the bottom of the glass. Really fine.
Similarly, the dubbel is very approachable. Beige rim and foam over cloudy mahogany ale. It has a very light touch on the burlapiness of, say, Chimay Red, Ommegang or Maudit. The body is lighter, too, with the dark candi sugar far more forward than most in the style. Quite more-ish. The fruit is autumn apple and plum and with a bit of brown sugar sweetness, too. No big malty cloy and, again, cutting levels of carbonation. The hops add a faded floral effect, sort of lilac and somewhat in the background. Not a big bomb at 7% so nothing in the way of hot hot heat. Except for the burlap perhaps, if I was told that this was a fine US brown I would probably believe it.
These are the only two ales made by the monestary. The second smallest range of ales possible when you think of it. Both worthy and worth finding.