Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.
This Belgian dubbel ale is also known as Chimay Red Cap because of its cap (as well as label). It the oldest of the brewery’s creations and “was the first beer brewed at the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey by the Trappist fathers in 1862,” the company’s website says. “Its current recipe was crafted by Father Théodore when he recreated the brewery after World War II. He was directly inspired by the original recipes from the beginnings of the brewery.”
That august tradition can be tasted in most every sip of this excellent beer.
Open the bottle and pour it slowly into a wide-mouthed glass. The beer appears quite rustic with flashes of red infusing the brown almost the way fall leaves do in a forest. A large head forms, perhaps a little more beige than white, but it dissipates relatively quickly.
The aroma is bit sweet with only a slight touch of floral hops on the nose. Instead, you might sense anything from apricot to banana on the fruity side while the malt is almost caramelized. These will grow and change depending on the age of the bottle, with older versions losing the fruit in favor of greater malt and something more intangibly sweet-sour as well as nutty.
The rich, dense flavors are what clinches the deal, though, and here Chimay wins across the board. Want something with a lively fruit note? How about something reminiscent of sweet fresh figs with the tiniest citrus quality? Prefer something with spice? Think of cloves filtered through yeast. The balance of bitter comes in on the finish, which is dry with a slight peppery burn. In short, it cover a gamut of flavors as it goes down, sip by sip. (With an alcohol content of 7 percent, this is not a guzzler.)
You can age this beer, especially in the larger 750-milliliter bottle, for several years, if you can keep it cool and out of the light.
What is a dubbel ale, you may ask? It depends on who is answering the question. Some say it refers to the strength of the beer (lighter than a tripel); others say it refers to the fact that the beer was fermented twice. So, the answer is what you want to make of it. Just remember the name, because it signifies a brew of great complexity and worth the price.
Pairing this bold treat with food can be fun. Think of equally bold flavors, whether it’s something with garlic or a stinky cheese, or of cutting through a rich sauce. From the Lion and Rose’s menu, think of the Chimay Première with the Belgian mussels, which are served with a white wine sauce and garlic bread, or the wedge salad with plenty of blue cheese dressing. A steak or mushroom ravioli with a cream sauce and, again, garlic bread would be a perfect partner for this beauty.