Happy Dubbel Week to all!
I've been eagerly awaiting this beer since I first heard of it in December. I've long been a fan of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (American IPA) as well as various Belgian style IPAs. My first experience with a Belgian IPA was about four years ago with Houblon Chouffe. This was quite the departure for me as I was only used to the sharply bitter American IPAs. The Belgian variety was much less hop-forward and had a nice richness to it that I hadn't found in the American versions. Houblon Chouffe was in my rotation for quite a few months. In October of 2009 I took a tour of Flying Dog's facility in Frederick, MD and was introduced to their Belgian style IPA, Raging Bitch (apologies to any Michigan readers). I was immediately in love with this beer. Quite flavorful with depth and punch. It's my kind of beer. So, in my mind at this point the standard has been set. I recently picked up Belgica from Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado. I was a little let down by that one. Not bad at all, but it just could not compare to the Bitch.
Here's some background on Loose Cannon, the jumping point for Dubbel Cannon. It's a very aromatic and surprisingly complex American India pale ale. Loose Cannon is by far the most popular of the multiple offerings from Heavy Seas, accounting for nearly half of their total production. They've always got a fresh batch in the tanks. Priced at about $10 per six pack it's a win-win. This is a regular in my beer fridge. Get it as fresh as you can and drink immediately. The fresher the better.
Dubbel Cannon is based off Loose Cannon and is the second "spin-off". Their first true variation is an American dark ale (or black IPA/Cascadian dark ale) called Black Cannon. Black Cannon was released in February of this year and is holding a "B+" average over at BeerAdvocate.com
I was able to sit down for a chat with my friend Tristan, a full-time brewer for Heavy Seas, this afternoon to enjoy this beer for the first time. He freebie'd me a six pack! This round of Dubbel Cannon will end up totaling five batches, 100 barrels each. We'll be seeing this one fresh on store shelves for the next several months priced at about $10 per six pack of 12 ounce bottles. The yeast used in this beer is the same that Brasserie d'Achouffe in Belgium uses for their IPA, Houblon Chouffe. Sweet! I've come full circle in the world of Belgian IPAs.Sorry, I got really excited about that.
Enough of the blah, blah. What does it taste like?
I poured the Dubbel Cannon from a 12 ounce bottle into a Weyerbacher tulip. It pours deep dark copper and almost crystal clear. A thick off-white fine to medium sized bubbled head quickly rises and leaves a thick lacing. At first the carbonation streams were moderate, it then calms through the tasting.
The aroma comes to me as mild sweet bread with just a tad of citrus bitterness. Surprisngly, that's it. I was expecting a lot more funky Belgian yeast aromas. The flavors seem to pick up the slack a bit. It's mildly bitter up front and settles in sweet like an English brown. The finish is clean and tart. Some specific flavors that I'm picking up are toasted English muffin, citrus marmalade, tart cherries for just a moment and light pepper. It feels medium in body with some light alcohol warmth as it finishes.
Overall I have to say that I'm pleased with this beer. This brew doesn't push the envelope much but is a decent American representation of the style. At 7.25% it's far from session-able, but is a nice one or two-fer beer. I look forward to finding it on draft and will definitely buy in bottles again. So, where does this rank in my list of Belgian IPAs? Second place right behind the Bitch. The Dubbel Cannon is much more accessible. I'd happily suggest both to an adventurous beer drinker who is new to the style as both are fine examples, the Cannon to start off and the Bitch to finish them.
Please support your local craft breweries. Buy their beer, ask for it at your local independent store and at your local craft tap house. Drink local. Go buy this beer. Taste it. Share your thoughts here if you don't mind.
I'd like to send out huge props to Tristan for all the questions he's answered, suggestions he's given and most of all for the fine craft ales he brews.