It’s winter here in PA, and making it more apparent than ever that it is that time of year is SNOW. On the ground. Actual white, powdery, cold, SNOW. The fact that the temperature has plummeted into the lower 30’s is just the icing on this very chilly cake. With projected depths of 24″ in places, it’s time to settle in and ride out this “Snowpocalypse”. However, at the time of writing this, we’re sitting at modest 2″ just after 5pm. As with the colder months, glasses of heavier and thicker alcohols must be filled, if only to trick the brain into thinking we’ll get warmer. Stouts are typical and almost expected this time of year, but I’m not one to always follow the trend. Winter Ales exist for a good reason, though the subject of this review goes a step further. I’m especially referring to Belgian beer styles. Dubbels, Tripels, and Quads are among those heaviest of hitters. Three beer styles that can range anywhere from 9-15% and still come off impossibly smooth and delicate. Just don’t try to stand up too fast…or at all if you’ve had more than one. Perhaps then it seems fitting that I suggest you sip those styles of beers on a “night in” when you’re able to get regrettably pants drunk and don’t have to be seen or heard from at any local venues or watering holes. Wait…this is 2020, so what the heck am I talking about?! Let’s crack open a bottle and find out.
Just before we crack on, I would like to set the scene a little. The beer that I am about to write a review for is the better part of three years old. Because of that, I am going to elaborate more than normal as this is decidedly not an IPA and as such, deserves a little more time and effort spent waxing philosophic. You’ll want to strap in.
Beer: B-52 Belgian Dubbel (Bottle-Conditioned, 2017)
Brewery: Cox Brewing Company (CBC)
Style: Belgian Dubbel
Untappd Description: A smoked Belgian Dubbel, bottle conditioned one year before release and aged with raisins.
Enjoy In: Tulip, Snifter
Enjoy At: 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit or 30,000ft
It’s 2017 and a friend of mine has asked me to join him and his father at a small brewery in Rheems, PA. Back then I had never heard of Cox Brewing Company, much less tried any of their beer. However, it’s local brewery and I’m more than willing to check a new place out. We pull into an industrial and farm looking part of town and up to what appeared to be a hole in the wall. The kind of place that only those that were “in-the-know” frequented. And there we were, walking into a crowded and cramped garage that was abuzz with conversation. The whole time I was wondering just how good the beer was, but after the first sip, all doubt fled through that same garage door and I began enjoying myself. Spent a few moments scanning the chalkboard menu and spotted something very interesting. I was going to choose by name, and then I noticed the style. WOAH! “Dubbel” Now there’s something you don’t find very often. While being very happy to see the style, I have to admit I was still a bit of a sceptic. My personal experience with US brewed Belgian styles has been a bit spotty at best. Not many breweries seem to be able to replicate the unique taste found in Belgian beers. So naturally, I did what any beer nerd would do: I ordered a pint. I remember being very glad I was sitting down as much fresher versions of the flavors I’ll depict later washed over me. I enjoyed it so much that I vowed then and there that I would be back to buy two bottles, because only a fool would buy one. I returned a week later, making good on my promise. One of those bottles was had two years ago, and thought it unlikely that it would get any better.
Fast forward those two years and I finally popped the cork on the last bottle that had been sleeping in my cellar ever since. It doesn’t feel like it’s been three years, but with the way 2020 has gone, time is a mere construct, and a fickle one to be sure. Regardless, after carefully coaxing the cage and cork from the glass bottle, the sound of bubbles frothing and bursting echoed forth from the long neck to the tune of a Geiger counter. The effects of the beer contained within wasn’t quite so nuclear, though it will blow away the day’s stress or the frigid temperatures outside. This is a sipping beer in much the way that relaxation and a comfortable lounging chair are the quintessential furnishings of an in home get-a-way. The bottle reads 7.7% but with the way it drinks, you’d swear it was hovering just above the mid 5% range. Either way this beer doesn’t wash down the throat like either of those as it slips easily beyond the tongue and tonsils (if you still have them), down the esophagus and into a waiting stomach. Tickling your nose isn’t the sensation of bubbles popping but the rich, almost candied essence of raisins toiling and rising with a very mild and light smoke. And now to look at the gentle fluid now occupying space in your vessel of choice. A gorgeous, deep ruby red hue briefly accompanied by a coarse, thin, light brown head that evaporates shortly after being poured. Open the hatch, over the gums, and bathe your tongue in liquid bliss, as the taste buds pull out sweet notes of the raisins your nose sniffed out, laced with a subtle, yet comfortable smokiness. The concept might sound a little weird at first, but I assure that this combination not only works, it’s downright delicious. For having such heavy flavors and notes, this is a beer that disappears from your glass and you’re left wondering where it all went and why it’s all gone. Don’t stand up. Allow me to repeat myself a little louder: DO. NOT. STAND. UP. Not only will you likely stumble if you’ve downed the bottle yourself (which I may or may not have done in this case), but you’ll ruin the cozy, warm feeling you’ve likely built up while reclining in your favor chair. Allow the rich flavor to linger and envelope you as you sink deeper into that recliner. Relax and let your mind wander. Oh for that last sorrowful dram of sweet release, how does it linger. A slow flavor evolution that ends with hints of milk chocolate. Odd? Yes, but given that raisins appear in the flavor profile, chocolate only bolsters the thickness of this flavor. This was well worth the wait, so perhaps I should be happy there was snow as I would have left this one to age even further. Prost!
My Untappd Score: ****-1/4
Global Rating: 4.21/5 (as of 12/17/2020)