WEISSENOHE AT THE GATEWAY TO FRANCONIAN SWITZERLAND
Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard
It’s a gloomy afternoon in late spring made slightly brighter by the cheerful yellow canola in full bloom and the several shades of green fields spread over the hills like a patchwork quilt. The bus from Forchheim has just deposited me at a nondescript crossroads on the highway. Tucked away in a hollow to my right, I spy the iconic steeple presiding over the monastery complex I’ve seen on so many bottles of beer from Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe. I’m in the right place.
Cheers you all and welcome to the second half of my “dubbel feature.” Last time I had the Chimay dubbel. Today I am having the Westmalle dubbel.
The appearance is darker, 17 on the srm chart, a mahogany color that does not have as much golden fire around the edges. Another way to express the color is dark but not burned toast. The head of foam is darker in color. This one is khaki colored and long lasting with some bigger bubbles atop a dimpled rocky head that falls slowly, shimmering in sheets and falls away to spot as you drink. Nose is bready like brown bread and has slight hop grasses on the nose. Rose like qualities on the nose and slightly plummy. Raisins and dried dates in the background and a very light spicy clove. Drinks just like the nose and finishes drier yet malty with a slight bitterness from those grassy hops. Moderate carbonation. The bubbles are hard and plentiful. Slight warming from alcohol.
There are differences in every category from the Chimay Dubbel. In the Chimay beer the color and head were lighter. There was no hops on the nose or in the flavor. The breadiness was biscuit- not brown bread in the Chimay beer. There was no rose like scent and the clove was stronger. There also was no alcohol presence on the Chimay and nothing bitter in the finish. The carbonation was firmer than Chimay. And the Chimay finished sweeter than the Westmalle. Two world class dubbels that have plenty of differences between them.
Belgian style beer is defined by an approach to style that allows a healthy contribution from the yeast character as well as a traditional appearance concerning the head of foam. Is there such a thing as a Belgian style pilsner? If you are looking for one on the store shelf I daresay you will be challenged to find any or any Belgian style lagers in general. That is why I am happy to have discovered Ommegang’s Idyll Days. Ommegang is a regional Belgian style brewery here in NY and a personal favorite of mine. They have done a wonderful thing with their interpretation on the pilsner. The pilsner is a contemporary style and it’s guidelines speak to it’s hoppy originality with deference to the lager tradition.
I’ve been a beer writer for a half-decade, and only once have I brewed my own beer, and that was at Vine Park. I know the ins and outs of what brewers do on a commercial scale, but the closest I get to that at home is mixing Bud Light and Budweiser to make an elixir I call “Bud Medium.”
I don’t own kettles or a kegerator or even a large slotted spoon, so I’m not ready to go full-bore. Thankfully, Belgian kit maker Brewferm is there to help me bridge the gap. For just under $100, you can buy an all-in-one starter kit and have it delivered to your bunker (Amazon also sells them). I get mine in hasty time (nice work, Belgium!), but it sits unused for months before COVID-19 forces me into intellectual wandering. On the first day of my self-quarantine, I dig into it.