The New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado is best known for their Fat Tire amber. But New Belgium makes a lot of beer as one of the first generation of commercially distributed American craft breweries, going all the way back to 1991; it’s now the third largest craft brewery in the United States. Their second most recognized beer was the second one released; New Belgium Abbey Ale.
New Belgium Abbey Ale is a Belgian dubbel (that’s double in English) style beer. It’s called an “Abbey” beer because Abbey Ale’s creation was inspired by the beers brewed at Trappist monasteries in Belgium and the Netherlands. In an innovation started in the early 1800s, these beers are fermented twice, once in the cask and then again in the bottle (sometimes called “bottle conditioned”). In Belgium, such beers often include kettle-heated caramelized sugar, and they’re always a higher ABV. This particular Belgian dubbel began as the first home-brewed beer of brewer and New Belgium co-founder, Jeff Lebesch, and he continued to improve it after opening New Belgium.
New Belgium’s Abbey Ale is a 7% ABV, made with six different malts, and a Belgian yeast strain. It’s a dark brown, with lovely copper highlights in the glass, and a decent head. The aroma is mouthwatering—brown bread, caramel and chocolate, and it’s a close parallel to the taste; the hops are there, and give it some body, but the final impression is one of caramel and chocolate, and quite lovely. It makes me want to pair it a really crusty, chewy whole grain bread. I’m not alone in my positive reactions to this beer: it’s won four World Beer Cup medals and eight medals at the Great American Beer Festival. Beer Advocate is unusually positive, giving it an A- rating, with the brother’s giving it an A.
Abbey Ale is a beer that just cries out for food pairing. I note that the New Belgium Website suggests pairing it with chocolate, and I concur, notes that it works well as a dessert on its own merit, which again, I completely agree with, but I would also suggest a very coffee ice cream, possibly a mocha-coffee offering.
I was thinking of this beer, which I first tried ten years ago, and am sad to see that it’s not longer being brewed. New Belgium Abbey Ale was retired in 2020.
An earlier version of this post first appeared on Beer Report.