Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Vanilla Tree Dubbel
7.5 % ABV
Another Westbrook brew gracing the shelves this time of year is Vanilla Tree Dubbel, a Belgian-style dubbel aged brewed with dark crystal malts, dark Belgian candi sugar and then aged on vanilla beans and toasted oak chips. Having only tried a sampling of it last year and knowing there were a lot of infection problems with the previous batch, I was a bit hesitant going on. But I now count this as one of my favorite seasonals from Westbrook, if not one of my favorites from them in general.
The appearance is that of a classic dubbel. It’s a very deep, murky brown verging on a black, but there is a little bit of light coming through around the edges. It gives it a amberish tint in spots. There’s a finger and a half of a creamy off-white head. It dissipates quickly but leave a light, bubbly film on the edges of the glass. The lacing’s watery and falls off quickly, but there is a good alcohol leg film left behind.
The vanilla on the nose is a big, sticky sweet note. It’s really creamy and rich, and is backed and cut nicely by the bite of the oak. That oak note is very light and just faintly there. All of this is on top of the flavors you’d expect in a dubbel: plums, figs, caramel, etc. There’s also a bit of a chocolate note to it, too, which I think is brought out by the vanilla. It’s rich and smooth and delicious.
The richness of the beer is the first thing that hits your palate. It’s very smooth on the front of the tongue and has just a bit of carbonation. The vanilla beans really pop towards the middle of the mouth, adding to that rich, flavorful body. On the back, the oak really develops nicely and is a bit more pronounced than on the nose, but again is just very slight and not overpowering. The vanilla masks some of the caramel and dark fruit notes, but they’re there. It’s a bit sweeter than you get with most classic dubbels and lacks a lot of the carbonation that helps pop open your taste buds, but the rich vanilla and oak qualities add a nice touch.
While the flavors you love and expect from a Belgian dubbel are certainly part of the Vanilla Tree Dubbel, the oak and vanilla flavors are what linger the most. In a way, they kind of bring out the flavors of the dubbel, but they also help showcase new ones. The chocolate quality was just slight enough to be noticeable and was a unique taste for something like this.