DE DOLLE SPECIAL EXTRA EXPORT STOUT

You know, despite having become a huge fan of all sorts of American-made Belgian beer styles in the last few years, Belgian beer that is actually from Belgium can still be something of an oddity for me. I find it much more difficult to select a random Belgian beer off one of the shelves than a comparable American brew, unless I recognize it as being a trappist ale or something else that I figure is a near guarantee of quality. A lot of the breweries I just don’t know, and it’s not like there’s a lot of helpful English description on the side of the bottle to enlighten me.

In the end, I often find myself looking at a beer I don’t fully understand, noting how much more expensive it is than the American-style brew from a brewery I know, and then putting it back on the shelf and buying the “better deal.”

So it was with heightened interest that I actually purchased and tried De Dolle Special Extra Export Stout the other day. Why did I do it? Well, the guy at the package store said “You should try this,” and then graciously allowed me to buy a single bottle, that’s why. And I don’t say no to that sort of thing. It’s part of my “accepting things from strangers” rules–if the thing is beer, then you always say “yes, yes, a thousand times yes.”

What do I expect? I have no idea. “Belgian stout” is such a nebulous pseudo-style that seems like it can taste anywhere from “stout” to “quadrupel” at will. And I am afraid of all the extra descriptors–were “extra” and “export” really needed after “special”? Anyway, on to the tasting.

De Dolle Special Extra Export Stout

NOTES: 330 ml bottle (METRIC SYSTEM RAAAAAGGGHHHH) poured into a tulip glass.

ABV: 9%, Belgian foreign export stout

APPEARANCE: Explosive carbonation fills the whole glass and then takes ages to dissipate. Extremely carbonated. Not sure if this is somehow my fault, but it takes a half hour to really pour the whole thing.

AROMA: Sour cherries and intense, vinous, sweet fruit aromas. Grape? Some archetypal Belgian funkiness on the back end, but mostly a fruit bomb. Smells kind of like a quad.

TASTE: After smelling it, I was afraid that this was going to be all fruit, but here it’s clear that this actually is a “stout.” There’s helpings of roast, and fruit and a low level of sour tang. There’s enough roastiness to keep it from being totally out-there, which I appreciate. There’s some booze, but it definitely doesn’t taste like 9% abv beer. These elements all work together in good harmony. Think like, chocolate-covered cherries.

MOUTHFEEL: Prickly carbonation. I don’t know what was going on with this bottle, carb-wise. I’ve experienced this with a few beers from Belgium. In this case though, it makes the mouthfeel lighter than a 9% beer would normally be, which is okay with me.

DRINKABILITY: Really quite high, for something so strong and with a good amount of residual sugar.

OVERALL: I am pleasantly surprised. It’s a very satisfying balance, especially as it warms. You’ve got equal elements of sour, roast and fruit working in harmony. It’s got it all. It’s almost like they just took a quadrupel (which I often find too sweet and cloying) and added a roasted element to dry it out just a tad. I give it a praise-worthy 3.5 hops.

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4 comments

  1. De Dolle can do no wrong, but this one is extra-tasty. I really enjoy Belgian Stouts (rare though they are). I agree that the roasted, charred flavors really counteract the typical Belgian sweetness without killing the glorious funk.

    Had an Upright Monk and Mingus in Portland this weekend (a Belgian Coffee Stout). The addition of coffee adds even MORE roasted bitterness to the mix which stands up wonderfully to the Belgian candi sugar sweetness.

    1. Monk and Mingus? Is that some sort of cultural reference I’m missing? Mork and Mindy?

  2. Anonymous · · Reply

    All of the beers I’ve had from De Dolle have that much carbonation. It’s part of their house character for sure.

    1. It’s certainly something I could do without. It was really the only negative thing about this beer.

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