In Practice

Because we're despotic slave drivers, we like to put our staff through regular monthly training sessions. This past month we explored different themes around pairing beer and food which, for our employees, results in the ultra-rare, rather-coveted position of getting paid to drink beer.

We discussed the challenges of pairing hoppy beers, the versatility of saisons, and ultimately, the extreme subjectivity that threatens to undermine even the best flavour marriages. We laughed, we lived, we ate cheese.

And though we discovered a lot of pairings we enjoyed, I thought it apt to share just one: A bottle of Westmalle Dubbel and our Apple Fritters.

Desserts can be tricky to pair well with beer, owing to the fact that they're usually quite sweet. There's a tendency for beers to come across as especially bitter, and not in a pleasing way, when matched with a sweet, delectable treat. An approach that we've found works, is to pair desserts with beers that don't have a huge hop presence.

Westmalle (I just have to mention that it's officially known as Abdij Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van het Heilig Hart van Jezus) is one of the few Trappist breweries in the world, meaning more or less that the profits from the beer go back into the Abbey, and the brewing is overseen by monks. They earned the Trappist designation in 1836, and twenty years later developed a dark beer recipe that would become the foundation for the Dubbel we know today.

Our Apple Fritters are not prepared by monks, but we can assure you that these ridiculously addictive fried balls of dough with tender pieces of apple inside, topped with a salted caramel sauce, crème Anglaise, and finished with crushed apple chips -- well, eating them is something close to a religious experience.

But when paired with the Westmalle Dubbel, the dessert and beer are both elevated to new heights. The dubbel is ripe with aromatics of fig, raisin, and spicy Belgian yeast, and showcases flavours of caramelized Belgian candi sugar balanced by a subtle earthy hop character. The body, despite being darker in colour, is effervescent and relatively light due to bottle-conditioning, and this helps to lift the rich flavours in the dish, readying the palate for each new bite.

While we can't provide any finale timeline for this freezing snow show, we can provide a cozy brewpub for you to test (because you really should decide for yourself) this Bellwoods approved pairing.

Westmalle Dubbel and Apple Fritters, a match made in Belgian monk heaven.