This is the first in a series of articles, "If you like that, try this".
I asked a few colleagues who are just getting into craft beer what their favorites were. One responded with Fat Tire and the other with Newcastle Brown Ale. Fat Tire is an American amber/red ale and Newcastle is an English brown ale. They are both good examples of their respective styles and have their subtle differences. After I moved on to more robust styles, however, I couldn't really appreciate those subtle differences any longer. That's not to say that those brews aren't worth drinking, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. So if you're ready to see what else is out there in the vast brewniverse, read on.
A good next step for those drinking the above two brews/styles is to move on to the Belgian Dubbel style. This is a richer, fuller body ale with more malt flavors. Caramel undertones can sometimes be present as well. Carbonation can be sometimes be heavy. The reason for this is that many Belgians are yeast bottle conditioned. You will want the beer to sit for 5 minutes or so after pouring to allow some of the excess carbonation to dissipate. Swirling the glass may help. But letting these beers sit also will allow them to warm up to their proper drinking temperature. What, I'm not supposed to drink my beer ice cold in a frosted glass? No you're not. Unless it's a style that has little to no flavor (think Coors, Bud, Miller... cough, gag!)
A Dubbel is meant to be drank around 54F - 57F. In fact if you take your shiny new Dubbel out of the fridge and sip it over the course of 20 minutes you'll see what I'm talking about. If it's out of a typical fridge it could be around 38F to start or lower. The beer's best characteristics will be masked until it warms up. The beer at the beginning of the glass (38F) will be a pale comparison to the beer at the end of the glass (54F). Look for a future article on beer serving temperatures in the near future.
So now you know what style to go to next and at what temperature to drink it. What else? How about how to pour it? That's idiotic, right? I'll just drink that bad boy out of the bottle or dump into a pint glass. Read more about pouring your beer here.
So now are we ready to drink? Why yes we are! We're lucky enough to have some excellent Dubbels available in North Texas. My personal favorite is Ommegang Abbey Ale. Other awesome examples include Westmalle Trappist Dubbel, Chimay Red and Trappistes Rochefort 6. The latter three are Belgians and the first is brewed in New York.
One last thing to know is that you're moving to not only more robust beers but also higher ABVs (alcohol by volume). The typical ambers and brown ales range 4.5-5.5% ABV. The typical Dubbels range 7-9% ABV. So go find yourself a Dubbel and see what's below the tip of the iceberg.