The Civil Life just released its second Belgian Ale, a dubbel. Although this is the first time we brought a Belgian yeast strain into the brewery, and Belgian ales seem stylistically different from our mainstays, the abbey style dubbel is not that much of a departure. The dubbel is a type of brown ale (needless to say, the Civil Life is on firm ground here).
It’s a relatively recent style. Dubbels were first brewed in the mid-nineteenth century by Trappist monks at the Westmalle Abbey, but it wasn’t until 1926 when brewer Henrik Verlinden reformulated the recipe, that the dubbel as we know it today was perfected.
Unlike most brown ales, which are given their color from roasted malts imparting characteristic flavors of coffee or chocolate, dubbels get their brownish color form candi sugar, a deeply caramelized sugar syrup. Characteristic flavors from candi sugar include dried fruit, like raisins and figs, as well as burnt sugar or crème brulee notes.
The classic Belgian yeast strains impart herbal, fruity, and spicy notes. We followed Belgian tradition by fermenting our dubbel at higher temperatures, which intensifies those spicy and fruity notes. Belgian dubbel ales are typically dark and dry and relatively high in alcohol (6-ish to 8-ish percent) but don’t taste especially alcoholic.
Our Belgian Dubbel is 6% and somewhat lighter in color than is typical, but rich in taste, with some plum-like fruit and light caramel, and a delightfully spicy finish. It’s balanced, smooth, and exceptionally drinkable.
The origin of the name dubbel is not entirely clear, though nowadays terms like dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel (this last apparently an American invention) give a rough idea of alcoholic strength.
We could learn a thing or two from the Trappist monks who still brew these outstanding beers. The spiritual life they cultivate, marked by hard work and quiet meditation, is not impeded by drinking finely crafted ales, but enhanced by it. At the Civil Life, we are proud to brew within the honorable traditions they helped to create. ~ Dr. Patrick Hurley, resident Barman and civility expert extraordinaire
George Orwell, one of the twentieth century’s most important English authors, wrote an essay in 1946 describing his favorite public house in London, The Moon Under Water. (Cick the link to read Orwell's original essay.)
At the end of this short and delightful piece, Orwell reveals that the Moon Under Water doesn’t really exist and that no pub he’s been able to discover has all the necessary attributes of the perfect public house. He died just four years later, but had he lived until 2011 (at which point he would have been a spry 108 years old), he could have discovered the exquisite hospitality of the Civil Life. Aside from a few tangential details, the pub at the Civil Life meets all of Orwell’s requirements. Indeed, our pub is practically the embodiment of Orwell’s ideal.
“My favorite public house, ‘The Moon Under Water,’ is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way here.” Ah Holt Avenue, you’ve served us well over the past four-plus years. Right off a major intersection but hidden slightly from view is enough to keep people from just wandering in and making mischief.
Orwell also identifies the clientele as large and varied but seemingly mostly regulars, who come for conversation as much as beer. Such regulars can often be found on the same bar stools many nights each month (that’s Lindsay reading under the lamp next to the taps and Jeff and Erin on the other side of the taps, deciding what to put in those four growlers).
He identifies the space as being richly adorned with grained woodwork throughout and being free from “glass-topped tables or other modern miseries.”
It’s true we have no blazing fires, but no one has questioned the undeniable warmth of the Civil Life. We also don’t have the multiple bars described by Orwell, but stay tuned for a coming expansion.
Games such as darts occur in a dedicated area, so patrons are kept safe from flying projectiles at the mythic Moon Under Water as well as the Civil Life. And we replace both our dartboards and our darts regularly so your experience will not be marred by shoddy equipment.
It’s quiet enough to talk thanks to the lack of radio (read television now). From the start, we’ve kept our bar free of television (besides a couple of Cardinal’s related exceptions) just so patrons can enjoy the conversation and community that a first-rate pub fosters.
While we’re not middle-aged barmaids with outlandish shades of hair color, we do strive to know everyone’s names and we sincerely do take a personal interest in all of our patrons.
While the Moon Under Water doesn’t have a full kitchen serving elaborate meals, they do sell delicious, affordable sandwiches, including a popular liverwurst (I promise, we didn’t steal all of our ideas from Orwell!).
Orwell sings the praises of the fine draught stout available at his favorite pub. Our delicious Big American Stout is on draught now, with the milk stout returning, too, on draught as well as cask.
“They are particular about their drinking vessels at ‘The Moon Under Water’ and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass.” Actually, we serve our beer in dimpled pint mugs as well as nonic pint glasses. Some customers feel strongly about which type of glass they prefer (ahem, Mac, Mike etc.), and we are happy to serve their pints the way they like them.
Orwell also sings the praises of the large beer garden and how family-friendly his ideal pub is: “Many as are the virtues of the ‘Moon Under Water’ I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone.” Or vice versa, for that matter.
The Moon Under Water is surely too perfect to be true. That’s what Orwell thought, at any rate. But a great pub need not be wishful thinking. At the Civil Life, we know some ideals are worth living up to.
-Dr. Patrick Hurley, Barman and Civility Expert
Every brewery wants to emphasize the quality of the beers that they brew, and the Civil Life is no exception. We recognize, however, that not every visitor to our pub is a beer drinker. That’s why, since the day we opened, we’ve always offered an excellent selection of carefully curated, value-priced wines (just ask Kerry, customer of the year 2011–2016). Just like we give you a twenty ounce imperial pint of beer for just five gold dollar coins, we offer generous six-ounce pours of around eight excellent wines at prices you won’t find at many other places.
Jake draws on eight years running 33 Wine Bar, as well as his time at Astor Wines and Spirits in NYC, and Joe, who currently selects our wines, draws on his time at 33, as well as Cellar Advisors. Not many craft breweries can boast of that much wine expertise.
We keep things simple by listing our wines by varietal and country of origin. You’ll never see Parker points or Wine Advocate scores on our wine list. And if you’re not familiar with a wine, we’ll describe it and pour you a taste.
Recently we’ve added two very unique items to our list and we’re very excited about them. Both originate in the Basque region of Spain (and you thought we were only influenced by England … ¡Claro que no!).
Txakoli (CHOCK-uh-lee) or Txakolina is a crisp, light, lower-alcohol white wine from producers in the Basque country. Its slight effervescence is activated by pouring it from two or more feet above the glass (a traditional squat tumbler used throughout the Basque region). This lovely bone-dry wine is clean and bright with beautiful acidity. You get some citrus and good minerality with a hint of salinity. At a modest 12% abv, this wine makes a lovely summer quaffer.
We are also pouring Bere Aran, a dry natural cider from the Basque region as well. If you think you don’t like cider, try this one. It’s nothing like English and American ciders most people are familiar with, some of which can be sweet and cloyingly heavy. This sidra natural is dry and tart with slight effervescence and some funky, earthy notes. We pour this from height as well, as the label directs.
Stop by and find out what other interesting things we’re pouring (red wine lovers … don’t miss the Aglianico from Paso Robles). Or swing by for a pint. We’re still brewing the best malt-driven session beers around.
*Txakoli has recently taken a break from our esteemed wine list but come see what other exciting wines have replaced it!!*
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.