Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beer Style of Week – Tripels (Triples) Week 9

Besides the fact that the term Tripel in regards to ale comes from the region known as the lowlands between Netherlands and Belgium and that it is a Strong Pale Ale, there remains some confusion about origins of the Tripel designation. One theory is that in the past, brewers from the Lowlands marked three XXX’s on a cask of their ale to indicate its strong ale (around 9% ABV). Another plausible theory (and correct for today’s definition) is that the Tripel is brewed with three times the amount of malt and /or three different malts. It’s probably safe to assume that all these theories are true. Original Tripels were dark Strong Ales. Today’s version is quite pale, like a thick, golden, oily Pilsner in Color, with thick and creamy white heads. They are a little tricky in that they may appear mild because of their light color, but in reality they range from around 7.9% - 11% ABV. Anything below or above those marks should be considered fringe Tripels at best. Hey, there needs to be some parameters set for the consumer, right?

Although Tripels are malty by design, they are usually fairly hoppy with a fair amount of sweetness, which in turn makes them balanced. Some Tripels blend spices such as coriander into the mix.

Tripel Summary: Pale golden oily color. Foamy white head. Spicy and citrusy hop nose, with sweet caramel, bready and yeast aroma, with a hint of banana. Big sweet malty taste. Assertive spicy and citrusy hop flavors. Solid alcohol punch. A good beer to settle down with and slowly enjoy on a chilly evening. Pairs well with a variety of cheeses and cured meats. It also, goes well with rich, creamy desserts, or well-made dark chocolates.

From the Lowlands

Trippel Karmeliet - Brouwerji Bosteels – Buggenhout, Belgium – 8.4% ABV

This is one of your typical full malted, abundantly sweet, nicely hopped, fragrant, alcohol warmed, richly decadent beers.

Poured into a large wine goblet at Public House.

A deep hazy orange-hued amber color settles beneath a full lush white head. Fragrant floral hops, sweet malt, spices and a warm breath of alcohol billow forward. Full sweet caramel and candy sugar are quite noticeable. Clove, coriander and orange zest mingle in the background. A light lemony bitterness offers some ballast to offset the almost oily rich sweetness. Mild warming alcohol is present throughout. This is a very nice dessert, or sitting by the fire beer. Very rich!

Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Malle, Belgium – 9.5% ABV

A strong brew, this authentic Trappist Tripel. Deep leathery orange with fine fizzy head and lasting lace. Yeast, sweet malt, hops, alcohol and earthy aromas. The deep rich malt invites heavy gulping (though beware!). High in complex hops. Lightly sweet and heavy bodied. A yeasty flavor is lingering behind the bitter and peppery tastes. A hint of banana is detected late in the smell and taste profile. Strong brew! Whew!

New England Tripels

Allagash Triple Ale – Portland, Maine – 9% ABV

12oz stubby brown bottle. Served in an Allagash Goblet.

Define the Tripel style and this brew will sit smack dab in the middle of the definition.

Slick golden-hued amber with a snow-white on top and gobs of sticky and trailing lacing.

Smells like a Tripel! Sweet malt, citrusy and resinous hops, light clove and banana bread aromas. Just a light whiff of rummy alcohol is noticed.

The flavors of caramel, banana bread, orange and grapefruit bitterness, and a nice light rum alcoholic kick going down.

The body is a tad thin for the style, but holds up well throughout.

Allagash really does a remarkable job of capturing the essence of the Belgian style, and this Triple is no different.

Featured Tripel

Pretty Things – Fluffy White Rabbits

22oz brown bottle. Freshness date stamped on cap cover.

Served in a Chimay goblet.

It looks like a dull caramel candy drop with a snow-white head on top. Not much in the way lacing.

The aroma is Tripel all the way. Caramel candy, woody, resinous, citrusy lemon zest, yeasty and bready at once. A slightly medicinal bandage smell (in a comforting way) is in the background. Lovely!

It is hoppy for a Tripel, but it says so on the label, so be ready for a resinous, citrusy blast. A taste of white rum and sweet caramel are steadying influences, but really can't, or don't care to compete. A light taste of banana bread slides in and stays till the end. The candy sugar inches forward as it warms.

The body is fairly substantial and slightly oily. It's meant to be quaffed, not gulped, but it's hard not to take huge slugs now and then for the fuller effects.

Somehow I suspect that Brewer, Dann Paquette understands this phenomena when he brews certain styles in his own off-the-path way and just smiles a knowing smile realizing the consumer will somehow “get it”. I’ll get some more!

There are plenty of cool and rainy nights on the calendar, so be sure to keep some Tripels handy!


Quote: “At first he wished to drink sherry, but I begged him to do no such thing…The landlord allowed himself to be dissuaded, and after a glass or two of ale, confessed that sherry was a sickly, disagreeable drink…” – George Borrow – 1803-1881

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