Though strong Belgian pale ales have existed for centuries, the “tripel” name wasn’t used until the Trappists monks at Westmalle Abbey changed the name of what they’d call “superbier,” their heaviest pale ale, in 1956. The Flemish Dutch word for triple, tripel suggests three times malt and strength. Much of tripel’s mystique comes from the innocent deep golden color, soft maltiness and customary, intriguing yeast stamp. That is followed by a sucker punch in the range of 8 to 9.5 percent ABV, a combination that offers culinary-quality complexity rivaling any darker brew. The burnished golden color, sometimes glinting of orange, comes from a hefty grist of predominantly mellow, clean Continental pilsner malt. The character is further lightened with the light candi, or white, sugar that Belgian brewers are so fond of, and may comprise up to 20 percent of the fermentables. Tripels are highly popular among beer lovers worldwide, and in North America, even as the import business is as robust as ever, microbrewers are increasingly dabbling in Belgians. Peaks and Pints presents five examples of the style in today’s to-go beer flight: Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Tripel On the Fly.
Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Tripel On the Fly
Unibroue Fin du Monde
9% ABV, 19 IBU
Unibroue‘s Fin du Monde’s name translates as “The End of The World.” If this beer is any indication of the end of the world, bring on the apocalypse! This tripel actually reminds us of the beach with the golden orange color providing the sunset, the pineapple and nut aromas giving it a tropical nose, and the strong alcoholic taste, followed by sweetness, completes the sense of drinking on the beach, minus the cocktail and the mini-umbrella. Even with its tropical vibes, La Fin du Monde upholds its light Belgian character. A honey sweetness is tempered by a moderate bitterness that comes in late, tongue tickling and peppery. It’s clear why this is so well loved among craft beer enthusiasts. Exotic and ethereal, it rises above the level of mere beer.
StormBreaker CaTHREEdral Park
9.1% ABV, 28 IBU
Rob Lutz’ beer career began as a keg washer at Amnesia Brewing, the North Portland brewery that opened in May of 2003 on Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Amnesia moved to Washougal, Washington, then folded. Lutz went in the opposite direction. In late 2014, he and Dan Malech opened StormBreaker Brewing in Amnesia’s former spot. Their creative beer lineup earned awards. The duo opened a second spot in Portland’s St. John neighborhood, as well as expanded their Mississippi location, adding an axe-throwing platform. In celebration of their St. Johns location’s three-year anniversary, they brewed the Belgian-style tripel, CaTHREEdral Park with robust fruit flavor and aroma with hints of white pepper, rounded out by a soft body and boozy punch.
8.1% ABV, 36 IBU
Organic chemist (Ph.D.) Todd Clement fell in love with traditional Belgian/Abbey-style ales during work trips to Antwerp. After spending 7 years in the pharmaceutical industry as a process chemist Clement moved to Bend, Oregon. When he copuldn’t find his beloved Belgian-style ales, he began homebrewing them — his first batch a Belgian tripel. In 2014, he founded Monkless Belgian Ales with his friend Kirk Meckem who then left the business in 2016. Monkless is now owned and ran solely by Clement and his wife, Robin. Their Capitulation is their Trinity tripel dry hopped to add a blast of flowery, citrusy hop aroma.
Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle Tripel
9.5% ABV, 36 IBU
In 1836 the Belgian Westmalle monastery became a Trappist Abbey and began brewing beer shortly thereafter. The holy suds they produced started out as an insider-only deal — a choice beverage to be made and enjoyed by Trappists and Trappists alone, but eventually they decided to expand and opened up a public beer hall in the early 1930s. Westmalle embodies the tripel style with a thoughtful balance of sweet, fresh pear, lemon zest and a dash of peppery spice. Its flirtatious effervescence sweeps the mouth clean, while lingering lemony hops leave the mouth pining for more. It’s an exceptional beer, with a great deal of finesse and elegance and a splendid enduring aftertaste.
De Dolle Brouwers Dulle Teve
Fatty beef, like those cuts of meat traditionally found rotating for hours over a barbecue spit in Texas, hold up against the strong flavors of this spicy tripel. De Dolle Brouwers Dulle Teve is brewed in the tradition of a Belgian tripel. Its high-density stems from large amounts of pale malt increased with pale candi sugar in the brew kettle. Combined with a great balance of bready Belgian yeast, caramel undertones, and a hint of sweet fruitiness, these balance the flavors in the meat very well.