Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Belgian tripel is brewed for summerBy JIM BEAUREGARD May 29. 2018 11:48PM
Last week, I mentioned that since we still have some cold nights clinging to us and some fairly wild fluctuations in temperature, we didn’t want to abandon dark and heavy beers altogether. But we are also facing some very warm days and so I thought that a turn to Belgian ale, particularly Belgian tripels, might be in order this week.
Compared to the imperial stouts we discussed last time, these are much lighter beers, golden in color rather than dark brown to black, and hops tend to predominate, while the opposite is true (dominant malt) in stout beers.
As we have discussed before in this column, there are different types of Belgian ales, running from amber through brilliant gold. It is the gold end of the spectrum I am talking about today, namely the Belgian tripel, generally classed among the group of Belgian ales known as “strong ales” because the alcohol content tends to be high. The IBUs run from 20 to 40 and the alcohol runs from about 7.5% to 9.5%. While the alcohol content is indeed higher, these are not beers that tend to taste warm or hot, and the alcohol is subtly blended into the presentation.
Many of them are bottle-conditioned, like champagne, that is to say a little sugar and yeast may be added for further fermentation, under a champagne cork. That means the bottle is typically under fairly high pressure. In other words, don’t point it at anybody you like while you are opening it.
Belgian tripels have quite a bit of variety to their flavor profiles, and can include flavors of spice and hops and sometimes can even be peppery. Citrus is also very common, from lemon to orange. These ales also have in common a fairly low malt profile.
Another characteristic of the Belgian tripel is its huge creamy/frothy white head, which on pouring can take up half the glass. It also leaves its characteristic “Belgian lace” on the sides of the glass as the head diminishes.
These beers tend to be light- to medium-bodied. Many are made using Pilsner malts, which helps explain the lighter color, and they commonly use the noble hops. The yeast is incredibly important in the making of this type of beer and specific Belgian strains of yeast are used. These tend to produce flavors and aromas of fruit and spice.
There are number of tripels, both from Europe and America that are available here in New Hampshire. They are called Belgian Tripels if they are made in Europe, but Belgian-“style” tripel if they are made here. Some that we can obtain locally that are tripel or in the tripel style include Chimay Cinq Cents (this one has the white label); Corsendonk is available here in New Hampshire from time to time and Allagash makes a tripel-style as well. Also included in this list is the beer we’re looking at today:
La Fin du Monde Belgian Style Tripel Ale, Unibrou Brewery in Chambly, Quebec. 9% alcohol by volume, 19 IBUs. About $8 for a 25.4-ounce bottle. The bottle tells us that it is “ale brewed with spices, bottle refermented.” It does indeed have the appearance of a Belgian Tripel, with a huge, creamy head, stark white in color. The beer is golden, with just a little bit of a hint of orange. The malt profile on the nose is quite low but the hops are characteristically high, with aromas of citrus, lemon and lemongrass, as well as some hints of spice, making it a classic presentation. On the palate, it is dry, with low bitterness and medium-plus acidity, good carbonation, medium alcohol that is quite well integrated, medium body and texture and medium-plus flavor intensity of fruit, as well as spice, with the citrus flavors predominating.
Perfect for a warm summer night.
Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com