Don't be intimidated by these Belgian Tripels

This spring, we're sipping Belgian styles of beer. We've started with traditional Trappist Ales (singels, dubbels) and now we're on to tripels. Last week's tripel tasting got me thinking. “Seth,” I thought (I often address myself in this manner), “these tripels are heavy duty beers! They are 9 percent alcohol. But, oddly they are light, dry and super drinkable. What gives?” Upon further reflection, I realized that many wines (like Vinho Verde, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer) with a reputation for being light and refreshing actually have more alcohol, heavier body and more sweetness than this supposedly “heavy duty” beer. The lesson? Don't be intimidated by the high ABV, arcane symbols and tiny bottles – tripel is a surprisingly approachable, refreshing style!


Westmalle Trappist Ale Tripel
ABV: 9.5%
Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped Bottle

Availability: Purchased at the Bier Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours the palest gold, with a huge pouf of white head. Aroma has golden raisin and the faintly skunky smell of noble hops. The initial flavor is clean, complex and sweet. There are notes of peach, sweet cider, clover and fresh hay. It's as if the monks have created a sublimely dry wine, using only raisins and rock candy! The body is quite light, and the sweetness, though distinct, is ephemeral, clean and brief. The aftertaste has a wine-like acidity, with some bright, lemony notes. A joy.


Trappistes Rochefort 8
ABV: 9.2%
Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped Bottle

Availability: Purchased at the Bier Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, burnished brown with a thin off-white head. Aroma is fresh, floral and fuming with spices and alcohol. There is some prune and grape sweetness also. The initial flavor is like a sip of liquefied raisin-bread. A dense, figgy sweetness, augmented with spiced rum raisins, cardamom and clove, brightened by a sour-apple acidity. There's a funky edge under the spice, like a whiff of barnyard blown over an apple pie cooling in a farmhouse window. The finish is agreeably dry, with rye, wet cedar, and cinnamon bark all mingling together, giving me a lot to contemplate before my next sip!


Chimay Cinq Cents
ABV: 8.0%
Format Sampled: 11.2 oz. capped Bottle

Availability: Purchased at the Bier Cellar

Tasting Notes: Pours a golden-brown with a pure white head. Aroma has clove, golden raisin, and fragrant yeast. The initial flavor has a surprising wash of fresh-baked bread, and savory biscuit. It's brief, comforting and serves to highlight the spiced flavors the rise up on my palate, bringing dried clove and nutmeg to the fore. Some floral, lemony hop character pops up with the spice, a pleasant, piquant bitterness that's more prevalent in the Cinq than with outer tripels I've sipped. The body is quite light, and the overall impression is dry, complex and refreshing. That's a surprising description for a beer that's 8 percent alcohol and comes in a tiny bottle, festooned with arcane symbols!


Last modified onMonday, 24 April 2017 11:58