Nick Carr on March 13, 2015 1 Comment History of Belgian Tripel With long held traditions rooted deep in the Middle Ages, European monastic brewers have greatly influenced modern brewing culture and continue to craft some of the most defining and memorable ales. The Belgian Tripel is the youngest of the ale trilogy (dubbel, tripel, and quadruple) that form the very heart of Belgium’s high art of brewing. Born less than 85 years ago, this apex of the brewers craft was the genius of highly esteemed secular brewer Hendrik Verlinden of Drie Linden brewery. In the early 1930s, Hendrik began working on a recipe for a strong golden ale that might hold its own against the growing popularity of pale beers in Europe. In 1932 he released it under the name Witkap Pater (it has since been changed to Witkap Tripel). Though not of the Order, he marketed the ale under the Trappist name, perhaps basing his “right” on some consulting he had done for the brewing monks at Westmalle Abbey. A couple years after this Westmalle came out with its own Tripel. Their recipe has remained unchanged since 1956 and is considered the standard of the style. Triples have grown in popularity over the past several years due to the rebuilding of Belgium brewing and the growing curiosity of this and other region’s brewing arts. Several of the Trappist monasteries (for a bit more history on the Trappist Order read my Chimay review), many other abbeys, independent brewers, and even American micro-breweries have started to experiment with Tripels and other Belgian styles. Style Profile & Characteristics The guidelines for the Belgian Tripel beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what a Belgian Tripel should represent. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 4.5 – 7 SRM Original Gravity: 1.075 – 1.085 OG Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014 FG IBU Range: 20 – 40 ABV Range: 7.5 – 9.5% Appearance: Ranges from pale yellowish-gold to dark copper. Clarity should be good. Thick and creamy white head. Aroma: Light malty profile with high spiciness. Fruit esters are common. Hops remain low and noticeable. No diacetyl. Flavor: Complex mix of malts, fruits, spices and alcohol flavors. Low to moderate hoppiness. Citrusy esters. Dry and bitter finish is common. Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium mouthfeel with creaminess sensation. Effervescence should be present. Suggested Glass: Tulip Glass Food Pairings: Spicy Meats; BBQ; German Sausages; Venison; Roasted Veggies The BJCP classifies the Tripel beer style as a “Trappist Ale.” It can be found in their guidelines as category 26C. Other beer styles in this category include: Trappist Single (26A), Belgian Dubbel (26B), and Belgian Dark Strong Ale (26D). Appearance: A Belgian Tripel is usually clear; pale yellowishgold to dark copper with a dense and creamy off-white head. Aroma: Aroma is complex with a light malt profile. It will exhibit moderate to high spiciness including peppery and clove-like phenols. Light alcohol tones and fruit esters are common. The Esters will usually be of a citrus fruit character, especially orange, though banana can also be noticeable. Alcohols are soft, with some spicy character to them. Hops will be quite low but should be distinctive as a spicy perfume-like cast. No diacetyl should be present. Mouthfeel: High alcohol content adds a creaminess to the medium-light to medium body and it remains much lighter and more effervescent then the high alcohol content would suggest. Very little alcohol warming and no astringency should be present. Taste: With the malt playing a supporting role here, this beer finds its complexity in a mix of fruit, spice, and alcohol flavors. The phenols should remain low to moderate with a nice peppery character. Alcohols are soft, of low intensity, and exhibit a spicy, sometimes sweet cast. Hops remain low to moderate in the balance and add spice to the whole. Esters will be of the citrus type, orange and lemon are common. Bitterness can be high and usually presents as a combination of hops and phenolics produced by the yeast during fermentation. A drying finish and bitter aftertaste are common. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Examples of the Style Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown, PA)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2014. Available Year Round. Bedotter from Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (Newark, DE)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2014. Available as bottled reserve at some locations (check website for more info). Candi Belgian Tripel from Dominion Brewing Company (Dover, DE)World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2014. Available on draft and in the Fall/Winter Pinup Pack. Blitzen from Steamworks Brewing Company (Burnaby, Canada)World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2014. Available November – January in 650mL bottles. Delirium Tremens form Brouwerij Huyghe (Melle, Belgium)World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2014. Available year round but may be hard to find in the U.S. Westmalle Trappist Tripel from Westmalle Trappist Brewery (Westmalle, Belgium)World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2012. Available year round. Nectar des Dieux from Bastone Brewing Company (Royal Oak, MI)World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2012. Available on tap at Bastone. SteenBrugge Tripel from Palm Breweries (Steenhuffel, Belgium)World Beer Cup Winner, Bornze, 2012. Available Year Round. Tips for Brewing Belgian Tripel Recipe If you want to take on brewing a Belgian Tripel, but are a little daunted by creating something with such a high ABV, rest easy. Brewing a Tripel isn’t hard, but if this is your first attempt at any kind of strong ale, or your first go at a Tripel these tips will hopefully help you along. The Grain Bill: The grain bill can be very simple for a Tripel. The bulk of any recipe should be made up of high-quality Plisner malt. If you want full authenticity go with one of Belgian origin, though Weyermann makes a German Pilsner that will work well also. That’s all you really need. Many great Tripel recipes use only Pilsner and it’s a great way to go if this is your first try. But many other recipes use a two to three percent addition of character malt such as: light crystal, aromatic, light Munich, even flaked or other malted grains like wheat or oats. Even rye could work. It has a nice peppery flavor that might complement the yeast profile well. Hmmm… makes me want to throw together a Tripel recipe. Extract: For those wanting to brew extract the Belgian Tripel extract kit is a good start. You could add a mini-mash with a small amount of character malt to build some different characters into the beer and you can still add adjunct sugars at the lower end of the percentage mentioned below to increase fermentables and complexity. Adjunct Sugars: Adjunct sugar is always used. One of the main things that make a Tripel so special is the high ABV hidden within the mellow, crisp, captivating folds of a beer that drinks much lighter then you’d expect. Much of this crisp lightness comes from adjunct sugar. These sugars should make up 5 to 20 percent of the fermentables and can include; jaggery, piloncillo, and other semi-refined sugars. Honey too, at least the lighter ones, might make for an interesting addition. The Yeast: A good Belgian yeast is essential when brewing a Tripel. The yeast should be an unmistakable presence in the finished product, marking its work with qualities of spice (pepper, nutmeg, clove) and hints at banana, lemon, and orange are possible. Thought should be given to what type of profile you’d like in the beer and then find a yeast that seems to speak that language; though, here again, finding the one you like the best may take several batches. Don’t forget you can always split a single batch of beer into smaller fermenters and try one or two (or several) different yeasts on the same recipe. A couple good places to start might be White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast or Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity. If using dry yeast, Fermentis SafBrew T-58 should work well. Hops: You want the bitterness somewhere between 30 and 40 IBUs. Styrian Goldings and Tettnang would work well for the boil. Hop aroma and flavoring aren’t that big a deal in this style but you still want a high quality hop; Saaz hops are often used for finishing. Hop additions can be kept simple here; the bittering addition at 60 minutes and a small aroma addition at 15 minutes. The Mash: Mashing is a straight forward single infusion at the lower end of the saccharification temperature range, (around 145°F) so that you get more fermentables and a lighter, crisper body Bottle Conditioning A Belgian: Tripels should be bottle conditioned, meaning the yeast continues to work and creates carbonation within the capped bottle. There are a few things to consider here that will make the process slightly different then bottle conditioning other ales. First, an initial gravity above 1.060 makes your yeast work very hard. They are tired, worn out, and old by the time fermentation is complete. This isn’t to say they don’t have enough umph left to bottle condition (they probably do), but it isn’t a bad idea to cast new yeast when you get ready to bottle the beer (This would fall under optimum practices). The second thing to realize is that Tripels are usually highly carbonated. If you want this higher carbonation most places will recommend using 1 cup of plain sucrose instead of the usual smaller amount of 3/4th cup. And third, because of the higher pressure regular beer bottles are not appropriate and can be dangerous. Instead try to find some 750ml wine bottles you can cork and cage. If pitching new yeast, get a yeast starter going the evening before you bottle so that you have healthy vibrant yeast the next day. To do this simply boil ¼ dry malt extract in 3 cups of water, cool it quickly to casting temperature, pour it into a mason jar along with the yeast and don’t tighten the lid all the way. In the morning transfer your beer to a clean and sterilized carboy or pot and dump the yeast starter in. Add the 1 cup sugar (I usually solubilize this too, in 3 or 4 cups of boiling water, and cool it), gently stir it a few times, and you’re ready to bottle. After you’re done bottling find a nice cool, dry place to store your bottles and remember that Tripels do great with a little aging, so try and restrain yourself from drinking them too quickly. Instead try to spread them out over a year or more. Enjoy the changes and added complexities that come with maturity. Cheers!