The Brewer: Chris Thorpe
My journey into homebrewing began in college when a fraternity brother got a homebrew kit for Christmas. We enjoyed exploring various beer styles—English bitters, European pilsners, Belgians, and select options like Sierra and Anchor. He invited me to join the brewing and bottling process, which, as we know, is pretty labor-intensive. But I really enjoyed the process and the taste of the beer we made.
In 1993, the craft beer movement was not a thing, and we frequented a local shop, "Beers of the World," a blend of homebrew and beer offerings that's still in business today. Fast forward two years later into my first job, I decided to take the leap into homebrewing. Initially experimenting with syrups and encountering bad hops, I eventually transitioned to all-grain brewing and better ingredients.
Now equipped with two Spike CF15's and a HERMS setup, I enjoy the mix of art and science that comes with brewing, probably more the science because of my engineering background. Spike equipment has re-invigorated my love for brewing by making pro-quality equipment that's easy to use. Thanks, Spike!
The Beer: Belgian Tripel
Belgians are a great beer to have fun with. For the best fermentation advice look to "Brew like a Monk" by Stan Hieronymus page 174 and 178 for fermentation flavor profiles at temperatures.
It is always highly recommended that a good yeast volume is used along with some yeast nutrient.
Belgian candi sugar is expensive to buy, but it can be used for several awesome beer recipes. The addition of this sugar really makes a difference! I also do a step mash where alpha amylase is added. This really helps with conversion in the mash but needs to be added below 149 ºF and very little is needed 2-6 drops.
After brewing several Belgian style beers, I have found that temperature control (if available) can be crucial to get the best flavor profile out.
The Recipe: Tripel Monk
- 26 lbs Pilsner
- 2 lbs Pale Ale
- 4 lbs Wheat
- Boil hops: 1.3 oz US Magnum 14.1 AA - 0:60 min
- Boil hops: 2 oz US Sazz 4.6AA - 0:20 min
- Boil hops: 1.2 oz Mt. Mood - K.O.
- 2 tsp Orange Peel - 0:10 min
- 1 tsp Ground Coriander - 0:10 min
- ~2 lbs Invert or Candi Sugar - 0:15 min
- White Labs 530 or Wyeast 3787
BATCH SIZE: 10-12 gal
MASH TEMP: 128-133ºF: 15-20min
2-4 drops alpha amylase enzyme
146-148 ºF: 45 min
150-152ºF: 45 min
158ºF: Mash Out
BOIL: 70 min
68-72ºF - 1-2 weeks
Chris Thorpe - Thorpy's Brewhouse
Spike Summarizes: All Things Tripel
What Is a Tripel?
Tripel, a Belgian delight, pours a deep golden hue and offers a balanced blend of fruity esters, spicy phenols and a touch of candi sugar sweetness. This full-bodied ale achieves a balance of strength and smoothness from a mix of malted barley and candi sugar, creating a beer that's not just a drink but an experience.
What distinguishes a Tripel from other beers?
Tripel distinguishes itself with a higher alcohol content, ranging from 7.5% to 9.5%, and a complex flavor profile featuring fruity, spicy and sweet notes. Its notable effervescence contributes to a unique taste and aromatic experience.
What's the history of Tripel?
The history of Tripel traces back to the Trappist brewery of Westmalle in Belgium, where it was first brewed in the 1930s. The term "Tripel" originally referred to the strength of the beer, signifying a brew with three times the malt and, consequently, a higher alcohol content than the monastery's standard beer. Over time, other Belgian breweries adopted the style, leading to the widespread recognition and popularity of Tripel as a distinctive and strong Belgian ale.
What does Tripel beer taste like?
A Tripel typically has a complex flavor profile characterized by fruity, spicy and sweet notes. You may detect hints of banana, pear, and apple and a subtle spiciness reminiscent of cloves or peppery undertones. A mild bitterness often complements the malt sweetness, and the beer's effervescence contributes to a refreshing and lively mouthfeel. Overall, the taste of a Tripel is intricate, robust and carries the hallmark Belgian ale characteristics.
How is Tripel beer made?
Brewing a Tripel beer involves a blend of malted barley, water, hops and yeast. A significant malt bill is employed, contributing to the beer's higher alcohol content. The mashing process activates enzymes in the malt, converting starches into fermentable sugars. Following mashing, the wort is boiled, and hops are added, with a focus on imparting mild bitterness and aroma. Tripels are distinguished by the use of Belgian yeast strains during fermentation, introducing fruity and spicy flavors. The beer often undergoes an extended maturation period for flavor development and is commonly bottle-conditioned for natural carbonation. The final product is typically found in corked and caged bottles, showcasing its intricate taste, higher alcohol content, and lively effervescence.
What foods go best with Tripel beer?
Tripel beer's complex and robust flavor profile pairs well with a variety of foods like:
- Cheese: Creamy and semi-soft cheese, such as Brie, Gouda or Camembert, work well with the fruity and spicy notes of a Tripel. The beer's effervescence also helps cut through the richness of these types of cheese.
- Poultry: Tripel's balanced sweetness and spiciness make it a great match for poultry dishes. Try it with roasted chicken, duck or turkey.
- Spicy Cuisine: The beer's spiciness can complement the flavors in spicy dishes, such as Thai or Indian cuisine.
- Seafood: Rich and flavorful seafood, like lobster or shrimp, pairs nicely with Tripel. The beer's sweetness can complement the natural sweetness of seafood.
- Pork: Whether it's grilled, roasted or in sausage form, pork dishes can benefit from Tripel's complex flavors. The beer's sweetness can balance the savory and salty aspects of pork.
- Desserts: Tripel can be a delightful companion to desserts, especially those with fruity or caramel notes. Consider pairing it with apple pie, crème brûlée or even a rich Belgian waffle over brunch.
- Spiced Dishes: Dishes with spices like coriander or clove echo the flavors present in Tripel. This makes it a good choice for pairing with dishes seasoned with similar spices.
Is Tripel a year-round beer?
While Tripel beer is not limited to a specific season and can be enjoyed year-round, its higher alcohol content and complex flavor profile often make it a popular choice for colder months. The beer's richness can be especially appealing during fall and winter.
How Strong is a typical Tripel beer?
The alcohol by volume (ABV) of a Tripel usually falls within the range of 7.5% to 9.5%.
Are there different types of Tripel beer?
While "Tripel" typically refers to a strong Belgian ale with a distinctive flavor profile and higher alcohol content, there isn't a strict style guideline like you might find with some other beer categories. That being said, various breweries produce their interpretations of Tripel, leading to some variation in characteristics. Differences may arise in terms of specific flavors, malt bills, hop profiles and the yeast strains used. However, the term "Tripel" is most commonly associated with Belgian-style tripels, and the variations within this category tend to be subtle.
What's the correct temperature for serving Tripel?
The recommended serving temperature for Tripel beer is generally between 45°F to 50°F (7°C to 10°C). Serving it at this temperature allows the beer to showcase its complex flavors and aromas effectively.
What are some popular brands of Tripel beer?
Some popular brands include:
- Westmalle Tripel: Westmalle Brewery in Belgium is often credited with creating the Tripel style, and their Westmalle Tripel is considered a benchmark for the category.
- Chimay White (Cinq Cents): Produced by Chimay Brewery, Chimay White is a Trappist Tripel.
- La Fin Du Monde: Brewed by Unibroue in Canada, La Fin Du Monde is a Tripel-style golden ale known for its fruity and spicy character.
- Tripel Karmeliet: Brouwerij Bosteels in Belgium produces this well-regarded Tripel, known for its smooth and creamy texture.
- St. Bernardus Tripel: St. Bernardus Brewery in Belgium offers a Tripel with a rich maltiness and a blend of fruity and spicy notes.
- Golden Monkey: Brewed by Victory Brewing Company, Golden Monkey is an American Tripel with a bold and flavorful profile.
- Allagash Tripel: Allagash Brewing Company produces a Belgian-style Tripel with a balanced mix of fruity and spicy characteristics.
Is Tripel served in a specific type of glass?
Yes, Tripel beers are often served in a specific type of glass to enhance the drinking experience. The most commonly recommended glassware for Tripels is a tulip-shaped glass or a chalice. These glass styles are designed to concentrate the aromas of the beer and allow for aeration, enhancing the perception of the beer's complex flavors.
Is a Tripel good for beginner homebrewers?
Brewing a Tripel can be challenging for beginner homebrewers due to its higher alcohol content, complex flavors and the need for precise fermentation control. Starting with simpler beer styles may be advisable for those new to homebrewing. As you gain experience, you can gradually explore more complex styles like Tripels.