My beer of the month for March is the Belgian tripel, characterized by it’s light color, expressive yeast and big ABVs due to the use of light Belgian candi sugar in the brewing process. After churning through porter reviews in February I have come up a little light on tripels to review, I reached out for suggestions on twitter and got a few more ideas, but I could use a few more. I am starting with the mother of all tripels, the style originates from the Trappist brewery at Westmalle abbey, where the first tripel was brewed in 1934. The current recipe was introduced in 1956 and hasn’t been changed in 60 years. The tripel style quickly became a calling card for Westmalle, and other brewers began to make similar beers. Many American brewers have also embraced the style, tinkering with the addition of American hops that complement the fruity Belgian yeast strains. Westmalle tripel is typically sold in 33 cL bottles, perfect for the chalice glasses it is meant to be served in.
Westmalle Tripel pours a hazy gold with a massive off-white head. The scent is dominated by the expressive abbey ale yeast, lots of fruity esters along with a little spice. The yeast leads the flavor as well, notes of banana, bubblegum, clove and pepper. There is also plenty of malt, hints of bread crust, honey, biscuit and the distinct semi-sweet flavor imparted by the use of Belgian candi sugar. Some late hops crisp up the finish, but this beer is distinctly less hoppy than many American takes on the style. The beer is medium bodied and goes down pretty smooth for 9.5% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering fruity yeast flavors. Westmalle Tripel is truly an original, and while I tend to prefer the American takes on this style, this beer definitely still holds up. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.