Posts Tagged With: tripel

Kasteel Tripel Bier

And we start our blitzing with a visit to the Churchkey beer bar in Washinton, DC…

Beer:  Kasteel Tripel
Brewery: Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck
Style: Tripel
ABV: 11.0%

Serving Style: Draft
Glassware: Snifter
Drinking Establishment: Churchkey, DC
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Consumption Companions: A DC resident



Sight: Surprisingly clear, golden body with a small head that leaves a little froth around the edges.

Scent: Helloooooo phenols! This smells like a banana clove pie, also like New Skin. And licorice/a bowl of jelly beans.

Flavor: Quite sweet, with a little tang from the Belgian yeast. There’s a bunch of spice in here…predominantly coriander. There’s also a bit of citrus at the end.

Feel:Fine carbonation, unlike a soda or seltzer.

Concluding remarks: This tastes like a caricature of the banana, i.e., artificial banana flavor. So, like Banana Laffy Taffy or Banana Runts.

This is a pretty easy-to-find Belgian that’s also easy to drink. So yeah, go get some! Don’t expect the world, but expect it to go down easy. I’d categorize it as a Tripel-Lite.

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GUEST POST: Gulden Draak Ale

Beer:  Gulden Draak Ale
Brewery: Brouwer Van Steenberge
Style: Dark Tripel
ABV: 10.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: None/Bottle
Drinking Establishment: NJ Transit: NJ Coastline Train
Primary Consumer: Jason**, polyinstrumental Washington Heights resident extraordinaire
Guest Reviewer Qualifications: An avid beer drinker (albeit, champion of the macro-lager)




Sight: Since I was drinking on the train, I opted for the straight-out-of-the-bottle approach. This bottle is dark brown with an all-over white label to shield it from the light. I tried to look down inside through the opening but then realized how strange I probably appeared to the other passengers and ceased my investigation. It is a dark beer in a very dark bottle.

Scent: Strong alcohol scent. Not good for inconspicuous train drinking. In my estimation I attracted more suspicious and/or disapproving glances than usual but there may have been other contributing factors.

Flavor: Compared to other Tripels that I have had, the Golden Dragon (named for the statue on the top of the Belfry of Ghent) has a strong and enjoyable flavor. I confess to having been unable to isolate any of the “notes” in this beer, or most other beers for that matter. I can vaguely attest to a “spicy” finish but that may just be the high ABV messing with me. I never really taste flowers or fruits or anything like that when I’m drinking. While this may be viewed as an admission of an unsophisticated taste and might conceivably be perceived as ignorance in terms of beer connoisseurship, I prefer to think that my own sensory experience is one that is completely integrated and exists on such a level that language proves to be inadequate to explain my own subjective taste experience (there is only one word for love cliché, etc.). If you think that I am trying to compensate for a lack of appropriate beer-snobbishness with philosophically pretentious rhetoric, you are probably correct. Guilty–and so what? I propose that if you drink one of these beers before continuing reading that you will hate my review far less.

Feel: Smooth and warm.

Concluding remarksSpeaking of love…my review can be summed up as follows: “I love this beer.”  This was my first experience with the Dragon, but it will certainly not be my last. My problem with a lot of these kinds of beers is that I like to drink one and then move on to something else.

When I finished this beer I wished that I had another with me. I could drink this instead of an ice tea or something, perhaps even out of a water bottle while jogging in the winter. This beer is going to get considerable rotation in the future playlist of my drinking.

Some practical considerations:  In the context of train drinking, this beer had some significant positive attributes. First, it made the kids screaming behind me way less annoying. I didn’t quite find their screams cute or anything, but
it became progressively more tolerable as the beer was consumed and I didn’t change seats. Secondly, although I don’t usually get hassled about drinking on the train, the white label and foreign language on it make me think that it could conceivably be passed off as an energy drink. Lastly, due to it’s higher alcohol percentage in less volume than my normal train ride companions (2 tall boys of Budweiser bought in Penn station), I did not have to make the precarious journey to the NJ transit restroom facility. For those of you who are unfamiliar with such a journey, it consists of airplane style toilets, nonfunctioning sinks, and lines that always seem to move at a pace of one passenger per stop.  Inside the bathroom while the train moves on past where I get off? Not today.


THANK YOU, JASON! I’m sure our doting fan base welcomes a day without descriptions of sugarplums, fluffy clouds, tulips, or other trite beerspeak adjectives.

We are always looking for interested and interesting beer consumers to review a brew we might not have seen or had time to review in the month. Let us know if you’d like to contribute something, in exchange for internet fame, a line on your resume, an unpaid internship, a free ride, a huge tax rebate, a happy ending, and everything else everyone else has promised you in life. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.  Email us at!

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Flying Fish Exit 4 American Trippel

Beer:  Exit 4 American Trippel
Brewery: Flying Fish
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9.5%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Crisp golden/orange body filled with tiny rising carbonation bubbles. Very thin white head that ebbs instantly. A trace of lacing is left on the glass.

Scent: It smells like stumbling upon a grove of oranges and tulips. Pleasantly citrusy and floral, with a bit of bitter hops at the end.

Flavor: If I was doing a blind taste test, I would (mistakenly) identify this as an IPA, initially. As I get further into it, I do get a bit of the Tripel phenols-passing-as-bananas flavor, as well as the ubiquitous Belgian Abbey yeast funk. There’s a lingering tropical fruit-n-grass flavor at the end.

Feel: Thin-to-medium, and dry, mouthfeel. Appropriate carbonation.

At the end of the day, there’s a Belgian Tripel in here; it’s just hidden under a pile of hops.

Concluding remarks: For those that are not well acquainted with New Jersey’s vast and wonderful state highway system, the beer’s moniker refers to Exit 4 off of the New Jersey Turnpike. Flying Fish began the “Exit Series” a number of years ago with the goal of brewing “a series of beers as diverse as the great state of New Jersey” (hell yeah!). With the input and participation of local residents, Flying Fish has been working on developing new styles that reflect the many histories associated with each exit (there are 18 in total). Some are obvious; for example, the Exit 9 (the exit for Rutgers University) is a Hoppy Scarlet Ale (Rutgers’ mascot is the Scarlet Knights). Exit 4 is not. So…a little research!

Exit 4 is…Mount Laurel Township.  (Hey planning, history, and law nerds! This is THE Mount Laurel, you know, from the Mount Laurel doctrine that advanced affordable housing efforts through zoning.) More relevant, the Flying Fish brewery is in close proximity to Mount Laurel.  And since Flying Fish claims that they were one of the first U.S. craft brewers to brew Belgian-style beers, they decided that Exit 4 should represent their brewing history. Thus, the Exit 4 is a Belgian Tripel, doused with a(n) (un)healthy dose of American hops (Simcoe and Amarillo, to name a few).

I understand why they would want to call this a Tripel, if only for nostalgic purposes. However, I keep getting sweet, spicy IPA. Potayto, pototahto, right? Yes, I mostly agree. But here at The Year in Beer, we’re (attempting) to dissect, analyze, and evaluate style. So, I gotta be a jerk about it.

All in all, though, this a pretty complex and delicious beast. I absolutely recommend this and challenge you to go explore New Jersey, one Exit at a time.

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Unibroue La Fin du Monde

Beer:  La Fin du Monde
Brewery: Unibroue
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Ally’s apartment
Primary Consumer: Ally



Sight: Cloudy, light golden-honey color, with a thick, foamy, 1 1/2-inch off-white head.  Lots of little carbonation bubbles dancing around, like champagne.

Scent: Smells like spring–bright, flowery, and citrus-y.  Perhaps a hint of soapiness.

Flavor: Apricots and candied citrus, yeast, and a clove- or coriander-like spice.  Slightly seltzer-y.

Feel: Medium mouthfeel.  Moderate-to-high carbonation.  Reminds me of club soda.

According to Unibroue, La Fin du Monde (translation: “the end of the world”) has earned more medals and awards than any other Canadian beer.  And you know what?  I’m down with that.  This tripel-style golden ale has an interesting flavor combination, with its fruits and spices and doughy yeast flavors.  It wasn’t my favorite Unibroue I’ve ever tasted (I’m a big fan of their Maudite, an amber-red ale), but it definitely warmed my heart on this cold Valentine’s day.  Be sure to drink it at room temperature to really get the most out of the flavors.

Concluding remarks: Worth sharing a bottle with your significant other on this day of love.  Or, if you’re like me, drink the entire thing by yourself, then have a tipsy sing-along to Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.”

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The Bruery Trade Winds Tripel

Beer: Trade Winds
Brewery: The Bruery
Style: Tripel (with Thai Basil and Rice)
ABV: 8.1%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Tulip-like glass
Drinking Establishment: New Brunswick
Primary Consumer(s): Kerensa



Sight: Cloudy dark honey body with lemon hue at edges. There is visible active fermentation at the bottom of the glass (so many little bubbles bubbling upwards!). Pours a 5-inch, spongy, velvety off-white head that forms into various sculptural shapes. An erupting caldera was seen in one glass; another, an octopus. Head settles to  a shiny, bubbly one-inch froth after a few minutes.

ScentGrapefruit on the forefront. Banana phenols in the middle. Residual grass smell, presumably from the inclusion of Thai basil.

Flavor: This has a very funky taste. Almost like a Belgian Sour Ale or Gueuze. There is an overall sweetness, which is likely derived from the rice. There is very little hop presence/bitterness.

Feel: Bubbly, aggressive carbonation on tongue. Medium mouthfeel.

Living up to its name, The Bruery’s Trade Winds has a very summery, tropical taste; drinking it reminds me of lying down in freshly-cut grass, on an island. This beer is not lacking flavor–perhaps there’s even a little bit too much going on.

Concluding remarks:  Why, really, would one put Thai basil and rice into a Belgian-style beer? I mean, sure, there have been nights when I have consumed Thai basil over rice alongside a Belgian ale. But, in general, I prefer to keep my main course and beer separate. And while I do admit I was initially hoping for an identifiable basil flavor (out of morbid curiosity!), I was reminded of this:–and then was wildly relieved that the basil was nowhere to be found in this brew.

Regardless, it is a pretty unique take on a Belgian Tripel. While I would not recommend picking this up over a traditional Tripel, if you are all traditional-Tripeled-out after a night of traditional Tripels, sure, give this guy a chance.

Also, unlike other Tripels, this should be enjoyed at a colder temperature (learn from my mistake).

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Chimay Cinq Cents (Tripel)

Beer:  Cinq Cents
Brewery: Chimay
Style: Tripel
ABV: 8.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Tulip-like glass (best I could get at the moment)
Drinking Establishment: a New Brunswick kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Cloudy dark golden body, like unfiltered cider. Bubbles come up from sediment at the bottom. Very thick, bright white frothy head. It’s kind of like looking at a cloud. Or a pillow. A cloud pillow.

Scent: Intense fruit aromas of pear and apricot, with a slight orange flavor. Some spice notes, of cardamom and cloves. Underlying yeast smell.

Flavor: Not as sweet as it smells. Not sweet at all, actually. Very balanced. One of us tasted hop on the front, the other, hop on the back; it kind of gets stuck down in your throat. Distinct spiciness in the middle. Slight noticeable taste of alcohol. A little bit of banana bread at the end, which is caused by the presence of phenols, a common characteristic of the Tripel style.

Feel: Amazing mouthfeel. Very nice carbonation and medium body.

Chimay beers have been around since the 1850s; however, the Cinq Cent is a fairly new brew, with an introduction date of 1986. Nevertheless, I would dare to call this a classic Tripel. The Chimay website describes this brew as a “rare balance.” Not that you can believe everything you read on a Trappist monastery’s website, but I really can’t agree with that succinct description more. The sweetness, alcohol presence, and hop bitterness are balanced to near perfection.

Concluding remarks:  If you’re new to Tripels, or just looking for an all-round stand-up beer, treat yourself to une petite de Chimay.

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Belgian Ales: the 1, 2, 3s of the 2, 3, 4s

And so…onto the next month! And what better way to celebrate the month of February than with the sweet, sweet ales of the small but mighty country of Belgium?  (We’ll let the whole government-falling-apart thing slide because of their contributions to the beer world).  Surely we could write a dissertation on the history of all beer in Belgium (and surely it has been done by some genius and/or ambitious fool). But, instead of trying to tackle all of the outstanding libations Belgium has to offer, we are going to explore the 1, 2, 3s of the 2 (Dubbels), 3 (Tripels), 4s (Quads). And while we acknowledge that even this is a fool’s mission, we will do our best to paint a picture of the style, nuances, and best (and possibly worst) of these Belgian–and wannabe Belgian–ales.

But first! A brief explanation about the (non) separation of church and beer unique to Belgium. (And the Netherlands, in one instance.)

Some of the most popular and delicious Belgian beers are produced by Trappist monks (god bless their souls). The modern day Trappists (or Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) are a Roman Catholic order of “cloistered contemplative monks” that was founded in the 1660s as a reaction to the relaxation of monastic practices. Trappist monks follow the Rules of St. Benedict, one of which states, “for then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands.” Thus, Trappist monks make a number of sellable goods, including cheese, coffins, and yes, BEER!

There are 174 Trappist monasteries in the world; seven of them brew beer (six of which are in Belgium!). Trappist ales are recognized to be some of the most delicious in the world. Thus, many other monasteries and secular breweries have imitated the various Trappist styles. The International Trappist Association was founded in 1997 in order to distinguish authentic Trappist beers from the poseurs–look out for their official “Authentic Trappist Product” insignia.

As the Trappists separated their beer production from other monasteries and breweries, the other monasteries wanted to separate themselves from their secular counterparts. Thus, the Union of Belgian Breweries introduced the “Certified Belgian Abbey Ale” label, qualifications for which are that the beer must either be produced in a monastery, or the brewery must donate some percent of proceeds to a monastery.  Who knew beer could be so holy and righteous?

(Credit: The Guardian.)


The History of the 2

The Dubbel was brought to us for mass consumption by the kind Belgian Trappist Monks of Westmalle Abbey in 1856, allegedly. While the Abbey had been brewing beer twenty years prior, it was just a weak ol’ witbier.  (Think Hoegarden, but better.) These Monks decided that this low-alcohol-by-volume brew was not getting them toasted fast enough (it’s cold in those old Medieval monasteries, from what we hear), and thus, they decided to brew a stronger version; and it became progressively stronger as the years went on–because, really, why not?

The popularity of the Dubbel was undeniable. It was so popular, in fact, that other monasteries copied the recipe in order for their monks to also enjoy the strong brew also. Even further, the secular community was intrigued: by the late 1800s, this style was being imitated by brewers all across the Western world. The style became increasingly popular after World War II, and was dubbed the “Dubbel” by a number of breweries, part as marketing strategy, part as a way to indicate its strength.

The History of the 3

The history of Tripel also has it roots at the Westmalle Abbey. (Someone was doing something right over there!) While the style has been around for quite some time–Westmalle had released a strong blonde ale in the 1930s–it wasn’t until 1956 that the Abbey named this strong pale ale the “Tripel.” And much like the history of the Dubbel, the style and name caught on: In 1987, Koningshoeven in the Netherlands (another Trappist brewery) released  La Trappe Tripel. The style has took the secular Western world by storm post-war, and an imitation style can be found at many non-Trappist, non-Belgian breweries.

The History of the 4

Remember Koningshoeven Brewery? They are the only Trappist abbey that brews beer outside of Belgium. And they also were the only abbey that had the balls to produce La Trappe Quadrupel, a much stronger Tripel, which appeared on the market in 1991.  So even though Netherlands lost in the last World Cup, they still have a pretty kick-ass claim to fame: being the originators of the Quad.


What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 2:

As mentioned, the name “Dubbel” is derived from the fact that these brews require twice the grain as a “regular” beer, thus making them a stronger beer. Beneath a large, dense, creamy off-white head you’ll find the Dubbel’s ruby-tinged dark amber coloration, which comes from the use of dark candi sugar rather than dark roasted malts. The candi sugar, which is a Belgian sugar commonly used in brewing because it boosts the alcohol content of the beer without adding extra body, provides the sweet aromas and flavors of raisins, chocolate, or caramel. Notes of earthy qualities, such as herbs, plums, bananas, apples, spices, and black pepper, can also be found in a Dubbel. Because a relatively low amount of hops is used, the Dubbel usually has a malty sweetness, but tends to have a dry finish.  The best Dubbels are bottle-conditioned (which means the beer is unfiltered to allow for final conditioning to occur in the bottle), and this gives them a strong amount of carbonation to complement their medium-to-full body. Although you might not know it from the taste, the alcohol by volume of the mighty Dubbel is on the higher side, typically ranging from 6% to 7.5%.  Like all three of the Belgians we’ll be exploring, the Dubbel is best served at around 45-55°F in a chalice, tulip, snifter, or goblet.


What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 3:

If a Dubbel derives its name from using twice the grain as a typical beer, we can presume (and be correct in our presumption) that the Tripel gets its name from requiring three times the amount of grain.  The Tripel is deep yellow to golden in color–a shade or two darker than your average Pilsner–with a dense, creamy white head that usually leaves lacing on the glass. The aroma can be spicy, floral, and fruity (like an orange, or a banana), and the flavor can be lightly sweet and lightly malty, with a low-to-moderate hop bitterness that comes through mostly as a spicy or herbal quality–so all in all, pretty darn complex. Despite having an alcohol by volume of 7% to 10%, a good Tripel should not taste like one glass of it is going to get you tipsy, even though it probably will.  Despite its get-you-drunk quality, however, the Tripel should be medium-to-light-bodied, which is achieved at the brewery by adding that lovely Belgian candi sugar to the brew kettle.

What to expect from the sight, scent, flavor, and feel of a 4:

The Quadrupel, which we can correctly assume is stronger and bolder than the Dubbel and Tripel, is typically a dark brown-garnet red brew with a thick, fluffy, tan-colored head that you’d want to curl up in on a cold winter’s night.  The aroma is that of lightly roasted malts and fruitiness, with a tinge of caramel.  Again, candi sugar is added to increase the alcohol content, and as a result, the Quad is a medium- to full-bodied brew.  Its complex flavor is that of rich malty sweetness and dried fruits (like raisins and plums), with the occasional slight spiciness; no hoppy bitterness here.  Typically, traditional Trappist versions of the Quad are on the drier side, while Abbey styles tend to be sweeter.  Either way, the all-powered Quad is going to run you into the 8% to 11% alcohol-by-volume range.


And with that…time for a four-week trip to Belgium via our beer-traveling machine.

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