Tasting Notes from Belgian Trappist Tripels Exploration

Happy Fall Saturday all,

Yes last night (Friday Nov. 7th) Tom, Elliott and I had a little tasting of three different Belgian Trappist Tripels: Westmalle Tripel (the grand daddy of the style), Unibroue La Fin du Monde, and our The Weakling!

The back story for The Weakling is we used Wyeast Labs’ Canadian/Belgian yeast strain, which originally comes from Unibroue in Chambly, Quebec. Tom and I hope that this yeast strain will be the Parched Eagle’s “house” strain for our strong Belgians, including Verily Trappist Dubbel, Stella Belgian Dark Strong, and The Weakling.

On to the tasting notes:

Unibroue La Fin du Monde

Very smooth mouthfeel due to high carbonation level, for both aroma and flavor sweet pilsner malt character up front with notes of coriander, lemon, and orange. Alcohol evident in finish along with some balancing bitterness from hops. Appearance: light gold and rather cloudy. Big white head that lasts in the tulip glass. Damn tasty! 9.0% abv. At 19 IBUs perhaps a tad under-hopped for the style.

Parched Eagle The Weakling

Complex aroma with a base of German Pilsner malt along with Belgian Aromatic malt, which lent a bit more of  a sweet character than the other two Tripels. Lemons, oranges, spicy phenolics from the yeast along with a nice spicy Saaz hop character in both the aroma and flavor. Alcohol quite evident in both aroma and flavor along with more substantial hop bitterness than La Fin du Monde. The Weakling was the darkest of the three Tripels (on the dark end for the style because of the Aromatic malt) and like La Fin du Monde is pretty cloudy, which leads us to believe that the yeast strain is not flocculant i.e. stays in solution. Medium-full mouthfeel with more moderate carbonation than the other two Tripels (the commerial version will be more carbonated). 9.0% abv, as well (though for the commercial version we’ll shoot for 9.5%). 30 IBUs.

Westmalle Tripel

Again, this is one of the first Tripels that was commercially produced; first brewed by the monks at Westmalle in 1934. What really stood about about this beer is the STRONG pilsner malt character up front in both the aroma and flavor (particularly in the aroma). My iniitial impression was it smells like an imperial German Pils!? That was a surprise, but not a bad one. Of course there’s more to it: pear was the light fruit that the three of us identified along with significant hop flavor and bitterness, coupled with a lovely alcohol presence. Smooth and dangerous. This was the least spicy of the three, which had me postulating that the Westmalle yeast strain is quite “clean”, i.e. it lacks its own strong flavor profile and rather is quite good at reflecting the other ingredients used. At 39 IBUs this was the hoppiest/most bitter of the three beers. Also the clearest of the three beers with a smooth well carbonated mouthfeel that is appropriate for style (“digestible”, as the Belgians say). 9.5% abv.

Consensus was the Westmalle Tripel is the best, but not by a large margin. We agreed that The Weakling bridged a gap in between Westmalle and La Fin du Monde in terms of hop bitterness and flavor. Both Tom and Elliott advocated that the recipe for The Weakling is dialed-in for the Parched Eagle, including the use of Belgian Aromatic malt, which adds a degree of malty sweetness to the aroma and flavor, adding to the overall complexity.

Meanwhile we paired the Tripels with seven year old aged sharp cheddar, garlic beef salami summer sausage, vegetable medley crackers, spicy brown mustard, and finally dark chocolate with raspberries.

For reference Beer Advocate suggests these food pairings for Tripels: Cuisine (Mediterranean) Cheese (sharp; Blue, Cheddar, pungent; Gorgonzola, Limburger) Meat (Pork, Poultry). We got fairly close with our food choices.

All three Tripels paired well with the cheese, meat, mustard and crackers, with the malty sweetness of the style contrasting nicely with the spicy and sharp character of the meat and cheese. We noted that Westmalle Tripel paired really nicely with the chocolate with its high hop character contrasting nicely with the sweet flavor of the dark chocolate and raspberries.

Look for The Weakling to be a spring/summer seasonal release around May 2015. Meanwhile stay tuned for really good news that we hope to provide in the next couple of weeks!

Op uw gezondheid!