Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews



Style: Abbey Tripel
ABV: 9.5%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

I thought I’d once again start off our International Month celebration with a bang, this time with Westmalle Tripel, in my opinion the best of the Trappist tripels. Trappist is an appellation: only specially licensed breweries—monasteries, in this case, although all the brewing is done by secular brewers—can use the term in the selling of their beer. The Trappist breweries have had a huge impact on Belgium’s legendary brewing culture, and Westmalle’s tripel is an archetype of the style. I’d tell you even more about Westmalle and Trappist beers in general, but Jug Dunningan bogarted my copy of Brew Like A Monk.

I couldn’t … let me rephrase that. I was too lazy to track down a 330-milliliter bottle of Tripel, so I settle for a 750 milliliter bottle, looking all champagne-like what with the cork and all. I undo the metal basket holding on the cork to find out it’s frickin’ plastic. I shrug, unperturbed. I ain’t no wine snob, and besides, a plastic cork is better for the beer. (And a screw-on cap would be even better.) I’m fresh out of Westmalle chalices, so I have to settle for pouring my beer into a Tripel Karmeliet tulip glass. And what a pour: a MASSIVE head of thickly woven, snow-white bubbles capping a translucent, orange-tinged straw body. A beautiful aromatic mix of bready malt, Belgian yeast spiciness, and subdued hop fruitiness zips along the top of the glass as the head slowly, slowly dissipates. Deep, deep sniffs yield mineral-like, vaguely sulfur notes in the far background.

The start of the sip is crisply effervescent, although not as stingingly C02-centric as you’d expect considering the giant head this brew pours with. Light-bodied, sweet maltiness fills the middle of the swallow before a crisp, slightly acidic karate chop brings it to an abrupt end. Lingering hop and yeast spiciness dances on the tongue in between sips.

Sure, the bottle looks champagne-like, but Westmalle Tripel makes the world’s most expensive bubbly taste like fucking toilet water in comparison. Bright and crisp, interwoven with complex spiciness, this beer is enjoyable on just about every level you could think of … and for all its heavenly smooth sipping it packs a Hell of a wallop at 9.5 percent ABV. More than a few American craft brewers have tried to emulate the Trappist breweries with tripels of their own, and the only two I’ve come across that come close are Ale Asylum and their Tripel Nova and Dragonmead with their Final Absolution. Even though those are two phenomenally great beers, they still are a notch below Westmalle’s quintessential Tripel.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 3, 2010.
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