Westmalle Trappist Tripel*
Amsterdam in 1972 introduced me to Trappist beer. I hunted down my first bottle of Brouwerij Westmalle Westmalle Trappist Tripel (9.5% alcohol by volume) shortly after reading Michael Jackson's The World Guide to Beer in the early 1980's. It required a 400 plus mile road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. It is the standard for the Belgian Tripel style, a style of beer that emerged in the 20th century's third decade as Belgian brewers struggled to beat back the onslaught of of pale lagers. While developed by a secular brewer, the monks at Westmalle released their tripel in 1934 and fine tuned it over the next two decades. The beer has remained the same since Brother Thomas bumped up the hops in 1956. Get the freshest bottle you can find and you will enjoy a moderately intense aroma of fruit, stone fruit, traces of lemon, spices, pepper, white wine, earthy spice, and a hint of fresh baguette. It pours bright gold under a massive, persistent 2" white blanket of foam that leaves classic Belgian lace. The beer is surprising light, creamy and effervescent caressing the tongue with a blend of fruit and spice flavors from the hops and yeast that are a pleasure to savor and dissect. It has a hint of citrusy, stone fruit (apricot to peach) sweetness up front but it finishes spicy, snappy, bone dry, bitter and slightly astringent. The malt hints of caramel and biscuit. The alcohol is smooth and not hot or harsh, providing a gentle warming that slowly builds and spreads. The creamy, mousse-like texture is worth the price of admission. I enjoy this beer and buy it whenever I need something extraordinary and world class. I drink it alone or with crab cakes, Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, or shell fish. Drink it with anything containing basil. It also works with runny cheese and stone fruit based desserts. I rate it 100.
Go to Belgian Tripel for an introduction to the style, a link to book reviews, food pairing and glassware recommendations, and links to reviews of similar beer
*Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines Commercial Example