Make Your Best, cont’d Bel­gian Tripel

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - The Mash -

Those who know me of­ten ac­cuse me of not lik­ing Bel­gian beers, but that’s not to­tally ac­cu­rate; I just have a smaller fla­vor tar­get for them. Two of my fa­vorites are Vic­tory Golden Mon­key and Al­la­gash Tripel. What fol­lows isn’t a clone, per se, but it cre­ates a tripel that em­u­lates these two: fruity, dry, bready, and with good al­co­hol warm­ing, all with­out drift­ing into “drink­ing cologne” ter­ri­tory.

Style: Tripels are in the Trap­pist or Abbey beer family, be­ing one of the styles orig­i­nally brewed by monas­tic brew­eries, though they’re now a sta­ple for many brew­eries. They’re pale in color and rel­a­tively strong, usu­ally com­ing in at the 8–9% ABV range. Com­monly, they fea­ture fruity and spicy fla­vors, par­tic­u­larly co­rian­der and pep­per. Like many Bel­gian ales, they should also be quite dry in the fin­ish, de­spite the im­pres­sion of sweet­ness that al­co­hol and es­ters can im­part. There are lots of things on the table here—ba­nana, clove, nec­tarine, and orange. I should cau­tion you at the out­set that my recipe is rooted in get­ting a few spe­cific fla­vors—not all the ac­cepted fla­vors—but they might still come through!

In­gre­di­ents: The grist is pretty typ­i­cal for a Bel­gian beer. I start with 12 lb (5.4 kg) of Ger­man Pil­sner malt, and add ½ lb (227 g) of Aro­matic malt and an­other ½ lb (227 g) of Vic­tory malt. I also add, be­fore the boil but af­ter the mash, 1 lb (454 g) of or­di­nary table sugar. You can try paler ver­sions of Bel­gian candi sugar (liq­uid or rock), but I’ve never found much dif­fer­ence, ex­cept that it some­times made the beer seem sweeter, which is def­i­nitely not some­thing you want. That should get you to a start­ing grav­ity of about 1.076.

Hop­ping is mostly about ac­cents—they’re not driv­ing the fla­vor, but they add some in­ter­est. You can bit­ter with just about any­thing at 60 min­utes with a tar­get of 30 IBUS, and then at 5 min­utes (or flame­out, if you whirlpool) add a straight ounce (28 g) of Crys­tal blended 50 / 50 with Mt. Hood, for ex­am­ple, for con­trast. And for yeast, I stick with my Wyeast 3522, Bel­gian Ar­dennes. It adds a clear cit­rus es­ter pro­file with just a touch of pep­per.

And then there’s the ques­tion of spic­ing. Add ½ tsp of ground co­rian­der and then give one short, quick half-turn of the pep­per grinder into the wort. Done.

Process: Mash as usual—you should get plenty of at­ten­u­a­tion here, given that the OG is on the lower end, so your stan­dard mash will be fine. Like­wise, boil as usual, adding the hops and spices as noted above. This beer, like many Bel­gians, will re­ally be made in fer­men­ta­tion.

I start fer­men­ta­tion at 68°F (20°C) and hold it there in­def­i­nitely. Pri­mary fer­men­ta­tion doesn’t take long, and af­ter the ac­tiv­ity in the air­lock stops, I leave it be for an­other week and then cold crash to help clear it (though the yeast is a pretty good floc­cu­la­tor on its own).

Car­bon­a­tion should be high-ish, but think twice be­fore get­ting too spritzy. I like 2.75 vol­umes—i know that many of the clas­sics are ab­surdly high in CO2, but I’d rather land on the safe side of that di­vide—a lit­tle too soft is bet­ter than a lit­tle harsh, in my book, and given that the al­co­hol is rel­a­tively low in this tripel (though it’s still a strong ale), there’s less sweet­ness to coun­ter­act, and you might end up over-cor­rect­ing.

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