Belgian-style Tripel Ale is one of my favorite beer styles, and believe
it or not, I actually have never had Westmalle Tripel before now. It
receives rave reviews and many consider it the best of the style. I
wouldn’t go that far, though I can definitely see how people would come
to that consensus. It’s classic Trappist all the way and definitely
epitomizes the style. It is not quite the best-ever example of it,
I poured an 11.2oz bottle into a Trappist chalice. It had a best before date of 12/12/15 and cost $6.29 ($0.56 per ounce).
Appearance: Pale orange/golden hue over a hazy body. Spastic carbonation
is visible and it never settles down. Pours to a two-finger, white,
soapy head which never dissipates and leaves plenty of lacing.
Smell: Potent aroma of white grape, or even white wine per se. Not much in the way of spice or banana, though.
Taste: You know you’re drinking an authentic Trappist brew when the beer
lights up your tongue with a spicy sensation immediately. Though it
smells of white grape, Westmalle Tripel tastes more of pepper, flaked
maize, and a hint of banana (though none of those ingredients are
actually in there – it’s all yeast esters). A slight juicy sensation
through the middle, followed by candy-like sensation of butterscotch and
caramel (and no, it’s not diacetyl). I was hoping for banana and citrus
flavors, but they didn’t seem to appear. It’s not so much bitter per se
as it is spicy, though it’s a pleasant despite being rather intense.
I’d be curious to try a fresher vintage since this style doesn’t usually
improve with age. An older bottle, at the very least, is still going to
deliver for the style, though.
Drinkability: If you want a beer with a truly intense carbonation
mouthfeel, you’ll find it in a Trappist brew. Westmalle Tripel doesn’t
have a viscous mouthfeel, though it has enough intense micro carbonation
to really give it some presence on the tongue. At 9.5% ABV there’s some
mild warming sensation, though it’s easily tolerable. It’s one of the
driest beers I can recall, as the peppery character seems to suck all
the moisture out of the mouth as it goes down. Some carbonation tends to
get caught in the throat, but that’s to be expected.