Tripel Off, Round 1, Game 1: Westmalle vs. Chimay

Westmalle vs. Chimay

We’ve come up with a list of eight Belgian and Belgian-style tripels that we’re setting against each other in a series of taste-offs to determine the ultimate winner.

We want­ed to give West­malle, the best beer in the world, a tough oppo­nent and so decid­ed to pit it against anoth­er clas­sic: Chi­may Blanche.

Blanche used to be too much for us, bowl­ing us over with its sheer boozi­ness, but in the last cou­ple of years we real­ly fell in love with it and fig­ured that if any­thing might slay The Big W, it was this.

On this occa­sion Ray poured while Jess tast­ed sort of blind, with no idea which two beers were being tast­ed.

Glasses of beer.
Chi­may, left, and West­malle.

Both looked pret­ty in their glass­es, all fluffy white foam and clear gold, though the Chi­may (glass A) was notice­ably dark­er. West­malle (B) seemed to have  a much big­ger aro­ma with spice and fruit spilling out on open­ing where Chi­may offered only a lit­tle whiff of sug­ar.

Jess: Well, they both taste like tripels, but I much pre­fer B. There’s just more in the after-taste. A is fine – I’d be very hap­py to drink it any day of the week – but B is less harsh, and has more spice. The flavours seem more… blend­ed. I some­times think about the tran­si­tion from fore- to after-taste and how great beers have a kind of smooth segue, which B def­i­nite­ly does. It’s some­how soft­er, but also has big­ger flavours.

Ray: Inter­est­ing… Both seem quite harsh to me today. If I take big­ger gulps, though, the beer in glass B [West­malle] is obvi­ous­ly bet­ter, sort of mousse-like in the mouth, so sat­is­fy­ing. Leafy and pep­pery. Glass A [Chi­may] just seems rough, all bananas and booze. It feels two-dimen­sion­al, some­how, where­as West­malle has a lot of com­plex­i­ty and sub­tle­ty. It’s got banana notes, too, but not just that. Do you want to guess what they might be?

Jess: Umm… Well, nei­ther of them is West­malle, obvi­ous­ly.

Ray: Ha!

Jess: Oh.

So, of course, based on flavour, we both chose West­malle. Even though it’s more expen­sive than Chi­may we reck­on it’s worth the extra, too, so on val­ue too it wins. That means it’s through to the next round, and Chi­may is out of the con­test.

We asked our Patre­on sub­scribers to vote in a sim­ple poll – should we dis­agree between our­selves their vote will decide the win­ner – and they over­whelm­ing­ly vot­ed for West­malle, too.

So, can any­thing threat­en the reign­ing cham­pi­on?

Well, giv­en that Jess didn’t recog­nise it, and that Ray found it a bit less excit­ing than usu­al, it’s all to play for, Bri­an, and so on.

We bought both beers via mail order from Beer Mer­chants; West­malle was £3.25 per 330ml bot­tle and Chi­may was £2.85.

3 thoughts on “Tripel Off, Round 1, Game 1: Westmalle vs. Chimay”

  1. I’m very inter­est­ed in your com­pe­ti­tion and to see what you think about the dif­fer­ences between the beers.

    In Decem­ber 2010 I host­ed a Triple Taste Off with 8 x Bel­gian tripels (all 750ml bot­tles) with half a dozen non-Bel­gian beer lov­ing friends:

    West­malle Tripel
    Gentse Tripel
    St Bernar­dus Tripel
    Kerkomse Tripel
    De La Senne Jambe de Bois
    La Rulles Triple
    De Ranke Gulden­berg
    Dupont Moinette Blonde

    Obvi­ous­ly we all got ham­mered, but the ‘win­ners’ were, accord­ing to my notes, the Gulden­burg and the Kerkomse. These days I think the Moinette is my favourite, if I had to choose (not labelled a tripel, but what the heck).

    I also remem­ber from my research that no one is total­ly sure of where the name came from. Some say it is from triple fer­ment­ed (Webb the­o­ry #1), oth­ers that it is from 3 grains used in brew­ing. Still oth­ers that it is a beer with 3 times as much grain (Webb the­o­ry #2), or even 3 kinds of yeast.

    Do you know?

    What is appar­ent­ly cer­tain is that they were all dark until West­malle Tripel in 1956, after which they went blond.

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