Tripel Off, Round 1, Game 2 – Straffe Hendrik vs Karmeliet vs Achel

Illustration: Belgian colours w. beer names.

This group in our taste-off of Belgian and Belgian-style tripels represents the stars of the second division – beers lacking the name recognition of Westmalle or Chimay but with similar character and quality.

We had ini­tial­ly intend­ed to include only Straffe Hen­drik and Achel but when we asked our Patre­on sub­scribers to review the con­tenders there was a strong lob­by for Karmeli­et to be includ­ed. Rather than bump any­thing, though, we decid­ed to try a three-way match.

Thought this is only a bit of fun we did think it was worth­while doing a bit of unsci­en­tif­ic blind-ish tast­ing: Jess had a vague idea of the longlist of beers but Ray poured and served them so she wouldn’t know which was which.

  • Straffe Hen­drik, glass X, £3.10, Beer Mer­chants online
  • Tripel Karmeli­et, glass Y, £3.29, Corks of Cotham, Bris­tol
  • Achel Blonde, glass Z, £2.60, Beer Mer­chants online

Three glasses of beer lined up.

They looked remark­ably dif­fer­ent, rang­ing from dark orange (SH) to lager pale (TK) to a sort of gold­en yel­low (AB). Karmeli­et had a much high­er lev­el of car­bon­a­tion than the oth­ers and was hard to pour with­out it bloom­ing up and spilling.

As before, here’s a read-out of Jess’s raw respons­es:

Glass X: It’s nice, I like that one a lot. Real­ly bang on spec for the style. A very clas­si­cal­ly tripel-y tripel.
Glass Y: Oh, I also like this one. Is it a bit… milky, maybe? Very dif­fer­ent, lots going on. Plen­ty of spici­ness.
Glass Z: This seems pret­ty watery. It’s quite grassy. Lack­ing depth by com­par­i­son. My least favourite.

I’d rank them X, Y, Z, just how they came, but I do like them all. They’re all essen­tial­ly flaw­less.

Ray, who knew the beers, not­ed:

X: Great! A bit savoury, though? A slight bum note.
Y: Heavy, heavy body, lots of inter­est­ing flavours – lay­er upon lay­er. Ger­man white wine? Peach­es?
Z: Yeah, what Jess said. Seems very thin along­side those oth­er two, and one-dimen­sion­al.

Three beer bottles.

We were both sur­prised to pre­fer Karmeli­et to Achel but con­clud­ed that this Karmeli­et seemed quite dif­fer­ent to the beer we remem­bered from pre­vi­ous encoun­ters, being less sweet and more sub­tle. And Achel, billed as Blonde but usu­al­ly clas­si­fied as a tripel, real­ly did seem to have more in com­mon with Leffe than West­malle on this occa­sion.

Then came the vote.

Ray: Karmeli­et. Com­plex and fas­ci­nat­ing, and I love the huge foam.
Jess: Straffe Hen­drik. A more bal­anced beer, rich with­out being over the top.

So we gave the Patre­on crew the decid­ing vote and the beer they chose, which goes through to the next round, was, by a very nar­row mar­gin…

Tripel Karmeli­et!

Next time: The New Wave.

6 thoughts on “Tripel Off, Round 1, Game 2 – Straffe Hendrik vs Karmeliet vs Achel”

  1. Good match up. Is there an Achel ‘extra’ Blond ver­sion that is more in the style of a tripel? Not tried it myself, but on the list.
    Straffe for me, nev­er real­ly got on with TK. Look­ing for­ward to the next round! 😁

  2. To be hon­est, I’ve nev­er been very impressed by Achel beers, they always seem to be a bit lack­ing.
    Straffe Hen­drik is a decent more or less every­day beer, and Karmeli­et has always struck me as being by some dis­tance the best that isn’t West­malle…

  3. Ear­ly in my beer drink­ing days I found TK to have a lot going on, almost cloy­ing and I wrote it off. Lat­er with a more mature palate and real­is­ing that my opin­ion was swayed by a friend orig­i­nal­ly, I retried it and liked it a lot – its a real­ly good exam­ple of a good spice pro­file in a beer.

    SH is a brew­ery I real­ly like, and made sure to tap as many of their beers as I could on a cycle tour­ing hol­i­day a few years back. Over­shad­owed by big­ger names, they still pull their weight favourably in com­par­i­son.

    On the same tour­ing trip we had the chance to try beers side by side, and Achel con­sis­tent­ly under­whelmed in com­par­i­son. Cant say they are bad or any­thing, but they are not in the same league as their peers.

    My rank­ing of those beers would prob­a­bly tal­ly with yours, but I would have to try SH & TK side by side to decide which I like more.

  4. Not entire­ly sure Achel Blond is designed as a Tripel to be hon­est so per­haps not lev­el play­ing field?

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