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
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.
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…
Next time: The New Wave.