Having siblings can be fun. But just as often it is pain the ass, especially for a Belgian style Tripel. Tripels are a pale blonde that could easily be mistaken as a pilsner, so it's not surprise they are often overlooked or forgotten in a beer lineup. But Tripels are no pilsner. Sure they may not pack the punch of the big brother Quad or have the subtle pruney charm of little brother Dubbel, or are as beloved by children and monks as much as little sister Single, but hang out with a Tripel for a night and you won't regret it. (At least until the next day.)
The rivalry will drive you mad and even make you ask how this whole family came to be in the first place. Like the start of most families, the details are not always clear, but we do know a stork was not responsible. The start likely came when a bunch or monks got too drunk as decided they needed a way to classify the beers they were making by alcoholic strength. The explanation offered by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA) refers back to the parti-gyle system of mashing. These days, brewers mash and sparge all into one kettle for cooking. But with this historical method, one mash would create different strength beers with the first run off being the highest in fermentable sugars, and subsequent run offs resulting in weaker and weaker beer. The first beer would likely be around 20% sugar by weight, the second beer would likely be 10-15% by weight, and the last run off would likely be under 10% sugar by weight and often be low enough in alcohol for children to drink.
By this explanation, a Quadruple, a Tripel, a Dubbel, and a Single would be similar beers of varying body and alcoholic strength. These days, the style designations refer to very different types of beers with widely varying ingredients. The deviation into today's styles were made famous by the Wesmalle Monastery. Of the family, Tripels are the most deceptive of the bunch. Brewed with often only pilsner malt and sugar, they lack the dark and amber color of a Quad or a Dubbel, and drink a lot easier than you'd expect from a 8-10% alc/vol beer. Top that off with a Belgian ester profile, and you got a stew going baby!
And that is a brief explanation of this beer brotherhood. Now don't even get me started on cousins!
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