What exactly is tripled in a tripel? The short answer is, technically nothing! The style’s name is a nod to, but not a precise calculation of, the stronger alcoholic content in this delicious style of beer.
More than ever, there is confusion about beer styles—and understandably so. While they may sound related, styles like dubbel and tripel have no relationship to double or triple IPA’s. Tripel is a beer style with roots in the Belgian Trappist beer tradition; only beer brewed by a protected and certified order of abbey monks may be called Trappist. Secular breweries will use the moniker “abbey-style” to reflect beers brewed in the Trappist tradition. The name tripel was generally used for the strongest beer in a monastery’s repertoire. The story goes that barrels were traditionally marked with X’s to signify strength, so three X’s would be for that abbey’s tripel.
Generally, a lineup of Trappist beers would consist of a few styles: a singel, a dubbel, and a tripel. At some breweries, you’ll even find quadrupels, also known as “quads.”
Pronunciation note: we pronounce all of these beers the same way you would in American english. A tripel is pronounced the same way as you’d say “triple.” Dubbel is “double.” Singel, “single.”
Singel, also called patersbier, which translates to father’s beer, is like a refreshing Belgian session beer. Historically, singels were very low in alcohol and brewed for the monk’s themselves to drink—these beers rarely left the abbey. Though there is a range, singels tend to be golden to light amber in color and around 5% ABV or less. They also tend to be rather “hoppy” with fruity and spicy notes from fermentation with classic Belgian yeasts.
Abbey-style Dubbel, a deep amber or brown ale at around 7% ABV, was popularized by Westmalle abbey in 1926. Dubbels gain much of their flavor and color from dark candi sugars which provide notes of burnt sugar and raisins. They may perceive a bit sweet but are in fact dry and therefore excellent food beers for all of their complementary pairing flavors.
Abbey-style Tripels are strong golden ales around 9% ABV. Simple in grain profile, Tripels gain their predominant flavors from warmer fermentations with Belgian yeasts. You can expect complex notes of orange citrus, subdued banana, spice, with floral hops. The goal is to make a Tripel that’s easy to drink despite its complexity and strength.
Allagash Tripel is our take on the classic abbey-style, replete with flavors of honey and passion fruit. Despite it’s fruitiness, Tripel has a clean, dry finish—the perfect beer for pairing with almost any meal.
When it comes to pairing, our favorite food-and-Tripel pairing has to be oysters. Go for a briny northeast oyster—there are too many delicious oysters to name here in Maine—the salt from the oyster will be balanced out by the perceived sweetness in Tripel. An absolutely perfect combination.