In 1999, Allagash Brewing Company had three full-time employees and three beers: Allagash White (a wheat beer), Dubbel (a dark abbey-style ale), and Grand Cru (a seasonal spiced golden ale we only released in the winter). So it felt right to add a Tripel, a golden style of beer with high-ish alcohol content that was also brewed in the Belgian Abbey style.
It was also the perfect opportunity to start using 750mL cork-and-cage bottles, something that wasn’t widely used in the United States at the time. Traditionally associated with sparkling wines, the 750mL bottle fit nicely with the balanced and elegant flavors you tend to find in a Tripel. More on those bottles later.
When it came to creating the beer, our founder Rob Tod got to work writing the recipe. What he came back with was simple: one type of grain, two types of hops, sugar, and our house yeast strain. It was so simple that one of our employees at the time said “maybe it’s too simple.”
Tripel not only tastes great, it looks pretty dang nice as well.
But therein lies the beauty of our Tripel: from simple ingredients spring some really complex and nuanced flavors.
And you might be thinking: sugar in beer? Yes, indeed. Counterintuitively, sugar actually makes a beer less sweet. Its primary job is to increase the alcohol percentage (our Tripel is 9% ABV), without adding more grain to the beer, which would actually make it much sweeter. And because the sugar we use is a simple compound, our yeast strain eats up all of it, making for a distinctly dry, effervescent, and refreshing beer. SIDENOTE: the amount of sugar you use is crucial. Too little, and you don’t get the effect we just described, too much, and you get less-than-pleasant flavors in the beer.
That very Tripel recipe also happens to be a favorite of Jason Perkins, our brewmaster (the third of those three employees back in 1999). In his eyes, the beer has remarkable balance, flavor, and nuance. It has effervescent aromas that we’ve categorized as notes of honey and passion fruit. These aromas primarily spring from our house yeast—the same one we use in Allagash White—showing the range of aroma and flavor that it’s capable of creating. It’s also a wonderful beer for pairing with food. Some of our favorite pairings include Tripel with oysters or Tripel with cheese.
As an aside, we’re pleased to say that our Tripel won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2021. That puts its medal count at one bronze, five silvers, and two golds.
Jason also has a particular bottle he likes, our 750mL cork and cage (told you we’d get back to it). The difference between the beer you’ll find in that bottle and the beer you’ll find in a 12 oz. bottle is slight. But, when you enjoy the beer as often as Jason (and his wife) tend to, the difference is noticeable.
The biggest difference is that Allagash Tripel in a 750mL bottle is more highly carbonated. This leads to a bigger head when the beer is poured and more vigorous bubbling, which throws more of those aromatic compounds right into the drinker’s face. We would carbonate our 12 oz. bottles to a higher level, but the glass in those bottles isn’t actually built to take the higher carbonation.
Another fun fact about Tripel, because it’s such a clean beer, we use it for all sorts of sensory experiments around the brewery. That means aging Tripel in various types of barrel, to see what flavors those barrels would tend to impart. It also means fermenting Tripel in vessels of various materials, like clay pots or in our concrete “egg” fermentor. Speaking of experiments, it’s also the base beer for one of our most successful beer experiments of all time: Curieux.
Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about the story behind one of our favorite beers to brew, experiment with, and enjoy!