The second purchase made during Friday’s visit to the Cardinal Liquor Depot beer store in Joliet has a twofold purpose for me. It would help me compare the taste of this beer style more closely with the homebrew kit that will have matured and become available for uncapping on Saturday. The beer style was a Belgian tripel. If all goes well with the first tastings, I’ll review my own damn beer next weekend.
I had heard some good things about a brewer out of Portland, Maine called Allagash. And there, on the shelf in front of me was a four-pack of Allagash Tripel Ale. Yessiree, I’ll try this beer for review and then compare it to my own homebrew of the same style. At the time I thought that the 10.5 buck price tag was worth it.
Saturday dawned with surprises. Although it was sunny and clear, there was a stiff north wind blowing in some good cheer from Canada saying, “It’s still cold up here. Share some misery with us.” Damn! 62° in the Manly Garage was okay for a couple of hours, but after awhile, my bones started creaking and the firewood on the shelf was running low. Acquiescing to my own laziness, I went back into the house to take up residence in my wife’s absence. She’s visiting her ailing mother.
A phone call brought a flourish of activity as my buddy called and said it would be a perfect time to drill a bunghole in the keggle I bought as new equipment for my step into all-grain homebrewing. But it was getting late. The drilling and fitting of the nipple, locknut and coupling went without a hitch. By the time I returned home it was way late, past my suppertime. But not past my drinktime nor bedtime.
The microwave made quick work of some leftovers and soon I was ready for some nice, cold brewski. I grabbed the first squatty bottle of Allagash Tripel and uncapped it. Hmm. I found it odd that for such an expensive beer and a brewery of reputable background, that the bottle would have a twist-off cap. But there it was, as if to be swilled like Bud Light at a NASCAR race. Odd indeed.
The beer poured up with a foggy yellow color looking like a dark lemonade. The only bubbles seen were those along the sides of the glass. There was a slight heady, almost yeasty aroma and the head dissipated right away leaving only a light cloud along the surface.
The first sip brought the traditional Belgian flavors that accompany these Trappist style beers. Whether it’s the distinctive malts or those flavored yeasts, this beer was scouting familiar territory previously vacated by the likes of Chimay White and Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles and Maudite, but with a little less oomph to it.
As I drilled down to the bottom of the first glass, more of the middle tastes filled in. The sweetness came forward and then lasted through each sip. The high alcohol content of this beer was nicely masked, and it wasn’t until later that the space heater in my gut kicked in low. But there was something in each sip that reminded me of a wheat beer, or maybe not, but the taste was slight and only temporary. Over all, that Belgian flavor came forward in the nose and the light malts coated the inside of the mouth. A nice drink that had me a little puzzled.
Something inside of me gave me the idea that this beer missed its mark. It had all the earmarks of a Belgian Trappist tripel ale, but the true tastes that I remembered in above mentioned beers were somehow off a bit. The beer was slightly sweet with a decent body to it, but it was as if something was missing. Perhaps the middle is a little too heavy. Or too light. But it was not a bad drinking beer at all.
Over all, this is a really good beer. Some have said that the beer was “an American version of a Belgian beer and it tastes like it.” Perhaps that’s what it is. This is a good sippin’ beer especially on a hot summer night out on the patio or front porch but at 9% ABV, it’s certainly not a lawnmower beer. A couple of these beers will set your mind right and prep you for bed. Might even make your head dent the pillow a little harder as well.
I’d recommend buying this beer if you’re in the mood for a light tasting wheat beer but don’t want all the wheatiness that goes along with it. The beer has a most definite Belgian flair to the taste but don’t buy this beer if you’re looking for a true Trappist style ale. Buy this beer for the fact that it’s a tripel and it’s American made and and has a high ABV. Then drink yours like I did mine. All the way down to bottom of the fourth bottle.
Taste: B > The flavor of coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Smoothness: B+ > Plays nice with the tongue and other body parts for a short time.
Drinkability: B- > The flavors may get old after glass #2.
Bang for the buck: C+ > Good at 9 bucks. Not good at 11 bucks.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Away visiting Mother, alas.)
An interview with the brewmaster of Allagash brewery, featuring that babe now with the purple hair and piercings and that guy with the piercings:
(Ref: A Firkin is an old English unit of volume. The name is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means fourth, i.e. a quarter of a full-size barrel.)