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Make Your Best Trappist Single

Big beers often garner a lot of attention, but don’t let that keep you from appreciating (or brewing) the smaller beers.

Josh Weikert Oct 11, 2017 - 7 min read

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Much is rightfully made of the iconic Westvleteren 12, and its scarcity and quality and intensity routinely put it at or near the top of lists of best beers in the world. However, it’s the Westvleteren 6 – a Trappist Single Ale – that ranks as the best beer I’ve ever had. I remember it most because it was almost something of an afterthought. We had procured a couple of bottles each of the 6, 8, and 12, and were all anxious to get to the 12, in a kind of craft beer rite-of-passage kind of way. The Single, though, was the beer that ended up really blowing me away, with it’s lightness, bright flavors, and gorgeous fermentation character. Big beers often garner a lot of attention, but don’t let that keep you from appreciating (or brewing) the smaller beers!


This is an unusual style. First, let’s not confuse it with the Belgian Pale Ale or the Belgian Blond, both of which differ from it significantly, if not dramatically. For starters, this is a very light and pale beer, especially by comparison to the Belgian “Pale” and the “Blond,” which aren’t especially pale or blond. It’s also relatively low in alcohol for a Belgian, coming in at about 5-6% ABV in most cases. It is also, strangely for most Belgian styles, distinctly hop-forward, with moderate hops in both the aroma and flavor, with the hops playing at least as important a role as the more-characteristics esters and phenols that we expect (and still want) from the fermentation of Belgian yeasts. As the BJCP Guidelines note, this is a beer that’s much closer to a German Pilsner than a Belgian Blond, and is a kind of “session” hoppy Tripel – which makes sense, given its origins as a second-runnings beer of the monastic brewhouses. As a practical matter, you should probably brew this beer as a stand-alone for the sake of consistency, but if you want to start experimenting with doing a first-run Tripel followed by a second-run Single, then by all means, have some fun!


Like most Belgian styles, this is actually a pretty simple recipe that lets the ingredients do the talking. We start with nine pounds of floor-malted Pilsner malt (a little more expensive, but the flavor makes it worth it, especially when the color of the beer leaves limited options for additional character malts!). To that we add half a pound of Biscuit malt and half a pound of cane sugar, to help dry out the beer and add a characteristic lightness in the body. That should get us to about 1.056, and a color of 5 SRM, still pleasantly light-gold. With this grist we add some nice light malt complexity, but preserve the dry, delicate flavor.

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