Judging by the abbey-inspired beers that are available commercially, brewers have found tripels to be the most versatile for experimentation. They’re higher in alcohol, adding value for those looking for something special to uncork. And while the better ones are not sweet, the common ones arguably get needed balance from additional hops or a wild, acidic edge. Essentially strong and blond, a tripel is a comfortingly boozy blank canvas.
It’s not easy to find recipes that do credit to fresh Westmalle Tripel—dry, with surprising hops character—but Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton’s clone comes very close. My base recipe is largely based on his; afterward, choose your twist(s). In my view, continental malts and a multistep mash are important to getting the most out of the grain to achieve that “digestible” Belgian tripel character; following signs labeled “shortcut” will take you to different destinations (although they might be tasty, too).
Batch size: 6 gallons (19.9 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
13.5 lb (6.12 kg) Belgian Pilsner malt
HOPS & ADDITIONS SCHEDULE
2 lb (907 g) Clear Candi sugar at 90 minutes
1 oz (28 g) of Saaz [3.4% AA] at 60 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [3.9% AA] at 60 minutes
2 oz (57 g) of Saaz (3.4%) at 30 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [3.9% AA] at 30 minutes
Wyeast 3787, White Labs WLP530, or Safbrew T-58
Mash the grains for 15 minutes at 95°F (35°C), then step to 15 minutes at 122°F (50°C), 15 minutes at 131°F (55°C), 30 minutes at 144°F (62°C), 90 minutes at 148°F (64°C), then mash out at 170°F (77°C). Add the candi sugar and boil for 90 minutes, following the hops schedule. At flame-out, bow in the direction of India and whisper the word “coriander” over the kettle.
Chill to 62°F (17°C) to pitch the yeast. Ferment at 72°F (22°C) for one week. Lager at cooler temperatures for up to five weeks. Condition with a bit of extra yeast in sturdy bottles—ideally corked and caged 75 cl convivials—carbonating to 3.0 volumes.
Twist One, Flowery
Add 1.8 oz (50 g) of dried elderflowers at flame-out. Or put the flowers in just enough vodka to cover and sanitize and toss them in after the first few days of fermentation.
Twist Two, Hoppy
Add 2 oz (57 g) of Saaz at flame-out and another 2 oz (57 g) for dry hopping after the first few days of fermentation.
Twist Three, Wild/Wilder/Wildest
Instead of Trappist yeast, bottle condition with Brettanomyces lambicus (Wyeast 5526 or White Labs WLP653). Or add a bottle of lambic to the bottling bucket. Or try using Brettanomyces for 100 percent primary fermentation. (Note: It’s important to achieve sufficiently low final gravity and use sturdy bottles or else risk exploding bottles, as the bugs will continue to eat sugar.)
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