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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cigar City Brewing & De Proef's Tropical Tripel

  • Style: Tripel
  • ABV: 9.50%
  • Season: One & done
  • Ease to locate: Check your local bottle shop or liquor store with a good craft selection.  I bought mine at Fischman Liquors but I've also seen it at places like Binny's and even on draft at places like Owen & Engine or Louisville Beer Store (shout out to Louisville readers!)  Basically, it's in a good selection of the US for sale right now.
  • Color: Hazy, cloudy golden orange
  • Head: One finger dense foam with good retention and lacing
  • Aroma: Mixture of fruits tropical (like mango & pineapple) and stone (such as peach). Some citrus with bits of coconut and a mild sweetness from Belgium candi sugar
  • Mouthfeel: Medium to full with lost of active carbonation
  • Finish: Long with a smooth sweetness
  • Food friendly: Somewhat limited.  I could see it working with Greek food and some lighter, vegetable heavy  pasta dishes.  Serve it with creamy cheese, such as brie or with sharp varieties like cheddar

Sometimes two heads are better than one.  I recently watched a Sundance program named The Writer's Room where Jim Rash (extra points of you are silently singing "Dean-a-ling-ling!" in your head right now) interviewed the writing team behind HBO's Game of Thrones.  Of course there was the expected humorous story about the scene that got away and the requisite shocking yet closely held secret hinted at, but not spoiled (FYI- they know who John Snow's mother is from merely reading the already published books! I, too, could know this if I took the next six months off from work and did nothing but obsessively post index cards connected by red string on my TV room wall.)  What I really enjoyed discovering was their writing process as partners.  The idea of writing with a partner is a unfathomable concept to me, much like the popularity of anything titled "Real Housewives" or spray cheese from a can.  Collaborations are becoming more commonplace in the beer world too.  These partnerships have the potential to result in something amazing where brewers bring out the best in the each other (I think its safe to say that I am waiting like a kid at Christmas for the upcoming Pipeworks and Begyle brew collaboration.)  Of course they also can sometimes produce the beer equivalent to Miley Cyrus and Robin Thick  at the VMAs.  Florida favorite Cigar City Brewing and the Belgium De Proef Brewery (who, by the way, have the most "clean room" sort of website that I've ever seen.  I imagine all of the brewers to all look like this guy)  recently partnered up to brew a version of a Tripel, named appropriately enough, Tropical Tripel.  Luckily for us, this collaboration leaned more towards the  partnership of Jamie Lanister and his lady knight than whatever the hell was happening at MTV a couple of weeks ago.  But you're all picturing Tyrion twerking now, aren't you?

SIDENOTE: I've only recently discovered that Apple products don't support Flash so a portion of you can't see the YouTube vidoes that I post.  I'll start posting a link for all of you from now on.  
                                                                                                                       There's always one guy like this at every beer fest I've ever been to

Link for Apple users:  GoT Twerk

The name Tripel comes from the increased amount of pale malt that brewers routinely use when brewing this beer as opposed to when brewing a Trappist Simple beer (three guess as to what the multiple amount is.)  Basically, by increasing the malts utilized, they create a strong pale ale.   It's a relatively young beer style, first brewed in Belgium (or the Netherland depending on which source you believe) in the 1930s.  One story of how the term came about was that the original gravity of these beers tended to be done in multiples of three (think 3%, 6% or 9% ABVs)  Another was that the breweries which first made the style popular would mark their casks with "X" to indicate the strength of the beer inside, Tripels indicated by a "XXX" pattern on the barrel.  Today, a Tripel is known by its cloudy golden color, bitter sweetness and sneaky heat from the higher alcohol content.  The more I learn about Tripels, the more I wonder why these beers aren't higly popular here in the States.  We come from a land of DIPAS and Bourbon barreled everything.  A super strong pale ale seems right up our bigger is better alley.

I was so excited to use my brand new Pipeworks snifter that I completely forgot to use the Cigar City one I own.  You know, the brewery that actually made the beer
My Tropical Tripel poured an hazy, amber golden beer.  It looked slightly tropical to me, sort of like a glass of fruit juice with a cloud of sand stirred up in it.  The beer's color became deeper and richer in the orange tones when held to the light.  A solid one finger head of springy, white foam rose in the snifter.  The head sported rather good retention, drifting down to a shallow layer after a few minutes.  Decent , spotty lacing clung to the lower section of the glass.  I smelled the tropical in this tripel right away.  The scent of mango, pineapple and peach were easy to distinguish.  I searched for the promised coconut note, but couldn't really find it until the glass warmed a bit (and even then it was very slight.) A sharp orange citrus flavor was layered on the nose, as well as some sugary sweetness.  The taste followed the nose for the most part.  Tropical fruit, a bit more of the "crunchiness" of toasted coconut, the bite of citrus and a bready yeast note were layered on each other.  There was also a much needed sweetness from the Belgium sugar that is traditionally used in Tripels.  I didn't find any obvious heat from the alcohol , but I could feel it a bit when I swallowed.   Tripels are known for their sneaky alcohol presence, and this brew certainly fit that bill.  The label mentioned that this tripel was finished with "medium  toasted oak" and as a person who is moderately opposed to anything overly oaky, I can't say that I could taste the oak's presence at all.  But I certainly could feel it as I swished the beer in my mouth.  I wasn't expecting the fullness of the mouthfeel, which was nicely tempered by the high carbonation in an effort to balance things out.   The finish was long and drawn out, yet deliciously sweet with the candi  sugar flavor.

I was sneaky and didn't tell the family that Tropical Tripel was a Belgium/Florida collaboration.  My family are Belgium lovers true and true and I wanted to get their unbiased opinion on this beer.  When I first tasted it, it was so different from what I had imagined that I was a bit worried that this would not be well received by the Down The Hatch clan.  This is also why I never win anything when I go to Vegas either.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Even the sister-in-law who prefers her Mike's Hard Lemonade (don't worry, she has other qualities that make up for this intense personal deficiency) liked it and asked for a second pour.  I would serve this beer with light, Mediterranean meals,  maybe some healthy fish recipe with a Greek spin.  Try it with lemon basil shrimp. The simpler,  truer the flavors used, the better this beer will taste with food.   It could possibly also pair well with lighter pasta dishes, heavy on the fresh vegetables and light on sauce.  Think of meals such as a classic Pasta Primavera, loaded with lots of fresh, farmer's market (or grocery store produce aisle that you causally refer to as "your" farmer's market) vegetables.  Personally, I think it makes a great before dinner sort of drink.  Just don't try to twerk when holding the glass.  Drink responsibly, people.