Beer 28: Excellent Belgian Tripel made with American Barley

Books will tell you to use a quality Belgian Pilsner malt for a Belgian Tripel. Until now, I have heeded that advice. It’s probably essential, right?


This is the best Belgian Tripel I’ve made to date, and it’s made with 100% Briess 2-row malt, the workhorse of brewing, with a little Belgian aromatic malt. Banana, clove, huge yeast flavor, some body, nice color, very drinkable. It’s still young, but this is delicious. I’m happy to put it alongside my commercial favorites, like Sapient Tripel from Dark Horse. I really like how the 2-row seems to compliment the yeast. The aromatic malt, I think, adds a nice maltiness to the mix. Not a lot, just enough. I’ve always been confused as to what exactly aromatic malt does (supposedly it adds malt aroma). The slight sweetness from the Aromatic malt is also nice, although I would dial that back a few ounces maybe. Also I wouldn’t mind just a little more clean bitterness from Magnum hops, using Saaz only for the flame out hops. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything. I believe the vitality starter and fermentation might have played a factor in how delicious this is (more on that below).


Astonishingly, I cranked this big beer out in 1 week and was drinking it in 16 days. And I don’t keg. Hot temperature = fast fermentation.

2-Row Tripel
12 lb 2-row
.5 lb Aromatic malt (Dingemans)
2 lb Cane Sugar (added end of boil)
2 oz Saaz (30 minute boil)
1 oz Saaz FO
Monestary Ale Yeast (vitality starter)

Sat. Sept 17th: brewday, began vitality starter 4 hours prior to brewing
Sunday morning: pitched yeast @ 67F
Monday morning: noticed krusen, rose temp to 72F
Tuesday morning: rose temp to 80F
Tuesday night: noticed krusen had dropped already, rose temp to 85F
Wed. morning: rose to 90F; Wed night, hydrometer says 1.006, probably done fermenting: back down to 72F for ‘diacetyl rest’
Thurs 5pm: cold crashed to 30F
Saturday (a week after brewday): bottled 29 22oz beers
Monday, Oct 3: carbonated, tastes great. 16 days from grain to glass

Vitality Starter and Fermentation
I’m still tinkering around with how to ferment the best Belgian Tripel, and obviously I’m sold on the gradual, hot fermentation method: that’s how the Belgians do it. For this beer, I  really cranked up the heat, reaching 90 degrees at one point. I will probably continue with this sort of schedule. My vitality starter, as I explain elsewhere, is a matter of squeezing the liquid yeast into a jar of pre-made wort and letting it wake up for a few hours. Did it help? Who knows. But this is the problem with introducing new techniques to your brewing. You make a good beer, assume it’s because of the new technique, and consequently doomed to reproduce the new technique for the rest of your life. That happens all the time with homebrewing.

Beer 17: Delicious, Underpitched Belgian Tripel

Alongside IPA, the Belgian Tripel is one of my favorite beers. I’ve been trying to brew a perfect one since I began brewing. I made a pretty good Belgian Tripel not too long ago, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with the aroma. No complaints with this one. It’s the best Tripel I’ve made to date, and I’m hoping to get some honest feedback at my next beer snob meeting (homebrewer’s club). Huge Belgian yeast aroma from the White Laps Monestary yeast (formerly called Trappist), with a ton of yeast flavor as well. It’s dry, the pilsner malt provides a simple base, the cane sugar makes the beer dry, and the alcohol is apparent but not harsh. Like all good Tripels, it’s dangerously drinkable.


I’ve already talked about the secret to making a good Tripel (raising the fermentation temperature to 80F). But for this beer I used another secret: underpitching the yeast (read more here). My previous Tripel was overpitched and didn’t have a great aroma. This batch was underpitched and has a great aroma. Rather than using a huge slurry from a previous batch, which I normally do to save money, I used one packet of White Labs yeast goo (‘pure pitch’ its called). Technically, according to White Labs, that’s considered underpitching for such a high alcohol beer. Either way, it might be the difference between good and great. I also got more serious with the brand of base malt. I wanted to use 100% Belgian pilsner malt (which of course makes a ton of sense for a Belgian beer). I came close (the homebrew shop only had 10 pounds). Anyway, I’m very happy with the result.

Berkeley Belgian Tripel 5 gal
10 lb Pilsner malt (Belgian: Dingemans)
5 lb Pilsner malt (German: Weyerman)
3 lb Cane Sugar (adding at flame out)
1 oz Magnum (FW, 30 minute boil)
2 oz Czech Saaz (flame out, no chill)
Monastery Ale Yeast

brewed 1/31/16
mashed 146F – 150 for 30 minutes
boiled 30 minutes
no chill, put in cold ferm. chamber for 24 hours, pitched at 70F but the temperature was set at 65F, no stirring or O2
signs of fermentation within 24 hours
2 days later, ramped temperature from 65F to 70, not yet high krusen, noticed that garage smells like bananas
1 day later, ramped temperature from 70 to 75
2 days later, hydrometer says 1.004
4 days later, bottled

Beer #7: now this is what I call a Belgian Tripel

Ah, my three loves: IPA, Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale), and the crisp, refreshing, bubble gum Belgian Tripel. Pilsner malt, sugar, and that lovely Belgian yeast weirdly described as bubble gum, cotton candy, banana, spice, and clove. Bubble gum gets it right. My last batch wasn’t so good, but this has the exact flavor I was looking for. It’s an excellent Tripel. Crisp, clean, very high in alcohol but not sweet or hot. The aroma, however, is not as overpowering as it could be. There is a local brewery here in Kalamazoo that somehow gets an amazing aroma on its Tripel. Actually, I got advice from that brewer on how to make it.


The Secret is Hot Fermentation
According to a local brewer that makes the best Belgian Tripel I’ve ever tasted, and according to books I’ve read, the secret to a great Belgian Tripel is to slowly ramp up the temperature during fermentation. Yes, I know, this requires some sort of temperature control. Start as low as 65 F and end up as high as 100F. I started at 65F for a few days, then ramped up to 70F for a few days, then 80F of the last few days. Then cold crashed, fined with gelatin, and bottled. Carbonation took about 2 weeks at 70F. This, I believe, was the difference between my last version, which came out cidery, and this batch, which did not. The recipes were the same.

Belgian Tripel Recipe 4.5 gal  10%ish
Oh, shit. I didn’t write it down! My Keep-it-Simple-Stupid approach has spiraled into this? From memory, it was something like this:

13 lb Pilsner malt (Belgian)
5 oz Aromatic malt (Belgian)
1.5 Ib Corn Sugar (from now on I will be switching to the cheaper Cane Sugar)
1 oz Pearl 60m
1 oz Fuggle 45m
Belgian Trappist Yeast, reused (now called “Monastery” I think)

I tried a no-sparge method, which ended up in a smaller batch than I wanted (4.5 gallon…heck, maybe even less than that). The pot is simply not big enough to do a high alcohol, no sparge beer (I’m getting a larger pot as we speak, because not sparging makes a ton of sense for BIAB, and high alcohol is what most homebrewers do. In other words, I’m about to take back everything I said about getting a turkey fryer set-up – they are a bit too small, don’t get one, sorry). Stay tuned.

Also based on the advice of previously stated brewer, I’m switching over to Cane Sugar. It’s cheaper, it’s at the grocery store, and it works. In fact, I’ve been using Cane Sugar to bottle, which have brought my costs down significantly. The only reason I ever started using Corn Sugar to begin with was because of all the scary people on the internet telling me not to.

Fourth Time One Pot Brewing: Belgian Tripel got some Cider

I’ve already drank it, so it wasn’t bad by any means. But it also wasn’t a perfect Belgian Tripel. I’m looking for a ton of Belgian yeast aroma and flavor (usually described as spicy, bubble gun, cotton candy). I’m looking for a dry, simple, alcoholic, and well carbonated beer. This one came out a little too sweet with a detectable cider taste, which either covered up the yeast aroma or snuffed it out. I’m almost positive this is a fermentation issue. I distinctly remember that, on the very important fourth day of fermentation, the day when you are supposed to ramp up the temperature, this beer suffered a drop in temperature at night (it’s summer, I ferment in my closet, and this happens…I don’t have temperature control, yet). I remember worrying about it. I was right. The trick to a good Tripel is to slowly ramp up the temperature, even to 80 degrees if you can.

Belgian Tripel  9.1%
12 lb Pilsner
2 lb Corn Sugar
1 oz Styrian Goldings 60m
1 oz Styrian Goldings 20m
Trappist yeast (reused)

As you see in the picture, this beer had no head retention at all, probably do to the recipe. I’ve read several recipes with “Cara” malts in them, which I assume supports the head. Also, this one took forever to carbonate and it didn’t carbonated very well. Perhaps the yeast was stressed.

I’m looking forward to brewing this again, adding some carapils and some temperature control to the process. After IPAs and Scotch Ales, I do love Belgian beers. update: I brewed a really good one.