Content by Greg Schroeder New Belgium: Born on a Bicycle Colorado’s most recognized craft brewer has humble origins; a young American, exploring Europe in 1989 on a fat-tired “mountain bike,” developed a passion and appreciation for fine beer that he would carry back to the Rocky Mountains. He developed a particular passion for the beers produced in Belgium, where Hoegaarden is consumed as commonly and casually as Budweiser in the US. The inventor of Budweiser, Adolphus Busch, supposedly referred to his 1876 creation as slop and preferred the taste of wine. By contrast, Hoegaarden has a history dating back to the mid-1400s. It was the creation of monks, dedicated to mastering the craft of brewing. They lived in Belgium when it was part of a larger Burgundian Netherlands. In this bustling corner of 15th century Europe, the monks had access to then exotic spices and flavors which opened up a world of possibilities. Adding orange and coriander to their wheat beer, they stumbled upon a balance and flavor that sets the standard for all modern Belgian style wheat beers. New Belgium, founded in 1991, follows the tradition set forth by these monks of old. Today, the brewery is owned in its entirety by its employees. These beer loving workers are incentivized to brew the best beer possible and promote the well-being of their company as they’re given a stake in the enterprise after a year of employment. They’ve developed a reputation for concocting craft brews with unique flavor profiles and embracing progressive, responsible business practices. Every time you open a New Belgium beer, you can trust that you’re supporting a good cause as you quench your thirst. This employee-owned, wind-powered, 1% for the Planet member company is proof that strong ethics and success in business are highly compatible; in its 23 years, New Belgium has blossomed into the nation’s third largest craft brewer after Boston Beer Company (producer of Samuel Adams) and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. New Belgium Trippel New Belgium’s Trippel is a unique offering that truly pays homage to the manufacturer’s origins. This beer, like the company itself, is inspired by Belgian style and tradition. It’s a beer crafted in the tradition of the Belgian Trippel, though it blazes its own path after taking cues from its predecessors. Tripels earned their name, legend has it, because brewers strongest casks were labeled with three Xs, denoting their potency (usually 8-10% ABV). Another story alleges that these beers were named for the volume of ingredients necessary for their creation. The standard for the modern Tripel was set by the Belgian trappist brewery Westmalle in 1956, when they began using the recipe they still follow today. Their brew is golden-blonde and extraordinarily potent at 9.5% ABV. Despite this fortitude, Westmalle’s Tripel is infamously smooth and well-balanced. The monks who devised this recipe created a flavor that balances fruity, floral sweetness with pronounced but not overpowering bitterness and hearty grain flavors. Their brew doesn’t punish the palate like other high gravity ales. Instead, it sips like a champagne of beers (sorry, Miller High Life, but your claims are bogus). New Belgium clearly found inspiration in the Tripels produced by Westmalle and other abbeys, but they made no efforts to emulate the products of their forebears. They did things to their Trippel that Westmalle might consider blasphemous. Beyond corrupting the spelling of the beer (Trippel in lieu of Tripel), New Belgium also tinkered considerably with the recipe. While Westmalle and other trappist brewers strictly use top fermenting, ale yeasts in their Tripels, New Belgium elected to use a 50-50 split of lager yeast and a Belgian ale yeast. The lager yeast presumably helps to generate a brew that’s relatively crisp, light, and refreshing for a concoction of such strength. Additionally, New Belgium didn’t feel compelled to stick with strictly Belgian malts. They used three different malts, including Victory malt of American origin. This variety introduced a score of subtle, nutty, biscuity flavors to the beer. Additionally, they used three different varieties of hops which hail from the Czech Republic (Saaz hops), United States (Victory hops), and England (Target hops). These varieties confer upon the brew a variety of spicy (particularly Saaz and Victory) and bitter (Target) flavors. Finally, the brewers of New Belgium included what they call “a trace of coriander.” The resulting flavor is reminiscent both of Belgian tripels and Belgian style wheat beers. It’s a strong beer at 7.8% ABV and the alcohol is certainly easy to detect, much like other tripels. By tripel standards, however, this is a weak brew. It’s alcoholic flavor is masked well, though its no smoother than Westmalle’s Tripel which is considerably more potent. Abbey tripels strike a delicate balance between hoppy bitterness and floral tones, malty grain flavors, and considerable alcohol content. New Belgium’s Trippel takes a less refined approach. It bombards the palate with more prominent flavors, including a considerable dose of coriander (trace… I don’t think so, New Belgium!), and a plethora of hoppy, flowery, fruity, and spicy flavors. In this respect, it tastes like many Belgian wheat ales, though the recipe lacks wheat. New Belgium’s Trippel is not for people who like beer. It’s made for people who love beer. If you don’t hesitate to subject your taste buds to intensity and you’ve enjoyed spicy, potent Belgian brews in the past then you won’t be disappointed. If, however, you’re only beginning to test the waters of flavorful ales, I suggest you allow your appreciation of these beers to develop before assessing New Belgium’s Trippel; it may be too much for your budding palate. ABV: 7.8% Value: $8.99 Look: 4.25 Smell: 4.25 Taste: 4.25 Feel: 4.25 Verdict: An American libation oozing with Belgian character. This is a serious beer for serious beer drinkers.