How To Brew Belgian Tripel

by Steve Thanos | Updated: June 18, 2021

Belgian Tripel is the youngest of the Belgian quartet. Only a mere 90 years old, this beer was created by brewer Hendrik Verlinden of Drie Linden brewery.

In the early 1930s, Hendrik was working on a recipe for a strong golden ale that would hold its own with the growing popularity of pale beer with European drinkers. 

From Witkap Pater to Witkap Tripel

In 1932, Hendrik released his beer with the name Witkap Pater, it has been changed to Witkap Tripel.

Even though this beer was not under the order of the Trappist monks, rumor has it that Hedrik based his “rights” to this name by the consulting work he completed for the monks at Westmalle Abbey. Westmalle soon followed with their own Tripel. 

Jan Adriaensens’ Claim

In 1936, Jan Adriaensens who has overseen brewing at Westmalle since the 1980, said this: “the formulation of the tripel was first developed in 1936, when the monks of Westmalle built a new brewery with a high capacity.” 

Belgian Tripels

Tripels are complex and contain a mild spicy character. Like most Belgian beers, tripels are yeast driven and are the cause of the beer’s complexity.

They are often higher in abv, yet are still approachable to a wide variety of beer palates. A Belgain Tripel is similar to a Belgian golden strong ale, but usually darker and more noticeable malty sweetness. 

All the Hops

Unlike most Belgian beers, or at least our perception of Belgian beers, the Westmalle tripel received a healthy dose of hops.

Adriaensens says, ‘the bitterness is very important, which is around 38 to 40 IBUs.”

Interestingly Jeff Alworth goes on to say in BeerandBrewing.com, “hop oils collect on the bubbles in the foam, giving it an herbal zest that carries into the beer.

The hops used also play well with the yeast’s fruity esters and conduct this aromatic and fruity interplay between the two. 

Style Profile for Belgian Tripel

Appearance

Belgian Tripel are pale yellow/gold to dark copper in color and usually very clear. The beer should have a dense and creamy off-white head. 

Aroma

The aroma of this beer is complex with a light malt profile. There is a presence of phenols that come across as peppery and clove-like. Light alcohol and fruit esters is common as well.

Esters will come across as citrus fruit, usually orange character, but banana can be noticeable as well.

Hops will be low and should be spicy. No diacetyl should be present. 

Flavor

The flavors that take center stage with this beer include complexity of a mix of fruit, spice, and alcohol flavors. Malt only plays a supporting role. The phenols are spicy, but should remain low to moderate. Hops remain low to moderate.

Esters are common and are usually with a citrus character, including orange and lemon. Bitterness can be high and reacts nicely with the combination of hops and phenols from the yeast.

A dry finish and bitter aftertaste is common.  

Mouthfeel

A creaminess in the mouthfeel is due to the high alcohol content. The medium-light to medium body is lighter and more effervescent then the high alcohol would suggest.

Little alcohol warming and no astringency should be present. 

Food Pairings

When it comes to pairing a Belgian dubbel, a contrast in flavors helps with this beer and food pairing. A grilled skirt steak with a chimichurri sauce, a good cheeseburger with bacon jam, and Korean-style tacos.

Cheese that pairs well includes: Aged Chevre, Colby,Gorgonzola,Triple Creme, Asiago, Gontina, and Parmesan.

Dark chocolates also pair well. 

Tips for Brewing your own Belgian Tripel

Grain

The grain bill for a Tripel is fairly easy. A high-quality Pilsner malt should be used. For authenticity purposes, a Belgain Pilsner malt is the best choice. A German Pilsner malt will do in a pinch.

Specialty malts will add some character; these include: light crystal, aromatic, light Munich, flaked oat or wheat. The specialty malts should be limited to two to three percent. 

Finally, an adjunct sugar addition is very common to add crisp lightness to the beer and to dry it out. These sugars should make up five to twenty percent of the fermentables.  

Hops

Keep the bitterness level at around thirty to forty IBUs. Styrian Goldings and Tettnang will work well here. Hop aroma and flavoring are not that important with this style.

Saaz hops as a finishing hop at 15 minutes will give the spiciness that will mirror the phenols the yeast will add to the beer. 

Yeast

Like most Belgian beers, yeast is important. There is a wide selection of yeast to choose from for this style. They include the following:

  • White Labs: Belgian Golden Ale (WLP570), Belgian Ale (WLP550), or Abbey IV Ale (WLP540).
  • Wyeast: Wyeast Belgian Strong Ale (1388), Belgian Ardennes (3522), or Trappist Style High Gravity (3787).
  • Dry Yeast: Mangrove Jack Belgian Ale M41 or SafBrew Abbaye BE-256.

Belgian Tripel By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 4.5 – 7 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.075 – 1.085 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014 FG
  • IBU Range: 20 – 40
  • ABV Range: 7.5 – 9.5% 

Martin Keen’s Belgian Tripel Recipe

Grain

  • 83%           9 lbs     Pilsner Malt; Belgian 
  •   3%           1 lb       Aromatic Malt
  • 14%           1 lb       Candi Sugar, Clear (Boil)

Hops

  •  1 oz         Tettnang- Boil – 60 min
  • .5 oz         Saaz – Boil – 60 min
  • .5 oz         Saaz – Boil –  5 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   Trappist Ale White Labs WLP500

Directions:

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins 

When I’m riding my segway down the street, people will often stop and ask me, hey, Homebrew challenge guy, or what’s your favorite beer style?

And I’ll tell them why it’s Belgian triple of course.

Okay. People are not actually stopping me on the street to ask me anything, but my favorite beer style is Belgian triple. And we’re going to brew one today. Let’s go.

My name is Martin Keen, taking the Homebrew challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And not only is Belgian triple one of my favorites styles to drink, but it’s also one of the styles that I have brewed most frequently.

Sometimes with fantastic results and other times not so much like the bottle bombs incident. And then there was that time I bottle conditioned my triple for two years. Tastes like vinegar.

Such a buildup that was supposed to be the main event. It’s disgusting. It’s just vinegar.

Springs eternal, and today’s recipe is quite simple, but it should still really capture the essence of a good Belgium triple.

Belgian Tripel is a pale Abbey ale. It’s quite strong, usually around 8 or 9%, and it really has some spicy and fruity flavors to it. And you’ll often actually see in some recipes that spices will be added into the beer, particularly coriander and sometimes even pepper.

But for today’s recipe, I’m not going to add any spices. I’m going to try to get those characteristics out of the hops and the yeast that I’m using. So I’m going to build a beer here with an original gravity of 1.075. That’s going to be around 8 or 9% ABV.

The base malt is a Belgian Pilsner malt that will make up 83% of my grist. And then I’m just adding one other grain to that, which is 3% of aromatic malt.

The remaining 14% will come in the form of sugar. We want to add the sugar to raise the ABV and also dry out the beer a bit. And for that I’m using clear candy sugar.

I have preheated my strike water to 158 Fahrenheit, and I’m going to be mashing at 152 Fahrenheit or 67 Celsius. And if you watched last week’s video, you’ll have seen that I have got this jacket for my claw hammer system now, and I used it to do an overnight mash.

Well more on that in a moment, but let’s get these grains in first of all. Now last week’s overnight mash; It worked really well. And all I did was I just left this mash tun unattended overnight and came back the next day and conversion and magically happened.

I’m going to do it a little bit differently this time, but I am going to do an overnight mash again, rather than just relying on this jacket to insulate everything. I’m going to use my temperature controller to keep everything at my mash temperature of 152 Fahrenheit.

So really want to make sure this is stirred in because I’m not going to be doing any recirculation. So I’m going to leave my temperature controller set to 152 Fahrenheit, and that will just cycle the heating element on and off, uh, as is necessary to maintain the temperature.

And I think the fact that I’m using this jacket should mean that I’ll have a more uniform temperature during my mash over this long period of time, but it’s not time for me to leave just yet because there’s something else I need to do today.

Now, it turns out that the yeast I’m intending to use for this beer WLP 500, that is monastery ale is a yeast that I already used with my Trappist Single, which has finished fermenting here in this spike brewing CF5.

Now I have cold crashed this fermentor. I have put it on the five PSI of pressure. And what I’m going to do is harvest some of the yeast that’s right at the bottom here of this fermentor and reuse it in my Belgium triple.

So I’m going to add a quick release plate to the output valve here at the bottom. And then I’ve just got a bit of tubing that I actually use with my claw hammer system. And I’m going to use that to grab the yeast and I have a sanitized mason jar within which to collect it.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to open up this port here and I’m just going to let the first runnings of yeast just go to waste in this container here. Um, often like the deadest spent yeast is going to be right at the bottom. So you want to get rid of that and then collect what’s left after that.

So here is my collected yeast.

Now trappist single and Belgian triple are not so different. And I could probably just pitch this directly into my wort if it were ready, but what I’m going to do instead is I’m going to cold crash this in my fridge overnight. And then that way I will be able to can off any of the liquid that has risen to the top. And that will be my attempt to wash the yeast.

It’s been 14 hours of mashing and boy this thing just stuck at 152 overnight, which is great. I just hooked it up now to my pump and I’m recirculating and I’m performing a mash out 168 Fahrenheit.

And this is the yeast, which I’ve just taken out of the fridge. And you can see with a close look here that the sort of the heaviest yeast has come to the bottom. And then just at the top here, it gets a little bit lighter and lighter. And then really at the top, I think this is kind of more beer than it is yeast.

So I’m just going to decant the top layer of this, and then leave this out at room temperature to warm up. Now, when this mash is done, which is just in a couple of minutes, then we’re going to move on to the boil and for the boil, I am using two different hops.

So I have both Tettnang and Saaz hops here. What I’m going to do is I’m going to put the Tettnang in at the start of a boil and use this as my bittering hop. I’m looking for an IBU around 23 with this beer.

Um, now as for the Saaz, I’m going to split this. And half of it is going to go in as the bittering hop as well at the start of the boil. And then the other half is going to be my flavor and aroma hop, which will go in with about five minutes to go. And that was, yeah, just a little bit of that spiciness to the beer.

Then I’ll also at five minutes, be adding in clear candy sugar.

The original gravity has come in at 1.080, just a few points over. Um, I do find that the system is more efficient when it mashes overnight. So I need to account for that a bit, but I’m not too worried about an extra half point of alcohol with this thing.

Now I am going to be fermenting the yeast at 70 Fahrenheit, 21 Celsius, but rather than just pour it in right now into this feast of sugar, I am going to make a vitality starter.

So what that involves is I’ve basically just stolen some of the wort as I was transferring into the fermentor, and I’m going to put the yeast in here and run it on my stir plate just for a few hours, just to get the yeast going again.

And then after that, I will pitch everything in this flask into this beer. So I’m just going to seal this up, keep this at 70 Fahrenheit and run this for a couple of hours.

Is finally time for the triple. This is the longest I’ve ever gone since I started home brewing without brewing a triple, because it just had to wait for it to come up in the list. Right?

Well, first of all, it’s in the right glass a goblet. Okay. Uh, we didn’t have any unbranded glasses, so we’re using chimmy, chimmy, cheating a little bit, uh, color. Okay.

So it’s very light, um, which is very different to the double one, but it’s kind of like the single yeah, it is. It is very similar to the single, it smells like fruit like bananas. Hmm. Yeah. I’m getting, um, fruity esters. We have some pretty sweetness. Okay. Well let’s give it a try. Okay.

Well it’s very cold. Yes. Beer is cold. Oh my God. That’s really good. So it tastes a bit sweeter than I could smell, but not really, really, really sweet. It just is so drinkable.

This is what makes triple, such a dangerous drink. I think that it’s, it’s light on the palette. It’s pleasant. It’s just like a touch of sweetness to it. A little bit of fruitiness to it and nearly 8%. I mean, that’s true. Yeah.

Because you think you’re drinking a light beer and it’s not that light really. It’s definitely not. No, not really. So I’m pretty impressed with this beer. Uh, I think you did a great job on it once again, probably going to have another one after this. Um, but for that everything you want to get this kit is in the description and next week, apparently we’re going to have it even stronger beer.

So I’m kind of nervous about that, but, uh, and so next week, cheers, cheers.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.