In the mighty world of beer there are a few styles that are considered true classics: the Tripel is undoubtedly one of them. That being said, there is no definitive story about where the name “Tripel” originated from, although it is accepted that this term was first used by Westmalle in the 1950s. One theory is that in the Middle Ages, commoners and monks drank a light alcoholic beer with their meals, and for special occasions they'd choose a heavier beer. Most people at that time could not read, so the brewer would use a cross on the barrels in chalk to denote the strength. On a barrel of heavy beer, there’d be two crosseS, XX, (Dubbel) and on the barrel of the heaviest beer, there’d be three crosses, XXX, (Tripel, of course).
What is a Tripel?
There is controversy about this amongst beer lovers, and although the style is quite well defined, the answer is not as clear cut as you might think. Officially, it is a heavy, top fermented beer with a colour that ranges from blonde to amber. Tripels tend to contain between 7 to 9.5%ABV, but they can go substantially higher. The flavour is malty, with sweet, fruity and bitter notes. As mentioned, ‘Tripel’ was perhaps originally used to differentiate from a ‘Dubbel’ or 'double'. However, brewing flavour that is three times as intense or using three times the malt or hops would be impossible.