Monday, August 18, 2008

Beer review of the century: Tourmaline Trippel Ale

My weekly reviews of brew started when I began a quest to find THE beer. You know, the beer I could enjoy on a hot day or cold; in rain or shine; in the desert or on the beach. The beer that no matter what kind of day I was having, I could toss one (or three back) and feel instant gratification.

Alas, about a year after beginning my journey, I think I've found it. About two weeks ago, I went to one of my favorite local breweries, The La Jolla Brewhouse to sample their new Belgian Trippel Ale. I was impressed, to say the least, but it certainly didn't blow me away. I told my friend and drinking partner that it probably cracked my top-ten list, but it certainly wasn't podium worthy.

This weekend, while in need of some midday refreshment, my girlfriend and I opted to give the Pacific Beach Ale House (in, you guessed it, Pacific Beach, San Diego) a try. They had just recently unveiled their own Belgian Trippel Ale (or Tripel, depending on what part of Belgian you swear aligence to), coined the Tourmaline Trippel.

Now, a trippel is exactly what it sounds like. It's an ale three times over. The monks who originally created it merely called it "strong" ale, which is really all the description you need. It's an ale with extra hops, extra malt and oh yes, extra alcohol. You'll find trippels ranging anywhere from 6-12 percent alcohol. The Tourmaline Trippel tipped the scales at roughly 8.1 percent. Not bad for 1 o'clock on a Saturday.

While the Tourmaline was light in color (similar faded gold of an IPA), it doesn't skimp on flavor. The flavors are big, bold and hard to miss. The hops hit you first and burst with an onslaught of fruit. You'll get a relatively strong hint of banana and even a little citrus. Before the bitterness of all that hop has a chance to set in, the Belgian malt does its job and the finish is as smooth as a Mexican Cerveza. Think of it as a strong IPA that stays smooth all the way to your stomach.

Now, the bartender at the PB Ale House didn't know much about the nutritional content, but I can promise you it's anything but light. Trippels usually contain 190-220 calories per 12 ounces, putting it on a shortlist of ultra-heavy brews. There may be a few porters that top it, but it's certainly in a rare class when it comes to packing on the pounds. Luckily for me, I only had three, which will only take about 20 miles on the bike to burn off. It would be worth a 100-mile ride just to have a few. It's that good. If you find yourself in San Diego, don't pass it up.

1 comment:

Coach Mike said...

Brad - from our friends at the World Beer Cup (

Belgian Style Tripel -
Tripels are often characterized by a complex, sometimes mild spicy character, but no clove-like phenolic flavor. Yeast-generated fruity banana esters are also common, but not necessary. These pale/light-colored ales may finish sweet, though any sweet finish should be light. The beer is characteristically medium bodied with a equalizing hop/malt balance. Traditional Belgian Tripels are often well attenuated and bottle conditioned beers aged for a long period may be very well attenuated. Brewing sugar may be used to lighten the perception of body. Its sweetness will come from very pale malts. There should not be character from any roasted or dark malts. Very low hop flavor is okay. Alcohol strength and flavor should be perceived as evident. Head retention is dense and mousse like. Chill haze is acceptable at low serving temperatures. Traditional Tripels are bottle conditioned and may exhibit slight yeast haze.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.070 1.092 (17 22 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.012 1.018 (3-4.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 5.6 8.0% (7.0 10.0%)
Bitterness (IBU): 23-33
Color SRM (EBC): 5-8 (10 16 EBC)
Now I'm going to have to find one at the local brew emporium...or the one where there is "no crap on tap." Good to see you doing beer reviews again, brother.