Long Strange Tripel is one of the regular offerings in Boulevard Brewing Company’s Smokestack Series of beers. A tripel is a style of beer that originated in the abbeys of Belgium. Traditionally, Belgian abbey beers were named for the relative amount of malt used in the brewing recipe. “Simple” or enkel is a style most often referred to as a Belgian “blonde” ale. Then there are the dubbel and tripel beers, which contain twice and thrice, respectively, as much malt as the “simple.” Although not traditionally an abbey style, many breweries, including Boulevard, also brew a “quad” beer. As brewers add to the malt, the amount of fermentable sugar climbs, and so does the alcohol content. Boulevard’s tripel comes in at 9.0% ABV. On a side note, enkels and tripels tend to be light in color while dubbels and quads are usually dark in color.
As with all of the Smokestack beers, Long Strange Tripel comes in a 750mL cage & corked bottle. As with the other mainstay Smokestacks, the tripel is affordably priced at about $8 locally. Considering the relatively high alcohol content, bottle size and sugar content of the tripel, it’s best to plan on sharing it with a friend or two.
Long Strange Tripel pours a nice hazy yellow/orange color with a fizzy head that disappeared quickly for me. I drank my samples out of a New Belgium Brewing glass that is a lot like a wine glass and has a tapered rim to concentrate the aromas. The aroma has that unmistakeable “Belgian” yeast character and I also detect a fair amount of banana esters. It’s not uncommon to pick up on hops in the aroma of a tripel, but my nose didn’t detect any.
Interestingly, for not picking up on any alcohol (as is usually the case with tripels) in the aroma, the alcohol is very present in the flavor of this beer. The alcohol is a little spicy, playing nicely with the peppery phenols also found in the flavor. I was getting a little hops bitterness at the “top” and back end of the flavor profile, but the aftertaste was more of malt and maybe the sweeter part of orange, like low-acidity orange juice.
I’m not a master of food pairing, but I can imagine this would go well with stronger cheese, as the carbonation would provide some “scrubbing” action for the fat in the cheese and the peppery characters and upfront alcohol would not back down to the strong flavors of the cheese. This tripel might pair with some of the heavier stews that are often featured in Belgian cooking, too. Boulevard’s website recommends pairing Long Strange Tripel with desserts, especially chocolate, as well as with a vinegar-based salad to contrast the sweetness of the beer.
I like the Long Strange Tripel, although I haven’t found a Smokestack I didn’t like yet. Hopefully in a day or two I will be able to review Anderson Valley’s tripel, which I recently purchased, to contrast the two and get a better sense of the style. Of the four mainstays in the Smokestack Series (Double Wide IPA, Long Strange Tripel, Saison and Sixth Glass), I think this is my least favorite, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad beer by any stretch. I prefer the dry finish of the Saison, the hops of the double IPA and the complexities of the Sixth Glass, but Long Strange Tripel is another fine beer from Boulevard, and next time I drink it I’m going to experiment with some food pairings and see what that brings out in the flavor.