Chimay Red and Blue were medium Belgian Trappist ales with Red being the “standard,” and Blue being the “premium.” Chimay White (a.k.a. Tripel) is the exception. It is a triple-fermented, triple-hopped Witbier.
If you’ve ever had Belgian Witbier (White Beer in Walloon), you know that it tastes a bit like fermented oatmeal. It’s very sweet and could masquerade as a Hefe-weiß if weak in flavor.
This is what a Trappist Tripel should be. It’s the origingal Tripelbier, in fact. The fathers take the best pale malt (they grow it themselves), locally grown oats and wheat, the very same well water in which they bathe and which they drink, a unique blend of European hops (they grow some and buy others), and a very special yeast culture called Saccharomyces cerevisiae Theodorensis. It was first isolated in 1816 by Father Theodore and has been the standard yeast culture for making Chimay’s Tripel since then. Other monasteries throughout the world have their favorite cultures for making Tripels but only Chimay has the original Tripel culture.
It is a true ale (as are all beers made from any culture of S. cerevisiae). It retains the mellow, deep, flavor and aroma characteristic of a European ale.
From the bottle, it pours a pale brown or deep golden. I hate to make the comparison but it’s not unlike the color of mule urine. It’s remarkably clear for a coarse-filtered ale. It does build a nice, albeit thin, head of mixed foam. The head subsides after a short interval, leaving significant lacing that stays until the end and even coats the glass after the last drops are consumed. The aroma is that of pale malt and fine aromatic hops. The first taste is of wonderful golden pale malt. The texture is slightly thicker than the color would suggest. It has a very clean, fruity finish with the perfect balance of aroma and hop bitterness. It’s best sipped slowly, as a fine wine. It loses something if too much is taken at once.
So to the witbier fans out there: Take your favorite witbier. Image that’s been fermented two extra times. Image it’s been hopped two extra times. Imagine it’s been fermented by a one-of-a-kind yeast culture that’s been fermenting Tripels for over 150 years. That’s Chimay Tripel.
To all the other beer drinkers out there: If you’re looking for a clean European ale with a distinctive flavor and deep oatmeal character, please try a Tripel!