Westmalle Abbey is one of the 8 recognized Trappist Breweries (Achel, Chimay, Konigshoven, Orval, Rochefort, Stift Engelszell, Westmalle, and Westvleteren). You can recognize these products by their protected logo. Because of the heritage and renowned quality, many non-monastic brewers began to call their beers “Trappist.” The monks sought protection and won. Any product made by the monks can carry this logo (It does come in several color patterns but will always be the hexagon with the “Authentic Trappist Product” wording.) When you’re buying a Trappist product, your money is going to sustain the monks in their daily lives as well as to help fund their charitable works. To qualify as a Trappist beer, the beer must be brewed on site at a Trappist Monastary and brewed by or have the brewing supervised by a monk.
Westmalle is credited with the creation of the Tripel style of beer in 1931. Despite centuries of brewing tradition, most “Trappist” styles are relatively new. There are many stories on why they’re called tripel. One story says it was the “third” beer brewed, behind the single and dubbel. Another has to do with “triple fermentation.” My favorite has to do with how beers used to be marked. X for low strength, XX for more alcohol, XXX for even higher alcohol, etc. Either way, Westmalle Tripel was a reaction to the increasing popularity of pilsner-style beers and Pale Ales. It was brewed in a pale color with lighter, refreshing flavors to compete while not pandering with a dumbed down product.
Appearance: Pale gold with a light haze. A persistent white head with great retention.
Aroma: Pepper, spice, lemon, pineapple, fresh herbs with delicate earthy/herbal hop notes.
Taste: A creamy, rich, full mouthfeel with a touch of warming alcohol. Long, pleasant finish with a kiss of hops at the end. Beautifully balanced.
Overall Impression: This is a dangerously drinkable beer, especially considering the alcohol level. The flavors are subtle, complex and in total harmony. This is a must if you haven’t tried it or if you just need something amazing to put in your mouth.
Other Notes: This review is based on the 330ml bottling with a “best before” date of 12/10/2013 (October, 12 2013 for us Americans). The larger bottle will age differently than the smaller bottle.
Availability: Nationally in better beer stores. (Check their importer for details: Merchant du Vin)
You can learn more about the history of the Trappist order here and specifically aboutthe history of Westmalle here. If you’d like to read more of my reviews on Westmalle’s beers, you can do it at my page dedicated to the brewery.