Brewing Belgian Beers (#6): Triples

1.080-1.095, 7-10% ABV, 18-25 IBU, 3.5-5.5 SRM Light or pale color. Low ester, malt or hop aroma ok. Low hop bitterness or flavor ok. Malt sweetness in flavor ok. Low esters ok. Medium to full body. High carbonation. No diacetyl. Strength should be evident; alchohol flavor ok.

Overall this is a strong, very pale beer with a relatively neutral character. These beers should have low esters (by Belgian standards, anyway), and comparatively light body and flavor for their strength. Frequently they are somewhat sweet. Alchoholic strength should be evident, followed by a subtle mix of yeast products and hop and malt flavors. Some commercial examples are well hopped, but most use hop bitterness sparingly. Some spicy (phenol) character is ok. High carbonation levels are the norm.

Brewing method:

Standard infusion or step mashing techniques are used, with grain bills usually consisting only of pilsner malt (or light extract) and blond sugar. The comparatively light body is achieved by substantial additions of sugar in the kettle (several pounds per 5 gallons) and high carbonation. Hopping levels should be kept low, with classic varieties preferred. Some Belgian yeasts may be too estery or aromatic for these beers, particularly as high gravity ferments accentuate this.

One cup of sugar should be used to prime a five gallon batch. It's a good idea to add some fresh yeast at bottling time to help with carbonation; a 1-pint starter is sufficient.

As with all beers of this strength, high pitching rates and good aeration are a must. Low fermentation temperatures (65F or lower) should be used to avoid creation of headache-causing fusels.

Extract brewers should have no trouble making good triples.

Common problems

  1. Solvent flavors. Fermentation temperature too high, poor yeast health (under pitching) or both.

  2. Body too full. Decrease malt and increase sugar portions of OG.

  3. Insufficient carbonation Increase priming sugar, or add a dose of fresh yeast at bottling.

Commercial examples

Brugse Tripel (9.5% ABV), Affligem Tripel (9% ABV), Grimbergen Tripel (8.13% ABV), Steenbrugge Tripel (9% ABV)

Sample recipes

Delano Dugarm's Batch #28 Tripple (Extract recipe for 5 gallons)

3 1.5 kg boxes of Northwest Gold liquid extract
1.5 lbs corn sugar
1.3 oz Hallertau (4%) boiled 60 minutes
0.3 oz Saaz (3%) boiled 60 minutes
0.3 oz Saaz (3%) boild 2 minutes
Wyeast Belgian yeast

OG: About 1.080
FG: Wasn't paying attention

Full boil for 60 minutes, cool and pitch slurry from 1.5 quart culture. Ferment very cool (60 degrees F). Rack to secondary and bottle when ready.

[Phil's note: this was the first homebrew *I* ever had that tasted like a real Belgian. A wonderful experience.]

Charlie Gow's St. Egregious Tripel (all grain for 5 gallons)

1.5 lbs   Belgian pale ale malt (ran out of pilsner!)
13.25 lbs Belgian pilsner malt
1.1 lbs   Belgian blond candy sugar

1.3 oz    Kent Goldings (5.1%), boiled for 60 minutes
0.4 oz    Saaz (4.2%) boild for 5 minutes

Ferment with Wyeast Belgian White yeast (#3944)

OG: 1.096
FG: 1.012
SRM: 4.1
IBU: 19
Mash in at 130F and hold at 124F for a 45 minute protein rest. Boost to 154F for 90 minute starch conversion rest. Mash out for 10 minutes at 165F. Sparge to collect 6 gallons and boil for 90 minutes, adding candy sugar at the beginning of the boil. Force cool to 64F and pitch dregs of a 1.5 liter starter of Wyeast #3994 Belgian White Beer yeast.

Primary fermentation lasted 8 days at 62F. Secondary lasted 16 days at 60F. Prime with 1 cup dextrose.

[Phil's note: at a recent advanced judging class for Belgian beers this brew was tasted alongside Affligem, Brugse Tripel and Grimbergen, and preferred over these by many of those present]

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