Posts Tagged ‘tripel’

Dubbel Trouble, Tripel Threat: Marble Manchester Dubbel & Tripel

September 14, 2011 4 comments

I took (dragged, really) my brother and my father up the rather unpicturesque Rochdale Road in Manchester recently to get to the wonderful Marble Arch pub. Whilst we were there, I couldn’t resist buying Marble’s two new special large bottles, although they set me back about £23 in all. I’ve been impressed by Marble’s previous big bottles, including Utility IPA, Stout Port Stouter Porter Stoutest (or similar), and their version of De Molen’s Vuur & Vlam.

These two new bottles were especially appealing, as their take on a Belgian dubbel and tripel coincided with my increased interest in Belgian beers following my trip to Bruges. Although they were both probably suited to cellaring (shoving in a cardboard box in the spare room), I decided to open them both over the last weekend.

I popped open the Manchester Dubbel (8.5% ABV) in front of In Bruges on DVD, with Colin Farrell mocking “gay beers”, swigging Leffe from the bottle and being fascinated by dwarves. This turned out to be a good version of what I consider a dubbel to be. It had a huge, persistent head, and a really sweet and bitter dark chocolate smell. In the taste, the dark chocolate snuggled down with some licquorice and an obvious booziness to make a warming, comforting beer, especially after the fizziness had subsided. Unsurprisingly this paired well with some dark Belgian chocolate.

The Manchester Tripel (9%) is an interesting one: Pouring again with a large head, this dispersed much quicker than the Dubbel’s. It smells and tastes richly of citrussy American hops with a nice medium maltiness to match the cloudy gold-to-amber colour. The hop bitterness builds up over the course of the drink to a quite acidic taste, and the malty sweetness eventually accumulates as well, suggesting the beer is best drunk with food (cheese) or shared (Kate didn’t like it). Having said that, it hides its 9% well (although I say that so often I may be suffering ABV Shift) and I really enjoyed the beer.

However I really enjoyed it as a US-style double IPA, rather than a “tripel”. As a term, “tripel” does seem to be a bit contentious; style icon Michael Jackson said differing things about the word in different publications, but this is the definition on the Beer Hunter website:

Dutch-language term usually applied to the strongest beer of the house, customarily top-fermenting often pale in colour, occasionally spiced with coriander. The most famous is made in Westmalle, Belgium.

Regardless of this (probably necessarily) rather wide definition, I have a view of what a Tripel is from those I’ve tried, including Westmalle, Karmeliet, Straffe Hendrik, Corsendonk and De Garre. They’re all strong blonde beers with varying degrees of hop flavour.

The Manchester Tripel may or may not be “on-style”: I’ll leave that question for more knowledgeable writers. It isn’t the beer I expected it to be, however, with the powerful New World hop flavour overpowering any noticeable “Belgian” qualities. I wouldn’t have had that reaction to a very enjoyable beer had it been described in a different way, perhaps as a “Belgian-style IPA”. But that’s my problem and many people will enjoy having their expectations defied, or simply appreciating the beer for what it is, rather than what it isn’t.

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Secret Suppers & Putting A Donk On It: Sunshine Bakery, Saison Dupont & Corsendonk Agnus

September 9, 2011 5 comments

I don’t want to turn this into a food and beer blog, but I thought this was worth mentioning. The very special Sunshine Bakery in Chapel Allerton have “Supper Club” evenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It’s kind of like a tiny pop-up restaurant in the bakery (just four tables with ten or so covers when I was in), with a small choice of courses for very reasonable prices.


What they don’t have is a licence, so you can take your own alcohol. Instead of taking wine, we decided to take a couple of large bottles of beer. This was a great opportunity to have some food in a restaurant with a couple of beers that either  (a) you would be very lucky indeed to find in an English restaurant; or (b) you would normally have to pay corkage for if you brought them in yourself.

We didn’t know what the menu would be, but after a chat with Ghostie in Beer Ritz the day before we decided to go for a Saison Dupont (great value for around a fiver) and an impressive looking paper-wrapped Corsendonk Agnus.

Ghostie, as always, was right. The corks popped in a satisfying manner and they were more than suited for the wine glasses on the table.  Both beers went very well with the great French-style bistro food at the Supper Club. The light and hoppy Saison was a perfect match in very many ways for my farmhouse pate starter, which came with a fresh tasting piccalilli.  The Agnus, a slightly heavier tripel, held up quite well against a rich boeuf bourguignon.

The pale, bitter beers were probably an even better match with Kate’s choices: a mackerel nicoise salad followed by a smoked haddock chowder with saute potatoes.  We then finished off with a pot of tea and some very special cakes: an Eton Mess cupcake for Kate and a Turkish Delight brownie for me.

Normally there’s quite a mark-up in restaurants on alcohol and wine in particular.  I often find that a good beer, where available, can knock about £20 off the bill, although this tends not to thrill the waiter.  But here, because we got to pay off-licence prices for the beer and very reasonable prices for the food, it cost us only around £45 all-in for the beer and three great courses each.

Basically I don’t think I should be telling you about this at all, because it’s hard enough to get a booking as it is. In fact, forget I said anything.

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Beer In Bruges: De Garre and Tripel De Garre

August 10, 2011 25 comments

I’m writing this post coming back though the Channel Tunnel following a fantastic four days in Bruges. Kate booked the trip as my 31st birthday present and apart from her I should also thank the authors of the blog posts and twitter recommendations I read before I went, including Phil Hardy of Beersay, Jose from Beer Nerds, Rich from The Beercast, Boak & Bailey, Simon Jenkins and Mark Fletcher of Real Ale Reviews.

One of the common factors of most of those recommendations was De Garre, a small two-storey brown cafe hidden down an alleyway off a short, busy and touristy street running between the central square Markt and another, Burg.


When we first arrived in Bruges and went for a walk into the centre it started pelting with rain, and fortunately we chose to seek shelter in De Garre. When we went in the bar was completely full but fortunately an elderly couple shortly left and gave us our seats, the gentleman blessing Kate on the way out, probably indicating how soaked we looked.


There is a substantial menu of Belgian beers but it’s obvious that most people come for the exclusive house beer brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge: Tripel De Garre. It is presented in a great-looking bulb glass on a tray with a paper doily (in keeping with the local lacemaking tradition) and a small bowl of slightly rubbery but creamy cheese cubes (Gouda?), possibly intended to combat the effects of the 11.5% ABV.

A blonde Tripel at 11.5% might sound like a terrible idea, but you’d be completely wrong. The beer is at once mellow and hoppy; refreshing and pleasantly warm and boozy; an impeccably well-rounded and accessible beer.


As we dried off in the simple cafe with yellow tablecloths and open windows as the rain pelted down on the irregular cobbles outside, it was impossible to feel anything but happy. We were surrounded by relaxed groups and couples, chatting in various languages including locals speaking the native Dutch, most of whom were all drinking the same beer.


We fell in love with De Garre to such an extent that we ended up returning to it at the end of the evening on the following two nights. The second time was just as enjoyable as the first, with a number of groups of various ages happily chatting away as classical music played in the background.


The third occasion, on the Monday night, was still enjoyable but not quite as relaxed, as one group of 25-30 year olds in the corner were watching very loud videos on their phones before another large group of foreign students, possibly from a nearby hostel, all arrived at once and took over most of the tables. Whilst they weren’t necessarily treating De Garre with the respect and reverence I felt it deserved, they were all drinking the house beer, which at least is an indication of how easily enjoyable it is.

My only real souvenir from Bruges is a statuesque 1.5 litre magnum of the house beer purchased from the bar for €21, which has made me thankful that Eurostar doesn’t have weight restrictions. There’s a poem on the back, an “Ode Aan De Tripel Van De Garre”. Certainly if any beer other than a pint of plain can inspire poetry, it’s this one. O, Tripel van de Garre.

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