- For the Winkel Tripel map projection, see Winkel Tripel.
Tripel is a term used in the Low Countries to describe a strong pale ale. The term was used in 1956 by the Trappist brewery at Westmalle to rename the strongest beer in their range, although both the term Tripel and the style of beer associated with the name existed before then. Westmalle Tripel was widely copied by the breweries of Belgium, and in 1987 another Trappist brewery, Koningshoeven in the Netherlands, also expanded their range with La Trappe Tripel. The term is applied by a range of secular brewers to a strong pale ale in the style of Westmalle Tripel.
The term Tripel comes from the Low Countries - that is, the modern Netherlands and Belgium, though the origin of the term is unknown. The two main theories are that it indicates strength, either by a series of marks, such as crosses, on a cask - X for the weakest strength, XX for medium strength, and XXX for the strongest beer, or by reference to the original gravity of a beer which roughly corresponds to 3% abv, 6% abv and 9% abv.
The modern origin of tripels lies in Belgium, in the 1930s. According to brewing historian Michael Jackson, the first golden strong pale ale associated with the term was brewed by Hendrik Verlinden of the Drie Linden (Three Lindens) brewery in the early 1930s, when ale brewers were looking to compete with the pale lagers from Plzeň. Verlinden regularly assisted the Trappist brewery Westmalle with their brewing, and in 1932 he produced a golden strong pale ale, the Witkap Pater (now known as Witkap Tripel), for his own brewery, the Slaghmuylder Brewery. Westmalle released a beer under the name Superbier. It was a strong blonde ale and was very likely based on a blonde beer the monks had been brewing sporadically since 1931. In 1956 they renamed it Tripel, and the popularity of that brand ensured the name is still strongly associated with the Westmalle brewery, though both the term Tripel and the style of beer associated with the name (strong pale ale), were in existence before 1956. In 1956, the recipe was modified by Brother Thomas, the head brewer of Westmalle, by the addition of more hops, and it then took on the name Tripel, it has remained essentially unchanged since.
Tim Webb in his Good Beer Guide to Belgium says that some of the pre-1956 beers called Tripel were dark, in contrast to the modern understanding of the term.
- "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Beer Styles: Tripel". www.beerhunter.com. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Down on your knees to bless monks' top ale". www.beerhunter.com. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- The Great Beers of Belgium, Michael Jackson, MMC, 1997, page 226
- The Taste of Beer, Roger Protz, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, page 140.
- Belgian Ale, Pierre Rajotte, Brewers publications, 1992, pages 31-34
- Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales, Stan Hieronymus, Brewers Publications, 2005. ISBN 0-937381-87-X
- "Westmalle". www.trappistbeer.net. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "Brewery Slaghmuylder". www.witkap.be. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
- Heavenly Beer, Roger Protz, Carroll &Brown, 2002, page 125
- "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Visiting the brand-new Trappist brewery". www.beerhunter.com. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- Tim Webb: Good Beer Guide to Belgium, 6th edition, p82