Monday, August 13, 2012

Tripel Overhead Belgian-Style Tripel Ale

In a recent post, I mentioned that we stopped by Mother Earth Brewing on a trip to the Outer Banks.  The brewery features a number of regular rotation brews and we tried most during the visit to the tap room.  Mother Earth also has several special releases that they package in cork-and-caged large format bottles.  One of these is Tripel Overhead, a bourbon-barrel aged Belgian tripel.  We picked up a bottle of the 9.5% ABV tripel on recommendation from a friend with an excellent palate and decided to save it for tasting later.

The Tripel Overhead label read: 

The flavor of our Belgian-style tripel keep rollin' in: filling your mouth with perfect peeling waves of unexpected pleasure.  Respectfully aged in seasoned bourbon barrels, this beer offers you an amazing zest, balanced with flavors of warming oak.  The result?  A complex sipping beer that finishes smooth and sweet, giving you a glide you won't soon forget.

Tripel Overhead was a highly carbonated ale that made mountains of pillowy white head, with course bubbles against the glass.  The beer itself was a cloudy amber color, approximately like that of light maple syrup.  The head slowly faded through the tasting session and left a nice lacing on the glass.

The aroma coming from the tripel had distinct bourbon and oak characters.  The alcohol was very present in significant amounts, which was not surprising given the beer's strength.  The aroma was also musty, with light hints of spice - perhaps pepper or all-spice.  Tripel Overhead tasted complex and smooth at the same time.  Our initial impression was sweet and smooth, moving to a distinct caramel flavor.  The flavor finished with a little alcohol burn, but it was very subdued, especially given its presence in the aroma.  Flavor features vanilla in the aftertaste.  The beer presented a mouthfeel larger than expected for its dry finish, owing perhaps to the carbonation level and possibly from the oak tannin.

Overall, we found the beer complex and balanced.  My wife described the complexity as "5 beers in one glass" and I agreed with her.  The bourbon flavor was balanced and did not dominate, as seems to happen too often in bourbon-barrel beers.  My only complaint, however, was that I would not guess the base beer was a tripel except that I read it on the label.  The beer did not contain the subtle spicy flavor, layered sugar character, or other elements found in great tripels.  While I found the beer very interesting and balanced in its own way, I would hope for more tripel character if that label is used in its name.

If you are driving through North Carolina, I would recommend visiting Mother Earth Brewing, as the beer is worth the stop.



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