26. Trappist Ale

Tripel Happiness

Belgian Tripel (26C)  BeerSmith Recipe File


Double Happiness

For the uninitiated, when you marry a Chinese woman (or I suppose, a Chinese man!), be prepared to see a lot of this.  It literally reads “double happiness” in Mandarin.

So, this beer is called Tripel Happiness because I’m brewing a Belgian Tripel using some Chinese ingredients, and because a good Tripel makes me happy. Nothing super fancy: Chinese yellow lump rock candy and Chinese chamomile tea leaves.  The use of spice additions, while not used by many modern breweries, is allowed by the Guidelines.  I’ve brewed this recipe once before, and I got the idea while reading the book “Extreme Brewing” by none other than Sam Calagione. If you don’t know who he is, take a break from reading, run down to the liquor store and drink a Burton Baton; the education will be well worth it.  Everything else in the recipe (except yeast) is straight from “Brewing Classic Styles”, and I remember the beer being quite delicious, so I’ve elected to keep the recipe the same.  One other important note about the recipe is the use of two different yeasts.  I did this originally out of necessity the first time I brewed this, as my LHBS didn’t have 3 vials of WLP530 yeast, and recommended trying ECY09 yeast.  I could write an entire article about East Coast Yeast, but I will just say this: I love several of Al Buck’s (the man behind the curtain) strains, and I recommend you get your hands on some. (1) Please note that given the OG, 3 vials is still probably under-pitching (I should’ve pitched 4 or prepared a starter according to BeerSmith), but since last year’s recipe was so delicious, I’m not changing anything.

The keys to brewing a good Tripel are proper fermentation temperature and a high attenuation.  Both are achieved with low mash temp (149°F for me), the addition of candy sugar, and controlling the temperature of your fermentation.  Z & P recommend beginning fermentation in the lower range of your yeast, and allowing the temp to slowly rise throughout primary, eventually reaching the mid 70°s.  Pitch plenty of yeast when the wort is mid 60°s, as failing to do so could lead to detectable diacetyl, which is a no-no for this style (Palmer 256).  Try and get your hands on German or Belgian Pilsner malt for this recipe (I used German).  I also lagered this beer for 3 weeks to help provide some nice conditioning and to clear up the beer.  Last time I brewed this beer, the cold crash achieved brilliant clarity without any fining.  Also, the beer should be carbonated a bit more than the usual ale; your target should be 2.8-3 volumes (Guidelines).



14 lb. (German/Belgian) Pilsner Malt

0.25 lb. Aromatic Malt

Mash @ 149° for 90 min (single infusion 1qt/lb), sparge with 5 gal

90 minute boil

2 oz. Tettnang (4.5%) Boil for 60 min

2 lb. Chinese Rock Candy, “Yellow Lump” at 10 min left in boil

1 oz. Saaz (3.0%) Boil for 10 min

20 individual chamomile tea bags at flameout

1 vial ECY09 Belgian Abbaye

2 vials WLP530 Abbey Ale

OG: 1.086

FG: 1.008

ABV: 10.9%

IBU: 29.5

Color: 5.6 SRM

Fermentation Temperature: 65-75°

Lagered 21 days after primary @ 41°


Brew Day

The brew day went normally.  I chose to mash for 90 minutes versus the standard 60 to get a more complete conversion given the lower mash temp.  Using paper test strips, I noted the pH of the mash was somewhere around 5.2 (I say around because papers aren’t that accurate).  This is right around where it should be (2).  The 90 minute boil is to help reduce DMS (3), which is recommended by Z & P in the recipe.  Using my wort chiller and then an ice bath, I cooled the beer to 65 degrees, whirl-pooled (4) and siphoned it into my bucket fermentor.  I pitched 3 vials of yeast in lieu of preparing a yeast starter.

If you haven’t added rock sugar to wort before, it takes some time to fully dissolve.  You should have the heat off for this (to avoid scorching the sugar), so plan accordingly. Pause the boil timer, and don’t stir too hard!

Another note, this was my first brew day using the Thermapen (5), it’s awesomely fast and every homebrewer should have one.  Owning a thermometer this accurate will have you taking the temperature of everything, not just your mash; it’s seriously worth the money.



The temp controller was set to 65° initially.  14 hours after pitching, there was significant activity in the airlock (2-3 bubbles a second).  After 24 hours, I set the controller to 67°.  After 48 hours, I noted high krausen, and set the controller to 68°.  After 60 hours, I set the controller to 69°.  After 5 days, I set the controller to 70°.  After 6 days, I opened the lid and noted the krausen had almost completely fallen back, but was still a little frothy and white at the surface.  I also set the controller to 71°.  At day 7, I set the controller to 74°.  At day 9 of primary, I opened the lid and found the krausen completely gone, and took a gravity reading of 1.008.  This puts apparent attenuation at 90%!  This also places the ABV level of this beer slightly outside the Guidelines, but I can think of worse crimes.  I began lowering the temp of the beer in preparation for kegging.  I did this by lowering the temperature 2 degrees every 12 hours until the beer was at 41°.  I then transferred (using a siphon of course) the beer to the keg, purged headspace with CO2 and began the lagering period.  I lagered for 3 weeks at 41°. The temperature profile looks something like this:



Wife got me a floor corker for my birthday!
Wife got me a floor corker for my birthday!


I carbonated this beer to 2.8 volumes, which is a little higher than normal ales, appropriate for the Belgian style.

I bottled this beer using a Blichmann Beer Gun (counter-pressure filler), corked and caged the beer. (6) The bottles make for a nice presentation when serving, and I love to give them to friends and family as gifts.




My Take

Tripel Happiness Beer

Ah, what can be said about this beer that hasn’t already been said about Aphrodite… this beer is simply sublime.  Intense pear nose, juicy/sweet pear fruit on the palate initially with a hint of alcohol, then a  finish that starts weirdly tea-like but quickly transitions to dryness which  leaves you wanting more, more, more!  Right now, I feel this is one of the best beers I brew, if not the best.  When a wine drinker comes to my apartment and tells me they don’t drink beer, I serve them Tripel Happiness, and they are always floored.  Absolutely perfect with oysters.  Brew it, and perhaps you’ll understand why it makes me so happy.



The Stig

It’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber.  Some say, that he was once a Belgian monk, and that he played the double bass in the all-monk blues band, Electric Saaz.  All we know is, he’s called the Stig!

Aroma: Zesty, subtle esters of banana and clove. Quince-like fruitiness, and floral notes of lavender and camomile. Mildly fusel (rosy, boozy).

Appearance: Clear, ~ 5 degrees SRM with finely beaded white head. Decent head retention with spotty lacing.

Flavor: Ripe banana, honey, snappy/grassy hop flavor. Clove-like spiciness, orange blossom honey. High alcohol is fairly well masked, but still comes through a bit too much.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is too low, but excellent, lingering hop bitterness and high ABV yields a warming and suitably dry finish. Well attenuated, but not too thin.

Overall: Really quite well done. Only knock that really stands out is that it’s under carbonated for the style. ABV could be dialed back a tad, as well.



Woohoo!  Nailed one!  Well, the carbonation was a tad low, but it’s hard to reach 3 volumes of CO2 in a keg and still bottle the beer without it foaming like crazy.  That said, I could have pushed it higher without any drama for sure.

I really like this beer, and feel it is a great example of what I can do as a brewer.  Lots of work to do in other areas for sure, but I’m at least capable of producing “really quite well done” beer.  The Stig mentioned the ABV level, and it is certainly outside the Guidelines, but I wouldn’t change a thing about this beer.  Not one.


(2)  The best online primer on the subject of mash pH that I have found is here.  Also, Chapter 15 of John Palmer’s book “How to Brew” is informative, and you should probably read both!  It’s worth noting that water chemistry is often called “the final frontier” for all-grain brewers.  Once you’ve nailed your all-grain procedure and you’re producing good results, it’s time to start putting thought into this subject.  There are easy ways and ridiculously hard ways to approach water chemistry.  Municipal water quality reports, in my opinion, are bunk.  They change almost daily, and the report that is published yearly is a snap-shot and nothing more (call your municipal water organization’s manager, I found mine to be very helpful).  Scott, who writes the blog Bertus Brewery that I enjoy (and whose articles about IPAs I would call required reading) has a nice simple approach to water chemistry that seems to produce great results for him.  Check out his article here.
(3)  See this article from BYO that discusses DMS, among other notes about boiling.  DMS is not always a flaw, and is acceptable in many pilsners.  Just not acceptable in Tripels.
(4)  Whirl pooling after your wort is chilled is useful for beers with tons of hops, or when you want to leave most of the trub behind (which you do especially for lighter, dryer beers).  Check out this brief article on the subject from Brew Your Own Magazine.
(5)  Thermapen
(6)  On corking:  first, a floor corker is a nice luxury, but I wouldn’t get it unless you love brewing Belgians.  Make sure you’re using reference corks (they have “REF” printed on the side), and you store the bottles laying down if you are going to age them.


Books I referred to for this recipe:

  • BJCP Style Guidelines.  2008.
  • Calagione, Sam.  Extreme Brewing.  2006.
  • Palmer, John.  How to Brew.   2006.
  • Zainasheff & Palmer.  Brewing Classic Styles.  2007.


Leave a Reply