Adelbert's Brewery - Tripel B
- ABV: 9.3%
- Serving Temperature: 45–55° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Goblet, Chalice
As for each of the Adelbert’s Brewery beers, their Tripel B (aka “Bad Boy Brew”) includes a story of its own. This one’s goes as follows: “Del was one of those mischievous young men who liked to push the social conventions of the 1970’s. His college years were a whirlwind of girls, parties, road trips, and an occasional study session. He was a ‘bad boy’ with a great heart, and knew how to have a good time wherever he was, making friends far and wide.”
The Tripel B itself also offers an appealing tribute.
We found ourselves continuously going back to this beer, partly because it fascinated us as a tripel, and partly because we found ourselves even more enamored with it when approached without thinking of it as a tripel. That characteristic peppery and phenolic yeast contribution, a large structural element of most traditional tripels, is certainly there. But there’s also quite a bit more happening here in the mid-palate, with textured toastiness and caramel present. We also soon found ourselves noticing that this was balanced rather differently than most tripels.
So let’s roll with this as a firmly categorized Belgian-style something. It looks stunning in the glass: a brilliant orange that pours nice and clear early on, despite its bottle conditioning. The foam is equally on-point: white and fluffy with miniscule bubbles, almost like mousse. When even looking at the color of this, one starts to get a hint of some of those effects of using the decoction-mash approach. This beer is 95% Pilsner malt, normally yielding a quite pale beer, even with dark specialty-malt additions as that last 5%, but this instead looks nicely bronzed.
A proper decoction mash will often impart more color and flavor qualities into any particular beer. From the aroma forward, there’s a real nice complexity here in that center of things, far more than just Pilsner malt. The nose immediately offers up toffee and soft butterscotch, the latter in an entirely non-diacetyl sort of way. There’s very endearing caramelization, vanilla, a pleasantly herbal (even basil-like) hop character, plus the peppery and clove-ish yeast quality. Everything seems to play out without clutter, with harmony, and the impact stays nicely dry.
In the mouth, the carbonation steps up and takes a key role here, providing some lift up and above those core caramelized notes. The more we sample this, and particularly more as we’re giving this a full chance to warm towards the upper end of that recommended range, we find this having more common ground (in terms of balance, at least) with something like Belgian-style blonde ales: an expressive spicy hop character matched to modest yeast bitterness and a lightly rounded malt core. The upfront bitterness of most tripels never manifests, while there is far more spaciousness here for one to dig in on the malt front: almonds, caramels, vanilla.
We’ve just been hugely impressed by this beer, and we’d again encourage our Club members to let this warm up before diving in. Those caramelization layers are slightly subtle, and their effect at fridge temperature seems overly candied. It’s far softer and engaging when this beer is warmer. That caramel will increase in prominence over time, but the bottle conditioning of this beer means that it should age very nicely. Adelbert’s founder recommends 3–5 years.
Adelbert’s Brewery is basically brand new to the Texas craft-beer scene. The company began shipping beer less than two years ago, in January 2012. In that short amount of time, they’ve managed to share with us some truly expressive and unique beers, and we’re pretty pumped to be able to share our favorite with our Rare Beer Club™ members. Tripel B is an exceptional Belgian-style ale, benefiting from bottle conditioning, decoction mashing, and peppery yeast.
The brewery itself was started by Scott Hovey and is named in tribute to his brother, George Adelbert Hovey (1953–2000). “Del,” as he’s referred to on the labels, is commemorated with a different brief story about him attached to each of the brewery’s beers, the names of which include Philosophizer, Rambler, and (less immediately) Naked Nun. As Scott puts the ethos, “[I’m] immortalizing my brother through my different beers.” Looking through those stories tends to make one think about their interactions with beer in a way they perhaps often don’t.
Scott specifically wanted to make beers that could age at Adelbert’s. The focus is on Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned ales with an extra emphasis on ingredient sourcing and process. The majority of their barley is floor-malted and sourced from the Czech Republic, from a malting house just outside of Prague. (It dates back to the 1300s.) Their specialty malts are purchased from Belgium, and they employ the labor-intensive, decoction-mash technique for their beers.
Less than two years on, Adelbert’s has already established a reputation for itself in Texas and beyond. The brewery only makes about 2,000 barrels annually and these see light distribution in a small handful of states. It’s a pleasure to extend this brewery’s reach far further than that through The Rare Beer Club™. We encourage everyone to raise a toast in memory of Adelbert.
Suggested Pairing: Decoction! by Ron Pattinson
In the past, decoction mashing was far more common. Mashing cereal grains for the purpose of brewing can be accomplished many different ways, with the core effort behind all of them being to add water and heat in a controlled way to cracked grain (barley, wheat, etc.), turning the grains’ starches into fermentable sugars. (Those sugars will in turn be fermented by yeast after things cool down.) Decoction is a particularly labor-intensive approach to mashing, and one that was more generally appropriate when brewing with the finickier grains of the past.
In theory, it’s pretty simple: Instead of just heating up the grains and water in a single vessel, a precise portion (often a third or so) is removed, heated, and boiled separately, then poured back in. This has the effects of improving the starch conversion rates of less-modified malts, introducing additional caramelization, and ultimately lifting the temperature of the full mash. German brewers popularized triple-decoction methods, in particular, while a quick search on the ol’ Google confirms I’m hardly the first person to wonder about “quadruple decoction.”
Overall, decoction mashing is practiced far less often today. It takes more work, it requires a foreboding bit of math (to get the volume heat-transfer calculations correct), and those extra caramelized notes just aren’t always worth the effort relative to other considerations. For me, though, those American breweries using decoction techniques for certain beers (New Glarus and Victory come to mind first) do tend to be creating the standouts when it comes to beers like German-style lagers and hefeweizens. If you care about beer (or anything) deeply, it’s the little tweaks and flourishes that matter, and it’s great to see a younger brewery like Adelbert’s committing to decoction techniques across the board. Here’s hoping more breweries follow.
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