Brouwerij Wilderen - Tripel Kanunnik
Serving Temperature:40–49° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip, Chalice, or Pinot Glass
We’re probably on track for some sort of not-quite-Guinness record here—BUT we’re once again busting out a Rare Beer Club-exclusive offering for our members. Tripel Kanunnik has only seen very limited draft-only distribution in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida so far, and bottles have otherwise never really made it stateside (aside from in suitcases from thirsty people traveling abroad). Beers like Belgian tripels pretty much inarguably show best in their bottle-conditioned form, and we’re pleased to be able to make this available to our members.
Also: It’s been a long time since we dug a tripel this much.
As we mentioned in the Special Instructions: Be careful when opening this one. Your fridge may be fancier than ours—fueled by liquid nitrogens and space-age technology and the chilly dreams of unicorns—but it’s probably like ours, and your bottles may be like ours, and there may be some foam involved. We’ve suffered worse. Just keep a glass in hand in case this gets agitated on opening. We lost nary a drop, but we’re professionals. Albeit with normal fridges.
Despite a mildly exuberant cork pop, this poured perfectly into the glass: a deep-deep golden and honeyed color that reminded us of Sauternes, with a bright white head capping it. There is an exceptional aroma here, and one that extends well beyond our normal expectations for this style. Sure, there’s the normal delicious notes of the Belgian tripel here: its white pepper and even light clove showing clear beside further bitterness of spicy, zesty noble hops. There is a subtle note of honeyed maltiness and soft toast at the core. But there’s also something, if we were to think back a bit, that ultimately reminded us of some fantastic bottles of Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold with a bit of age behind then. Maybe aged De Dolle Dulle Teve as well: in that there’s immense, creamy richness there that extends far beyond the traditional tripel.
The first sip will probably explain things, particularly as this warms up a touch from unicorn temperature. There’s an immensely complex core here—a mixture of vanilla, honey, toasted bread (bready notes out the wazoo), crème brûlée, and even some of those deeper depths o’ caramel and cotton candy. This is not a messing around tripel. This is a messing around sort of review occasionally, but so not a messing around tripel. Its lively, bottle-conditioned CO2 keeps everything aloft, there’s a dense and developed phenolic and estery presence via some potent Belgian yeast, and this is just a stellar tripel that reminded us of some of our favorite ones of all time. And we haven’t even aged this one yet. The bottle conditioning and higher ABV make this a prime candidate for some cellar time. We’re very unlikely to be so patient.
But do make a point to give this one a bit of time to develop, at least after having popped a bottle or two fresh. The initial noble-hop character will fade with time, but that caramelized aspect in the center will slowly expand, and the bottle conditioning will keep it developing.
In food pairings, play off those forefront peppery and vanilla notes, as well as that assertive, pretty-much-effervescent carbonation. That bitter pepper and mineral edge will situate this well alongside fattier, creamier fare, with that bubbliness certainly helping refresh the palate. The vanilla makes us want to try this alongside lobster and seared scallops: the buttery notes there a perfect match for the slight sweetness and effervescence. We would also suggest this for creamier cheeses, as well as richer apple (and/or pear) desserts with a buttery, flaky crust.
Wilderen’s Tripel Kanunnik poured perfectly into the glass: a deep-deep golden and honeyed color that reminded us of Sauternes, with a bright white head capping it. There is an exceptional aroma here, and one that extends well beyond our normal expectations for this style. Sure, there’s the normal delicious notes of the Belgian tripel here: its white pepper and even light clove showing clear beside further bitterness of spicy, zesty noble hops.
The brewery café of Brouwerij Wilderen in Belgium, despite its modest interior size, remains one of the most endearing spots we’ve found for enjoying a beer. The café itself is housed in a rejuvenated, half-timbered farmhouse that originally dates back to 1743. Unfinished planks draw the eye up into the peaked overhead space, while, below the rafters, fat wooden tables and plush couches offer brewery guests a comforting, often communal drinking space. One passes through the farmhouse’s double doors to find a massive, stone-bricked beer garden.
Brouwerij Wilderen is, in all the senses that count, an intriguing mixture of old and new. Its brewing and distilling equipment are state of the art, the first a 25-hectoliter, fully automated and fully closed system imported from Italy. The seven-hour brewing process produces wort that then undergoes a four- to five-day primary fermentation with the house yeast. The beers are then cold-conditioned for several weeks, and the net result is about 12,000 barrels (or so) of delicious beer annually: much of it consumed on site. Entirely modern, for sure, though it continues a brewing tradition here that’s been part of the village of Wilderen for a long time.
The small village was pretty much a self-sufficient operation for centuries, producing its own lumber, sheep, cattle, agriculture—and beer. The original Wilderen brewery started up about 450 years ago, serving a particularly key role in local fairs and celebrations of the surrounding populace. The village still numbered fewer than a hundred individuals until the first decades of the 19th century. The modestly large-scale beer production included some wort boilers, as well as storage in the oxen stables. The current brewery is today located on that same space.
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