Our local Waitrose has recently been rearranging their already rather good beer section. This is broadly a good thing, because they seem to have expanded the range of good beers (Meantime now appear to have half a shelf to themselves!) at the expense of the duller, more mass market offerings.
They’ve also improved their foreign beer selection and lurking on that shelf was a rather good looking Belgian offering, Tripel Karmeliet. Decently strong at 8.4% and with a scattering of awards across the very traditional looking label, I have high hopes.
It’s a very pale tripel, with a thin but persistent, fine bubbled head. The nose is very wheat beer – perhaps unsurprising as it’s described as a “three grain beer”, made with wheat, malt and oats.
There’s a whole lot going on in the mouth; a nice champagne fizz is the first thing that hits you, along with a strong, warming fruitiness. Hold it in your mouth as the bubbles dissolve on your tongue and the wheat flavours put in a brief appearance, to be driven away by the honey sweet malt, grapefruit and just a nod to all that alcohol. The perfectly balanced, gentle hop tail washes the richness away and leaves you reaching for another sip.
So far my supermarket monsters have been a little disappointing. This beer changes all that; it’s a proper, traditional tripel that hits all the right notes and wouldn’t feel out of place in any proper Belgian bar. And yet I can buy it by the basketful in my local supermarket – great stuff!