Monday, October 6, 2008

Awesome Beer of the Week: the Allagash Tripel Reserve

Since there should be happier things to talk about today than pornography and unjust imprisonment, it's time to review another Awesome Beer of the Week. This time, it's one of the beers that got me into beer as beer, as well as one of the best examples of how Americans can brew delicious interpretations of traditionally European styles: the Allagash Tripel Reserve.

Allagash is one of the only breweries in the United States to exclusively brew versions of, and variations on, beers from the long history of Belgian styles (the Tripel, developed in the '30s to get around alcohol restrictions on distilled beverages, is one of the newest Trappist/Abbey ales). Now, a lot of people talk about Ommegang as though it's the definitive U.S. Belgian-style brewery. That's fine – I've got nothing, in particular, against Ommegang.

Just, let's be clear: it's really all about Allagash.

First of all, there's nothing about Ommegang's usual lineup that's in the same league as the Tripel, which has a fullness, a round mellow wholeness, that well represents the hallmark of Belgian style ales. Alcohol, honey, and just a bit of that awesome banana-y taste give way to a very slightly bitter citrus element. It's also a beer that sticks with you in a positive way for a long while, as its honey after-aftertaste has lasted me nearly an hour.

Also worthy of note is the Allagash Fluxus, which deserves an essay in and of itself. Released annually (starting in '07), the idea is to brew an entirely original beer once a year, and sell it under the same name. The '07 was a "Rye Beer spiced with Yarrow," while the '08 was a "Double White Beer spiced with Ginger," and both are delicious and unbelievably original.

PS: It sounds pretentious and stupid, but the type of glass you drink from does make a difference with this sort of beer. While this is always true, to a certain extent, Belgian breweries usually go so far as to produce glassware specific to their beer, designed to be the ideal glass. But short of that ridiculousness, a short, wide-mouthed glass will serve you well with this beer – like a wine glass that doesn't narrow at the top.

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