After two months in a row of nearly overwhelming blind tastings—102 non-barrel-aged imperial stouts, followed by a whopping 144 barrel-aged stouts safe to say that the Paste beer tasters were hanging on by a thread. We needed a style that would draw significantly fewer entries, for the sake of our livers if nothing else. Thankfully, Belgian tripel was there for us.
Tripels are an interesting beer style, and one that I can’t help but feel was more influential when I first started getting into craft beer almost 10 years ago than they are now. That’s almost certainly a function of the “extreme beer” era of the early to mid-2000s—despite being a beer style with at least 85 years of measurable history, it was a high-gravity style that fit in well to the second great craft beer boom, when drinkers were experimenting with much more intense, heady flavors. I have many memories from this time period of craft beer neophytes falling head over heels for tripels such as La Fin Du Monde or Victory’s Golden Monkey.
The results … were interesting. Some of the classic Belgian examples of the style, such as Westmalle or Tripel Karmeliet, ended up right at the top as one might expect. Others, such as Chimay or De Dolle, missed the cut. And of course the most surprising aspect was seeing which of the American breweries were making great, classical tripels—and it almost certainly isn’t going to be who you expect. So let’s get on with it.
12. Funky Buddha Tripel Lindy
City: Oakland Park, FL
The verdict: Here’s the thing about Funky Buddha: They’re versatile down there in Florida. In one tasting, they’ll score big with really bold, crazily flavored beers, as they just did in the barrel-aged stout tasting with imperial stouts flavored with coconut and bacon. In this tripel tasting, they entered two: One made in apple brandy barrels that tasted like a pie, and another that—wait for it—is just a really solid, regular ‘ole tripel. Point is, they’re known for their skill in balancing flavored beer profiles that other people would bungle, but they can do multiple things well. This one is impeccably balanced—light Belgian yeasty esters on the nose, with herbal hops and a touch of wheaty malt. Grassy hops are present on the palate, and the 9.3% ABV is pretty well hidden, roughly the same as several tripels in the tasting that were considerably smaller. This is one of those entries that didn’t necessarily top individual score sheets, but everyone liked.