Go with Mandarin-style over zesty and hot entrees, because the sweetness and fruitiness of this beer will complement the flavors and textures of those dishes.
Lake Louie Brewing of Arena epitomizes handcrafted microbrewing. Hidden away on a 20-acre farm belonging to Tom Porter, this brewery is named after the lake on the property once owned by Porter's Uncle Louie. Porter started as a homebrewer, then went on to open his own brewery nearly eight years ago. Today he makes five standard beers and a half-dozen seasonals. Brother Tim's Tripel is only available once a year -- and now is the time.
What is it? Brother Tim's Tripel Belgian from Lake Louie Brewing
Style: Belgian Tripels are complex, with mild spicy tones, sweet yeasty banana esters, deep malty sweetness and a warm finish. They're usually pale or light golden, and very bubbly. Traditional Belgian Tripels are bottle conditioned (continuing to ferment in the bottle). They are one of the few beers that can actually become better after they've aged a year or two. Commonly brewed with candy sugar, the Tripel often has a high alcohol content, evident in its warm finish.
Background: Lake Louie Brewing introduced this beer in 2002. It's an evolution of the brewery's summertime favorite, Belgian Prairie Moon. Brewer Tim Wauters, for whom the beer is named, began culturing the yeast for this year's version back in April from the strain used in the first batch of Prairie Moon. Brother Tim's Tripel is made with 100% barley malt and German hops, which Wauters says give his beer better balance between the malty sweetness and the hoppy bitterness. At $12-$13 a six-pack, this is one of the more expensive local beers you'll find.
- Aroma: Strong, sweet, yeasty.
- Appearance: Hazy, golden color with a thick, soft white head.
- Texture: Full-bodied and bubbly. Warm from the very beginning.
- Taste: Begins with fruity, yeasty, sweetness, complemented by a dry spicy background with faint hints of clove.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A long, lingering warmth, dry bitterness.
Glassware: A tulip glass will let the beer's soft white head and aromas gracefully expand, while adding to the overall presentation. Allow this beer to warm up a little, and you'll find the sweet fruity tones even more pronounced.
Pairs well with: East Asian cuisines. Go with Mandarin-style over zesty and hot entrees, because the sweetness and fruitiness of this beer will complement the flavors and textures of those dishes. With its spicy and bitter tones, it also has enough hoppiness to work well with sausages and fried dishes.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers.
(I am using a one to four bottle opener scale: four is a great beer, distinctive, you'll have this over others; three is a beer you enjoy, reliable, close to its described style; two is problematic, lacks distinction, but worth having again; one is a beer that isn't true to its style, you would not recommend it to a friend.)
The Verdict: It's difficult for me to not give a good beer like Brother Tim's my highest mark of four bottle openers, since I know this beer will improve with a little aging. The 2007 version gets three, but the Tripel you buy today will smooth out, taking the edge off the spiciness, within a few months. It's a case of allowing the good to become great -- and this beer is worth squirreling away a few bottles for winter!