WBC's Rochelle Francois samples this year's Common Thread, a Belgian tripel.
This is the fourth time Wisconsin brewers have teamed up to make a version of Common Thread, a collaborative beer showcased during Madison Craft Beer Week; each year a different style has been chosen. In 2012 it was a California Common, in 2013 a Bier de Garde, and in 2014 it was a Bohemian Pilsner. This year, leading in developing the recipe for a Belgian Tripel was a group of Wisconsin’s woman brewers.
What is it? Common Thread 2015, a beer made by a group of Wisconsin brewers for Madison Craft Beer Week.
Style: The Belgian Tripel is a complex beer with yeasty and spicy qualities. Tripels are bright yellow to deep golden in color, with a thick, white head. Their aroma offers moderate fruity esters with hints of spice such as clove or even pepper. Expect a medium to light body, and bubbly creaminess. The emphasis is on fruity sweetness. Belgian candi sugar is often used to increase fermentable sugars and alcohol content without adding body. Tripels commonly range from 7.5% to 9.5% ABV.
Background: Each year, state brewers select a beer style, which they then enjoy together on brew day. “It’s always great to get together with [other] people who are in the industry,” says brewer Allyson Rolph, who traveled to Verona from the Thirsty Pagan Brewpub in Superior to take part in brew day.
During Craft Beer Week, Common Thread can be found all over the city in area breweries, brewpubs, bars and restaurants. It’s intended to represent the common bonds among brewers in the craft beer community. This year, it highlighted advances that have been made by women working in the profession.
Rochelle Francois, a brewer at WBC, organized much of the logistics of brewing this year’s beer. Brew day 2015 took place on March 7 at WBC in Verona.
The beer is made with Pilsner malt and Wisconsin-grown Mt. Hood hops provided by Gorst Valley Hops. The beer gets some sweetness and a boost in alcohol from additions of candi sugar. Common Thread finishes around 8.3% ABV. The beer is being distributed to more than 65 different locations for Madison Craft Beer Week. Greenview Brewing produced a limited amount of a gluten-free version of the beer for the week's events.
Common Thread is considered a one-off batch, meaning when it’s gone, it’s gone. Next year it’ll be a different new beer with a style. Each year proceeds from the sales of Common Thread go to the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild for promotion and industry awareness programs. In 2014, Common Thread raised about $9,300.
Aroma: Yeasty, with hints of banana and floral sweetness.
Appearance: Bright yellow-golden. The beer is unfiltered and hazy. It has a soft, white head.
Texture: Medium-bodied, bubbly with a roundness and subtle softness.
Taste: Firm yeasty sweetness up front that becomes smooth and sweet, with herbal spiciness.
Finish/Aftertaste: Yeasty, hints of pepper spice, and a light dryness. Some warmth from the alcohol.
Glassware: The tulip glass is the ultimate showcase for this tripel’s bright color and soft white head.
Pairs well with: The spicy, light fruit qualities of the tripel make it a great companion for herb-crusted chicken and baked fish.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers.
The Verdict: I really like the Belgian tripel style. When I see one on a beer board or bar menu, it usually ends up in front of me. I give Common Thread credit for being a successful collaborative brew — I’m a fan of the annual process that’s so collegial and creative. This was a great choice: You don’t find Belgian Tripels everywhere, so it stands out among the many other beers during Craft Beer Week. For those not familiar with tripels, it’s a good introduction.
This beer succeeds stylistically. It's inviting. Swirl it around in the glass a bit before sipping; you’ll find a yeasty aroma with hints of banana and clove. There’s sweetness (in part from the candi sugar) that combines very well with light biscuit tones of the Pilsner malt. In the finish there’s a hint of pepper spice and light dryness — another character of the style. There are drier tripels for sure, but I like the way Common Thread melds its sweet side with its dry yeast side.