A triumph of modern beer brewing, the Belgian Tripel style is complex, tasty and strong. Like many Belgian styles, special yeast strains produce unique flavors not typical of other ales. In addition, spices like coriander seed and orange peel provide unique notes that add depth and character to the brew. The Tripel style originated in the Trappist breweries of Belgium in the early 20th Century. The origin of the name “Tripel” is not precisely known, though one theory suggests that the Trappist monks used three times the amount of malted barley, producing a formidable beer with a respectable alcohol content.
One of the finest Tripels out there comes from a somewhat unexpected location, namely the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. In the historic village of Chambly (about 20 minutes southeast of Montreal), a small brewery called Unibroue produces some of the finest Belgian style ales around. Their flagship beer, La Fin du Monde, has earned more medals and awards (over 30 to date) than any other Canadian beer. “La Fin du Monde” is French for “the end of the world,” which ostensibly refers to where the first European settlers thought they had arrived when they happened upon North America. When I lived in Montreal, Unibroue beers came cheap at five bucks for a 750 mL corked bottle. You’ll pay a slightly higher premium here in the States. I paid $7 for a 12-ounce glass at Bishop’s Collar in Fairmount.
Poured into a goblet, the beer takes on a cloudy, yellow-orange hue with a frothy head.
The hazy appearance can be attributed to the natural conditioning of this beer — that is, the yeast is not filtered out and it continues to affect the flavor in the bottle or keg for months or even years. The aroma is crisp with spices and some alcohol up front, with an ABV of 9 percent. Taking a sip, the first thing to notice is the bubbly, effervescent mouthfeel. There are so many flavors: coriander spice, sweet malt, yeast and fruit, to name a few. The alcohol hides itself well in this brew, and the medium body makes this beer a friendly sipper. La Fin du Monde departs a bit from the traditional Belgian Tripel style in that it is not quite as bitter, which I personally find pleasant.
If you like Belgian beers, this is probably the finest example of one brewed in North America. Even if you don’t like Belgian beers, the complexity and plethora of flavors from this beer commands respect. The other offerings from Unibroue are outstanding as well, with Don de Dieu and Trois Pistoles among my favorites. Sante!
My ratings (out of 5)