This week, I finally tracked down a beer I should have tried ages ago. I’ve made a point of trying historic beers as time permits, but having realized I’ve never had anything from Abbey St. Martin, I grabbed their Tripel as soon as I saw it in on the shelf.
The Brasserie de Brunehaut is the proud heir of over 900 years of brewing tradition. When the Abbaye de Saint-Martin was re-established in 1096, Bishop Radbod included permission to brew and sell beer in the charter. This served two purposes: the first is quite practical, as the brewery could fund the rest of the abbey. The second is far more interesting – at the time there were significant health issues in the area, and it was already known that beer was safer than water. That’s right, beer was the healthiest drink around!
The brewery continued as part of the abbey until its destruction during the French Revolution in 1793. Fortunately, the recipes were preserved, and in 1890 the current incarnation of the brewery was founded. The name Brunehaut comes from the local paved road built by the Roman Empire, running between Amiens in France and Cologne in Germany. The demand for the beer has steadily increased and in 1990, as a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the re-founding of the brewery, the company moved into a brand new custom-built brewing facility. This new brewery is about two kilometers from the old site, and even with the expansion in production they have still managed to grow all the grain they require in the surrounding countryside.
The Brasserie de Brunehaut has also recently become somewhat famous for its adoption of social media formats. Its website has existed for quite some time, but now hosts a pair of Twitter accounts, Brunehaut Beer and Abbey St. Martin. Both accounts are very prolific in number of posts, and surprisingly focus on things other than their beer. Abbey St. Martin especially posts interesting news tidbits, and tries to raise awareness of beer events happening throughout the U.S. and Europe. I recommend adding one or both of these accounts to your feed if you are using Twitter, as they can keep you well abreast of news in the beer world, as well as interesting developments in the world at large.
The Tripel poured a slightly hazy light yellow, gaining some golden depth towards the center of the glass. The head formed as a single finger of very, very fine, brilliant white foam. The head retention was excellent after the initial drop in level, and the lacing was superb, as to be expected from a good Belgian. The aroma was sweet with a surprising hint of grapes, but underneath was a strong grainy texture, slightly toasted. The body was moderately thick, and very fine, sparkly, and quite high carbonation. Once the carbonation dissipated a bit, the mouthfeel was actually quite creamy.
The taste was quite complex, mixing faint hits of citrus with a toasted wheat character: not particularly yeasty, but more of a wheat malt. This surprised me in a triple, but it went quite well. The level of sweetness in this beer was perfectly balanced, not too sweet, not too dry, just a perfect complement to its flavor. The hop character was also very restrained, just enough to support the flavor in this beer.
I thoroughly enjoyed this beer, and I highly recommend it. The wheat character was especially nice, as I’m a sucker for wheat beers and it’s not as common in the Belgian style beers brewed here in America. I would recommend this beer for anyone not familiar with Belgians, as it is very balanced and approachable.
Size: 750 mL