Kitchen Bitch

Cooking in the Kitchen with Sass & Class

Homebrewing 101: The Belgian Tripel March 7, 2011

My boyfriend Doug had been pining for a brew kit for months, so I got him one for Christmas for about $80 from our local Brew ‘n’ Grow. (Yes, that’s really what it’s called. It’s for home brewers and folks into organic gardening and growing hydroponic, um, plants.) The kit came with almost everything Doug needed, except a brew kettle ($40 for a 5-gal. kettle on and a glass carboy, i.e., a fermenter, which he got for $35 from the Brew ‘n’ Grow.

Once we had the all the supplies for actually making the beer, we chose a Dunkelweizen ingredient kit to brew first. While more advanced home brewers may gather their own ingredients, Brewer’s Best’s beer ingredient kits are great for novice brewers who need to familiarize themselves with the brewing process before getting too adventurous, much like novice chefs need to understand basic cooking techniques before they can create their own recipes. A Dunkelweizen is a darker version of the German wheat beer, hefeweizen, and it’s one of my personal favorites. It’s dark, but drinkable, and full of flavor. Since I bought the kit, I got to choose the first beer we brewed—it was only fair :). These brew kits contain ingredients for what is called extract brewing, which means you’re using malt extract in place of some of the grains you would normally use in the brewing process. These kits are helpful for those with small kitchens because you can use a 5-gal. brew kettle instead a larger pot.

With all the ingredients and supplies splayed on the kitchen counter at Doug’s apartment, he and his roommate Ian dove headfirst into brewing their first beer. The process itself is not difficult, but everything—and I mean, EVERYTHING—must be sanitized at all times. Just like in food service, cleanliness and sanitation in brewing are key to producing a delicious and safe product for consumption, so extra care and precautions have to be taken along the way.

The brewing of the Dunkelwezien went over without any obvious problems … until the boys went to read the beer’s gravity, a measure for alcohol content, a few days later. The beer was way below the expected alcohol by volume (ABV): It was reading at 3% ABV instead of 4.75–5.5%. This was going to be a very light Dunkelweisen, and the boys realized it was because they hadn’t bloomed the yeast (let it bubble and foam in warm water) before pitching it (adding it to the cooled wort) and fermenting the new beer. Oops! Lesson learned.

The boys put their new knowledge to the test almost immediately. The night they bottled the very light dunkelweizen (loved by many of my girlfriends), they got out the brew pot to brew one of Doug’s all-time favorite beers: a Belgian tripel. The Belgian tripel style doesn’t date back as far as many people think; although it’s a product of the Trappist monk community, the tripel wasn’t incepted until after World War II when the monks at Our Lady of Sacred Heart in Westmalle, Belgium, produced the first batch of this deep golden brew.

According to the Alström Bros., the founders of Beer Advocate magazine, “the name tripel actually stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist ‘simple.’ Traditionally, tripels are bright to gold in color, which is a shade or two darker than the average pilsner. Head should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along complex, spicy phenolic, powdery yeast, fruity/estery with a sweet finish.”

Below is a list of the ingredients used to make this particular Belgian tripel, as well as a breakdown of the steps in this particular brewing process.  The brewing process is essentially the same across ale styles (lagers are brewed slightly differently) and the variation in taste mostly comes from choice of ingredients.  There is a wide selection of malts, hops, yeasts, sugars, spices and flavorings that can be chosen to create a unique brew.

After watching them do it a few times now, the brewing process reminds me a lot of serious home cooking—it takes time, patience, and passion, but you’re always rewarded with a delicious homemade product and a great feeling of satisfaction. It’s funny watching Doug fall in love with brewing like I fell in love with cooking—he’s always got his nose in a brewing book or magazine, purchasing hard-to-find beers and raving about his newest find, or randomly inserting beer comments into our daily conversations. And you know, I don’t really mind ceding the kitchen one night a weekend. It’s fun being on the opposite side of the table, watching someone else create.

Brewer’s Best Belgian Tripel
This tripel contains light Belgian candi sugar to create a high-gravity beer that’s golden in color with a creamy, white head. The hops create a mild, spicy character. You need a 5-gallon brew pot or larger to make this recipe. IBUs: 24–30; ABV: 8.5–9%; Difficulty: Easy; Color: Deep Golden; Original Gravity: 1.083­­–1.086; Final Gravity: 1.017–1.20. This recipe produces enough beer to fill about 50, 12-oz. beer bottles.

3.3. lb light liquid malt extract (LME)
3 lb. Amber LME
3 lb. Pilsen dried malt extract (DME)
1 lb. Light Candi Sugar
8 oz. maltodextrin

4 oz. Aromatic grains

2 oz. Bittering
.5 oz Aroma

1 sachet dry ale brewing yeast

Sanitize. Gather all your ingredients together and sanitize all of your tools, including the brew kettle, fermenter, and stirring utensils.

Prepare grains. Pour 3 gallons of clean water (preferably bottled) into your brew pot and bring to the appropriate steeping temperature (150˚F–165˚F). Pour the crushed grains into a grain bag and tie in a knot.

Steep the grains in the water, then remove the grain bag and let the liquid drain back into the brew pot. The water is now wort.

Start boil. Bring the wort to a boil, and add all of the LME, DME, maltodexterin, and candi sugar. Continuously stir until the wort returns to a boil.

Bring wort to boil after steeping.

Add malts

Add hops. Sprinkle the bittering hops into the wort and boil for 50 minutes. Add the aroma hops and boil for 5 more minutes. Terminate boil.  The type of hops and boil duration for each variety depending on the style being brewed and the desired final taste.

Add hops and bring to boil

Cool wort and transfer. Cool the wort to approx. 70˚F by placing the brew pot in a sink filled with ice water (making an ice bath). Once it’s cooled, siphon the wort into a sanitized fermenter. Avoid transferring the heavy sediment (called the trub) into the fermenter.

Siphon the wort from the kettle to the fermentation bucket.

Bloom yeast. This step will depend on which type of yeast you are using (dry or liquid) and it is best to consult the manufacturers’ directions to properly prepare the yeast for pitching.

Bloom the yeast.

Add water. Add enough clean water to the fermenter to bring the wort to approx. 5 gallons and thoroughly stir.  Make sure to monitor the specific gravity of the wort as you add water. Using a hydrometer, measure the original gravity and record it.

Pitch yeast. Add the yeast and stir well with a sanitized spoon or paddle. Firmly secure the lid on the fermenter. Push the airlock, partially filled with water, securely into lid and move to cool, warm location typically between 65-75 degrees depending on the style being brewed.


Pitch yeast and stir into wort.

Monitor and record. The wort will begin to ferment within 24 hours and CO2 will release from the airlock in the form of bubbles. When fermentation is complete (no bubbles for 48 hours, about 4 to 6 days later), use the hydrometer to read the final gravity on the beer. Record it where you recorded the original gravity.   The best way to determine is fermentation is complete is to take readings of the gravity several days in a row.  If the gravity measuring does not change, its safe to assume the fermentation is complete.


The primary fermentation bucket. We covered it with a trash bag to provide a dark environment

*Second fermentation. Transfer the fermented wort to a 5-gallon glass carboy (secondary fermenter), taking care not to transfer the trub. Some brewers believe that moving the beer off the trub helps to improve the taste and color of the final product. Leave it in a cool, warm place to ferment for another 2 weeks or so.  Then proceed to bottling.

Siphon beer to carboy for secondary fermentation

Clamp on the handle and move to a warm, dark place.

Bottle the beer. Siphon the beer from the carboy into clean and sanitized bottles, and use capping mechanism to cap each bottle. Let bottles sit in a cool, dark area until carbonated, about 2 to 4 weeks. Oops I forgot to take pictures of this step!

Drink your homebrew! After two weeks, test one of the beers to see if it’s carbonated. If it’s ready, serve and enjoy! If not, wait a few more days and test again.


Our first homebrew was a dunkelweizen, a darker version of a German hefeweizen. Here's how it pours.

*This step is not essential, but it’s used by some homebrewers, including Doug, to improve the taste and clarity of the beer.


10 Responses to “Homebrewing 101: The Belgian Tripel”

  1. JilliBeans Says:

    What a great post. Loved all the pictures. I have a friend that brews beer at home, I will have to let her know about your post. I’m not much for drinking beer but if you start making tequila let me know.

  2. I lived in Belgium for 10 years, enjoyed their triple beers and didn’t know that the triples were so recent. Thanks: I learn something new every day.

    I have been looking into beer brewing for some time, but I always thought it would be very complicated to have a good beer. Am I wrong?

    • Ian Says:

      Hi – Doug’s rommate here. From the relatively little experience I have so far in homebrewing, it seems like you can make the process as easy or as complicated as you’d like.

      Extract brewing, which is all we have done so far, has been fairly straightforward — the kits contain everything you need and are relatively fool-proof (though we managed to goof a bit on the first one). The next level of complication is a partial-grain where you use some extract and some grain mash. The final level of complication would be an all-grain brew, which, and I’m guessing here since I’ve only read about it and have not yet attempted it, is a bit more complex than either of the two previous steps.

      Still, even the beer snob in me was happy with our first two extract batches. While they do leave a bit to be desired as far as uniqueness or personalizaton, they’ve yielded good beer.

      • Thank you Ian. You make me want to try. How long will you be able to keep the beer bottled for? Does beer made like you made it last less time bottled than regular beer?

        My wife hates beer (and she is Belgian, go figure!). So I would be the only one drinking it, with friends.

      • Ian Says:

        There’s definitely no pasteurization process (at least not for our brews), so I imagine it doesn’t last as long as say a mass-produced beer. However, a lot of the craft beers I enjoy are unfiltered and unpasteurized and I have safely shelved some these beers for over a year. In fact, many of them even suggest you do so to get a different flavor.

        That said, the homebrewing process requires about two weeks (or more, as has been the case with our Belgian Tripel) to carbonate/bottle condition. Thus far, our Tripel has been brewing, fermenting and bottle conditioning for about 6 weeks. I think as long as your brewing kit and area kept well sanitized, the beer should be safe to drink for quite some time. I’ve been reading some homebrew message boards for several months now and haven’t encountered anyone saying their beer spoiled in the bottle. Some said they had a “green beer taste”, meaning they bottled the beer prematurely so it had an acrid flavor. It’s still safe to drink in those cases, it just doesn’t taste proper.

        The cases where I have heard of beer going awry were during the fermentation stage — all of those were cases of infections due to poor sanitation habits, as far as I can tell. So, generally speaking, I don’t believe shelf-life is a problem, no. This is particularly true if you store the bottles in a temperature controlled environment and limit the amount of direct sunlight exposure.

  3. Omg how cool! My bf would be all over this! (which is why I’m not sharing 😉 haha)

  4. brewps Says:

    Great post, but you forgot the most important part… How’d the beer turn out???

    • We’re actually still waiting to sample it! It’s been sitting in bottles for about 2-3 weeks now, and it has yet to develop enough carbonation. We got to try the dunkelweizen though, which turned out really well. It was a little bit lighter (i.e., less alcohol content) then it should have been because the boys didn’t realize they were supposed to bloom the yeast before it was added to the wort. But in the whole it turned out the perfect color (darkish brown/black), and had a great malty flavor that was still easy to drink. A Light Dunkelweizen if you will. A perfect sipping beer! I’ll be sharing the pics of the poured tripel once it reaches maturity and has enough carbonation. Thanks for the great question! I should have explained more thoroughly.

  5. […] One Year Ago: Homebrewing 101: Belgian Tripel […]

  6. […] One Year Ago: Homebrewing 101: Belgian Tripel […]

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