New Holland Brewing Company Black Tulip Belgian-Style Tripel Ale (9% ABV)
Pour: 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass
Look: Pale gold with a very thin white head that dissipates immediately and completely – no lacing or edging at all. Not much effervescence, even when agitated.
Smell: Very sweet – burnt orange and rock candy, with a subtle clove note underneath. There’s a bit of yeast in the nose as well, plus a definite alcohol scent.
Taste: Clean and sweet up front, with a bit of an apricot, maybe some banana flavor to it. Champagne yeast in the middle, with some subtle barnyard undertones, almost like fresh-cut hay. The alcohol comes through in the finish, and it definitely lingers into the aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: Pleasantly tingly on the tongue – much more carbonation than I was expecting. A bit syrupy, like grenadine, which leaves the tongue feeling kind of thick before long. This is definitely a sipping beer.
New Holland is probably best known for brewing Dragon’s Milk, which means that they’d be one of my favorites even if the rest of their beers were pure swill. Luckily, that’s not the case: they also brew one hell of an oatmeal stout called The Poet, and the world-class barrel-aged wheatwine Pilgrim’s Dole. Those are all dark beers, though, and Black Tulip (in spite of its name) isn’t a dark beer. The Belgian Tripel style of beer takes its name from the fact that it uses three times the amount of malt as Trappist ‘Simple.’ Tripels tend to be sweeter and generally have a higher ABV. Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, which is often ranked among the best beers in the world, is a Belgian Tripel Of more potential interest to metalheads, Unibroue’s Megadeth-inspired beer La Fin du Monde is also Belgian Tripel.
But back to New Holland’s Black Tulip, which is an excellent example of the style and one of the best ones I’ve had from a brewery in this part of the country (which sounds like faint praise, but it’s not – Michigan is overflowing with amazing breweries, and Indiana is definitely starting to catch up). It’s a very well balanced ale – sweet without being cloying, and the alcohol is definitely present but not overpowering. This is definitely a sipping beer, and it’ll warm you up on a cold December evening just as well as tumbler of whisky. And at a healthy 9% ABV, it only takes a couple to leave you feeling nice and mellow.