Tripel De Garre is an astonishing beer in many respects. That amazement goes way beyond the contents of the bottle and extends to reasons that aren’t necessarily obvious.
As anyone who has been drinking for any length of time knows, there are several external factors that can influence how one views any given beer. One of the the strongest influencers is nostalgia. Remembering a great visit to a bar or brewery, or a wonderful vacation, or even a particularly fabulous time in one’s life, each have the potential to significantly skew the perception of the liquid in the glass. If you know the hidden gem that is the De Garre bar in Bruges, then you’ll understand that this beer would be especially prone to such sway. I’ve been to Belgium on numerous occasions and it is patently obvious to me and anyone in the same position, that such a skewing of opinion is highly probable in the case of this beer.
When you read the paragraph above I suppose you might conclude that what’s written below – i.e., (spoiler alert) my gushing praise of Tripel De Garre – has fallen foul of that mirage. It hasn’t, I’ve never been to Café Vignettes: De Garre.
The brewery that brews this beer is also an important piece of the story here. Brouwerij Van Steenberge is by no stretch of the imagination a brewery with a reputation for subtlety, grace and delicacy. In fact, arguably their modus operandi is one of bruising encounters with beers such as Piraat and Gulden Draak. Tripel De Garre has all of those gentle attributes in addition to a staggering 11% ABV presence.
The appearance is perfect. It’s not that hard to create a great Tripel color, but the skill required to produce the pour that results here, with the resplendent white, high, thick, creamy head, should not be underestimated. There’s an incredible pineapple and pear fruit in this beer, in other words this is an ester forward beer especially when warm(er). The alcohol is undoubtably a feature, and there’s a slight ‘slickness’ which likely won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s all entirely appropriate for the style. The alcohol is also warming. The typical white pepper spice of a Tripel is not really as big a feature as one might expect, but a drying finish that is more typical completes the picture.
The body, depth of flavor, and overall experience is second to almost none, and I can’t come to any other conclusion that the ester base is what makes the beer stand out. Add the hidden (but present) alcohol, and the sheer depth of this beer, and you have an astonishing – yes astonishing – beer.