Brew Review: Red Hook's Tripel Belgian-Style Ale

I'm a sucker for limited time offers. Given the choice, I'll always take first edition books. Even though I consider Game Stop to be a video game company bent on the destruction of the planet, I'll preorder the latest title if I know it'll come with some freebies. But limited edition beer offers something better than swag and resale value: the ability to say in all honesty that you tried that beer that is no longer available.

Yes! I drank it. It was delicious. Pity you won't be having any. Ha ha!

Undoubtedly you've figured out that this week's Brew Review is a limited edition beer. Rest assured that I'm not evil enough (or am I) to try a brew that won't be made available to you, dear readers. Nope, this week's Belgian-Style Tripel from Red Hook is, despite being a member of the limited release series, hanging out at specialty food stores and even on draught at certain bars until it's all gone.

But is this brew worth the hype or should you actively try to miss out?

Tastes: Tripel's bottle would have you believe it contains "subtle hints of vanilla, clove and cinnamon." I tasted the clove and cinnamon to be sure, but any notes of vanilla were buried in the unstoppably strong alcohol flavor. With 10.2% alcohol volume, I would expect a robust taste, but this, as one of my fellow reviewers put it, is like someone spilled their beer in my rubbing alcohol.

I got mine: in the mail. I have to tell you that writing those three words never gets old. I've been hunting around Valley liquor stores to locate where this concoction is available and I'm sad to report that my search has been fruitless. If you do find it, expect a 22 oz. bottle to run you about $8.

Goes with: Red Hook recommends sipping Tripel while eating "sharp cheeses, olives, smoked pork, salmon and bittersweet dark chocolate." In general, I completely agree, but I have one question: who eats chocolate while drinking beer? Honestly! Who are these people who think themselves so bad ass that when they're eating some specialty chocolate they think "I could really go for a strong beer right about now?" If you're one of these people, please invite me to train under you. I also would like to wrestle grizzly bears and catch bullets in my teeth.

Verdict: Red Hook makes many great beers. With some refining this might become one of them some day. For now, give it a try yourself but be prepared for the overpowering alcohol flavor.

Happy drinking!

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Jonathan McNamara