Chimay Cinq Cents Triple (1 x 33 cl)
approx. 5 – 7 days
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Abbey beers are brewed in Belgian monasteries and sometimes outside them but always under licence and according to the traditional monastery recipe. The abbey – as long as it still exists – remains the recipe owner and gives the top-fermented beer its name. This means beers can be named after municipalities, churches, ancient ruins and even saints. At the moment, there are about 70 different abbey beer brands on the market. Alcohol content varies dramatically in this category, with a double or «Dubbel» boasting 6% alcohol per volume (abv) and a triple or «Tripel» containing 7 – 10.5 %.
Trappist beers are special types of abbey beers. As of 2014, there were only 11 Trappist breweries around. Interestingly, monastic beer can only use the Trappist name and bear the International Trappist Association quality label if it is brewed by Trappist monks in a Trappist monastery or right next to a monastery. These kinds of beers are not subject to Germany’s beer purity law. That’s why Tre Fontane beer is able to contain eucalyptus aromas, Rochefort is brewed with added sugar and the beer from the Engelszell monastery has honey in it. The proceeds from these beers have to go to social action projects. The money generated is used to cover beer production costs and the remainder is donated to charitable work.
At 6 – 12%, the alcohol content of Trappist beers is on the higher end of the abbey beer scale. At the time of writing, there are roughly 27 types of Trappist beers available. Those designated «Bière Trappiste» are subject to strict criteria. As well as being top-fermented, they have to be bottle-matured. In terms of taste, they are mostly sweet and strong in flavour, but you can also get beers in this category with dry notes.
We have the Latin saying «liquida non frangunt ieiunium» – in English «liquid does not break the fast» – to thank for these two types of beer.
Amber ale is the catch-all term for beers with that typical amber-like colour. It is brewed using top-fermented yeast, hops, mostly dark malt, water and occasionally herbs. This kind of beer also goes by the name of «Grut» ale, which derives from the old German for herbs. As far as taste goes, Amber ale’s malt and caramelly notes are closest in flavour to an English pale ale.
Red ale is also brewed with top-fermented yeast, but everything else that goes into the drink is hard to define. This is because the name of the beer reflects more the colour than its taste. What is for certain, though, is that you can tell the difference between the Irish-style red ale and the American version.
Irish red ale has a light red to brown colour, which is the result of caramel malts. In spite of this, the beer usually only has a light to medium malt sweetness. Irish red ales is are hopped to at most a medium hop bitterness, while American red ales mostly use North American hop varieties. These can lend a medium hop flavour. Some American red ales also have a noticeable malt body. But characteristics can vary from brewery to brewery. The alcohol content ranges from 4.5 – 7.0%.
The hop variety is instrumental in determining the beer’s flavour
Golden ale, also known as blonde ale, is a light, top-fermented beer. The brewing style is based on that used for pale ales as well as German Kölsch. The alcohol in golden ale barely affects the flavour of the beer. While the hop aroma is perceptible, the taste is more of a malt sweetness and isn’t bitter. It is this malt content that provides hints of sweetness. Meanwhile, the esters present in the fermentation process can lend golden ale mild fruity notes. The alcohol content is around 4 – 5%.
Pilsner beer is more of a brewing style than a type of beer. It is bottom-fermented and has a higher hops content than traditional european lager. What sets Pilsner apart is the fact that only very light malt is used in an incredibly slow fermentation process at low temperatures. As a result, Pilsner has a round, pleasant character, in spite of the high hops content. In Switzerland, Pilsner is thought to be special because it can only bear the Pilsner name and label if it has come from the city of Pilsen, according to a contract signed with the Czech Republic. Pilsner is typically a light, golden beer. Consequently, it would be very rare to find a dark Pilsner that had been brewed with dark malt.
Pilsner is the most popular beer in Switzerland. A distinct hops aroma characterises this moderately bitter, smooth beer that goes down easily. Variants on this type of lager were born out of the Pilsner brewing style. In fact, Pilsner gave rise to low-alcohol beer, dark lager, wood-aged beer as well as alcohol-free beer.
This top-fermented beer is the result of spontaneous fermentation, and no additional flavourings are added to the yeast. As the wort is stored uncovered, yeast can be introduced through the air. Before people knew more about the effects of yeast, all beers were self-fermented. In other words, Lambic stems from the oldest known fermentation method. The beer was traditionally produced in wooden barrels and was almost completely non-carbonated. It has a sharp, tangy flavour and a powerful, earthy taste. Lambic is slightly reminiscent of cider. Some beer lovers welcome a different flavour and experience, but for others, Lambic is a bit too heavy on the fruit. The acidity is certainly pretty high. If that sounds your cup of tea (or rather, pint of beer), Lambic also do fruit beers that are fermented with fruits such as cherries, raspberries and peaches.
Lambic beer can also be used to make Gueuze beer. In terms of flavour, Gueuze and Lambic are worlds apart. Gueuze is the result of storing a blend of young and old Lambic for a long period of time. This is what gives the beer its characteristic acidic taste, which isn’t a far cry from the flavour of champagne.
Malt – one of the main ingredients in beer
Pale ale is a general term for an English bitter beer that has been top-fermented and usually bottle-matured. Beer in this form often has slightly more original wort and a better overall quality than a comparable bitter. As a general rule, pale ale contains a special, bronze-coloured malt. One variety of pale is India Pale Ale, which you may know as IPA.
IPA was first brewed in the 19th century at a time when India was still a British colony. To enable expats to drink beer while they were over there, lager was shipped out to India. But because of the long crossing, the beer often ended up going bad. They had to find a way to make the beer last. The solution was to brew with lots of hops and alcohol. As soon as the beer reached India, it was then thinned 1:1 with water.
Modern IPA is no longer thinned, but the higher alcohol and original wort content still remains and is combined with a powerful bitter note and a strong hops flavour. Many breweries give their IPAs a unique flavour by adding special ingredients.
Strong ale is a name you could give to almost any beer that has a high original wort content. As you may know, the more original wort the beer contains, the more intense and full-bodied the flavour. Not surprisingly then, beers labelled strong ales tend to be full-bodied, aromatic and have a high alcohol content. They can be top- or bottom-fermented.
A Tripel is also known for its high original wort content. Strong brewing means the alcohol content in these beers is also fairly high – usually somewhere between 8 and 10%. This is made possible by large amounts of malt in the wort and the use of alcohol-tolerant yeast. Visually, the foam on a Tripel is appealing, and it gives a stable head.
The origin of the name Tripel is still unknown, but it is unlikely to mean ingredients have been tripled. be traced back to the time when beers were verdreifacht wurden. Flavour-wise, Tripels tend to be dominated by a malty body that is rounded off with light fruity notes. Because of the high alcohol content, the taste would have to be described as intense. The malty sweetness and richness of the alcohol balance the taste of the Tripel. Herbs such as coriander are often added during the brewing process to give additional flavour. This combination makes the Tripel the perfect beer for the cold season.
Stout and porter are top-fermented beers that are usually dark in colour with a creamy head. Roasted malt gives the beer an almost black colour and accentuates the malt notes. Within the stout category, you’ll find a variety of different flavours and alcohol types.
Porter, for example, gets its name from the workers (porters) on the London docks who liked to drink the beer after work. At that time, the beer was identical to stout. Nowadays, porter has a lighter flavour. Most porter beers are malty and sweet in a caramelly way. This is followed by a dryer, distinct roasted taste, rounded off with hop bitterness.
Wheat beer is always top-fermented and has at least 50% wheat malt content. The term wheat beer encompases a variety of different beers. For instance, a wheat beer could be banana-flavoured, have clove notes or taste of nutmeg or vanilla. They’re all part of the same family of beers. Dark wheat beers can also have hints of malt and chocolate or roasted aromas. This medium to full-bodied group of beers has an average alcohol content of 4 – 5.5%.
The hops aroma in most wheat beers is almost undetectable. However, some experimental wheat beers are brewed with a distinct hops aroma, which is reminiscent of an IPA.
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