An Apology to Trappist Westmalle Tripel

I made a spontaneous decision to head to Pivo in Ortigas Home Depot before going home one night, craving for a stout, but “settling” for a Westmalle Tripel.

Poured most of the 330ml bottle into a large red wine glass for lack of an available chalice. The bar was too dark, and I could hardly see what I was drinking, much less take a photo with my neolithic Blackberry. This had the most impressive crown of tall bubbly foam I’ve ever seen on a beer. I wish I had a camera with a good macro lens to capture the detail. The nose was strikingly alcohol-heavy, with yeast and spice. Flavor-wise, it was yeasty and grassy at first. Lemon and corn and more yeast come in as it warms and opens up. It was both heavily carbonated and full-bodied. The finish was bitter, but not from the American hops I’m more used to, with more alcohol making itself felt. I could recognize the Westmalle Tripel’s complexity, but I couldn’t quite distinguish the flavors and therefore really appreciate it. Plus, I had a bit of a cold at the time, which affected my senses no doubt.

I need to start going back to the Belgians more. I’ve neglected them for quite some time, and I actually feel guilty for not being able to enjoy these last two I had (the other being an Orval) despite the worldwide consensus as to their impeccable quality. The Trappist beers are at their optimum when drunk at around 12-13 degrees Celsius. I think the ones I had were close to 4-5 degrees. Blame Philippine bars for not knowing how to serve their beers, but more importantly, blame me for being too impatient. I enjoyed these last two beers over the span of an hour each, and I probably should have nursed them for much longer than that to give them time to warm up.

Given all these horrible sensory conditions (not all of them my fault), I’m not posting this review on Beer Advocate in order to be fair to this heavyweight. When going to Pivo, though, I do suggest it better fits a night out with friends where you absolutely have to have good beer while they sip their cocktails and Jack & Cokes. If you’re having beer there, they do have a decent selection of quality beers, particularly from Germany, Belgium and the US, but I’d suggest you stick to brews that work well in pint glasses or mugs.

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