The Belgian Tripel

What is a Tripel: Although the origin of the term Tripel (not triple) is unknown, the term is said to have originated in the “Low Countries” of Belgium and the Netherlands. One Belgian Ale - 2014 - Labelstory says that the Belgian ales brewed in various Trappist monasteries were marked with the letter X to indicate the alcohol content. The more Xs, the stronger the ale. A tripel (XXX) is generally a Belgian style ale with an alcohol content of 8% or better. Other styles in the category are called Dubbel (XX) and Quadrupel (XXXX). A single X is simply called a Belgian Ale. Each type is qualified as Belgian Ale with complex flavors that will please all who seek it.

History of the Westmalle Tripel: First brewed in 1934 in Westmalle Abbey, the Westmalle Tripel is clear and golden yellow. The ale Belgian Ale - 2014 - Westmalle undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle reaching a final A.B.V. of 9.5%. As the Westmalle web site states, “It is a complex beer with a fruity aroma and a nice nuanced hop scent. It is soft and creamy in the mouth, with a bitter touch carried by the fruity aroma. An exceptional beer, with a great deal of finesse and elegance. And with a splendid long aftertaste.”

Why brew a Belgian Tripel: I decided to take on the task of brewing a Belgian Tripel last year when I picked up a book on cloning beer. The book contained a number of recipes with various Belgian styles. The recipe that intrigued me most was the Westmalle Tripel. Mostly because this tripel is considered the “mother of all tripels.”

The Ingredients: Not a cheap beer, the ingredients listed on the right and displayedBelgian Ale - 2014 - Recipe here cost about $100. A Belgian Golden Candi Sugar was Belgian Ale - 2014 - Ingredientssubstituted for the Clear Candi Sugar as clear was not available. This produces a more golden ale as opposed to a lighter blond ale; but the flavor remains as expected. Other ingredients include 9 pounds of dry malt extract, Belgian Rock Candi, and four different kinds of hops.

Cleaning and Sterilization: The first and most important step in the brewing process is cleaning and sterilization. All of the equipment, including brew pot, fermentation tank, spoons, etc… must be clean and sterilized. I use a no-rinse agent containing Sodium Percarbonate. This step should not be rushed or bypassed. Without sterilization, bacteria or fungi could infect the wort and distort the beer flavor. Sterilization must occur not only when brewing; but when racking to the secondary fermenter and when bottling.

Steeping the Grains: The recipe calls for 4 ounces of Belgian aromatic malt.Belgian Ale - 2014 - Steeping Belgian Ale - 2014 - Steeping Pot This small amount of kilned barley malt gives the tripel a strong, aggressive malt aroma and rich color. Only a small amount is needed to provide the full rich flavor desired. The grains are steeped for 20 minutes in ½ gallon of water at 150oF. After this, the grains are sparged using another ½ gallon of water. An additional ½ gallon of water is added to a volume of 1 ½ gallons. This mixture, called wort, is brought to a boil.


Adding the Sugars: The sugars are the primary food used by the yeast to make alcohol. Belgian Ale - 2014 - SugarsThe type of sugar also contributes to the color and overall flavor of this ale. 9 pounds of light DME help to produce over 9% alcohol by volume while keeping the color light. 1 ½ pounds of liquid Belgian Candi Sugar produces a golden color that is indicative of the Belgian tripel. Once all of the sugars are dissolved, 1 ½ ounces of Styrian Goldings hops are added to produce a mild bittering flavor. Before going any farther in the process, 4 cups of wort must be removed from the mixture.

Caramelization: Caramelization is the process where a significant amount of the water in the wort is boiled away.Belgian Ale - 2014 - Caramelization Caramelization causes the sugar crystals to oxidize, thus deepening the color and producing a nutty toffee like flavor. The process is not only time consuming; but requires constant and complete attention. 4 cups of wort are heated and boiled, while constantly stirring to prevent boil over and scorching. Once the mixture is sufficiently caramelized, it is added back to the wort.

Boiling and Flavoring Hops: Once the caramelized wort is mixed back into the original wort, more water is added to bring the full volume Belgian Ale - 2014 - Boil #1up to 3 ½ gallons. This is brought to a boil and boiled for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, it is time to add the various flavor hops. ¼ ounce Hallertau and ¼ ounce Tettnanger. Belgian Ale - 2014 - Flavor HopsAt this time, adding 1 teaspoon of Irish moss will help to clarify the ale. This is boiled for another 10 minutes before adding ½ ounce of Czech Saaz aroma hop. After 5 more minutes of boiling, the brewing process is complete.



Cooling the Wort: Before the wort can be added to the fermentation tank, it must be cooled. Hot wort could potentially crack a glass carboy and will kill any yeast. The brew pot is placed in a sink or tub with cold water and ice. This water must not be added to the wort. After cooling the wort for 15 minutes, the wort is strained through sanitized cheese cloth to remove the leafy hops from the mixture. The strained wort is added to the fermentation carboy and cold clean water is added to the mixture to a volume of 5 gallons. The wort must now cool until it is below 80oF.

Belgian Ale - 2014 - CoolingCooling Wort            Waste Hops                  Finished Wort

Original Specific Gravity: Once the wort is in theBelgian Ale - 2014 - Specific Gravity primary fermentation tank, now is a good timeBelgian Ale - 2014 - Hydrometer to check the density of the wort. This provides a preliminary indication of how much alcohol might be produced during fermentation. This ale registered 1.09 units of specific gravity. Using a web based tool, this indicated the potential alcohol content to be 10.50%.

Pitching the Yeast: With the wort now below 80oF, it is time to pitch the yeast. Belgian Ale - 2014 - YeastThe term pitch simply means to add yeast to the unfermented wort. As this is a Belgian Tripel, I purchased a Belgian Ale yeast WLP550 (White Labs). WLP550 is a good choice for any Belgian Ale as phenolic and spicy flavors dominate the profile. Phenolic flavors and aromas can be described as cloves or spicy. The yeast is poured directly from the vial into the fermentation tank. The tank must be stirred vigorously in order to properly oxygenate the wort and the yeast.



Fermentation Primary & Secondary: The fermentation process takes two weeks. The yeast Belgian Ale - 2014 - Fermentationshould activate within about 10 hours with the most active fermenting happening over the first 2 days. As this is an ale yeast, it is a top fermenting yeast. This means the yeast floats on the top of the beer and the dead yeast (called trub) collects on the bottom of the tank. The yeast produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide and foam. Great care must be taken as the fermentation lock may clog with yeast and other matter. This may result in the lock blowing off. Fermentation settles down after 5 days and may appear to stop completely. After a week the beer is racked into a secondary fermentation tank. Another vigorous stir causes the yeast to once again activate. Temperature is key. A temperature of 70oF must be maintained throughout the entire two weeks.

Cleaning the Bottling: Bottling day starts with cleaning and sanitizing the Belgian Ale - 2014 - Cleaning Bottlesbottles. Every bottle must be cleaned, scrubbed, and sanitized inside and out. If anything is left in the bottles, this will spoil the beer contained in the bottle. The bottle caps must also be sanitized at this time.



Final Specific Gravity: Bottling day is an exciting day. It is at this time when the final specific gravity is read and the ale’s overall alcohol content is determined. The final gravity for the Belgian tripel read as 1.02, thus yielding an alcohol by volume of 9.21%.

Racking the Beer: The secondary fermenter has sediment thatBelgian Ale - 2014 - Racking should not be siphoned into the bottles. In order to limit the amount of trub getting into the final bottles it is necessary to rack the ale one last time.

Priming Sugar: In order for the ale to properly carbonate, a small amount of sugar must be added to the beer. Belgian Ale - 2014 - Priming SugarThis recipe calls for 1/3 cup of cane sugar and 1/3 cup of Belgian Rock Candi sugar. A small amount of ale is extracted during the final racking into a small sauce pan and heated to dissolve this additional sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, this must be cooled and added back to the beer. Another vigorous stir of the bottle ensures the priming sugar is properly mixed into the beer.

Bottling: The beer is siphoned in to each bottle using a sanitized siphonBelgian Ale - 2014 - Bottling hose with bottling attachment. The bottling attachment has a spring activated valve that only fills the bottle when the tool is pressed to the bottom of the bottle. This causes each bottle to fill from the bottom thus eliminating foam and allowing for better control filling the bottles.


Different bottle different flavor: It should also be noted that Westmalle is normally served in 330ml (just under 12 ounces) bottles. The Westmalle Abbey indicated that the tripel is also available in 750ml bottles (just over 25 ounces). They note that “It is remarkable that the beer matures differently in these larger bottles. The fruity aroma is somewhat softer and riper, and the beer gets a light touch of vanilla.” With this in mind, I decided to bottle my tripel in both 12oz and 750ml bottles.

Labeling and dressing the bottles: A Belgian Tripel deserves to be dressed up and labelled accordingly. The label is designed to pay homage to Belgian royalty. Each bottle is topped with gold foil with the Carey Crest adorns the top. The label has a gold and black tartan as the background border. The Carey Crest can be found in two different spots on the label. The dates of brewing and bottling are also indicated along with the percent alcohol an bittering units.

Belgian Ale - 2014 - Labelled Bottle Belgian Ale - 2014 - Labelled Bottle CapBelgian Ale - 2014 - Labelled Bottles 

Aging: A Belgian requires a lot of patience. Once the ale is bottled, it has not finished fermenting. The fermentation process will carbonate the ale, add a small additional amount of alcohol, and change the flavor. This ale is meant to age in a cellar for at least 6 months before it may be enjoyed. The aging process will bring out the full body of the spice flavor produced by the yeast. The longer this ages, the better it will be.

Final Thoughts: I did not brew this ale because I wanted something to drink immediately. It took a few months to decide what beer to brew. As a result, this recipe quickly stood out. First because of the technical complexity of the process and the flavors. Second because this ale is designed for long term aging. Unlike most beers, I hope to enjoy this specific brewing project for years to come.Dan Brewing


God is Great, Beer is Good, People are Crazy

God is Great, Beer is Good, People are CrazyCountry singer Billy Currington sings a song titled, “People are Crazy.”  The chorus of the song is the line, “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.”  Currington declares three profound truths.  The first is that God is great.  That has to be set at the outset for as God is the creator of all that exists, He is over all.  Thus His greatness must be declared.  Lastly he states that people are crazy.  This has been the forgone conclusion since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. But the middle truth has been much debated ever since man first discovered that mashed grains combined with yeast will ferment into a potent liquid suitable for warming the body and soothing the spirit. The question of whether or not beer is good leads to the question is all beer good?  The search for good beer along with a well meaning Christmas gift eventually led me to begin brewing my own home craft beer. This site is dedicated to that search and to all who are not satisfied with the mass produced bland liquid sold in stores today as beer.

The Mr. Beer Brewing System

It was Christmas 2005 when a friend of mine, Pat O’Toole, presented me with a Mr. Beer kit.  I was quite surprised.  I had never thought about brewing my own beer.  I had for some time been searching for unique and different flavors in brewed malt beverage.  I’d explored the various mass produced beers; but these all seemed bland with the exception of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Yuengling Lager.  These two beers are fine with pizza or a hamburger; but what I had been searching for was something crafted with unique flavor and aroma.  Now there are a number of local establishments where one may purchase fine crafted beer.  These are all quite good; but I never seemed satisfied. 

Seeing my search progress, Pat recognized the solution to my problem.  He realized what I was really looking for was more a journey than a finish.  How better to solve the problem than by providing me with the means to make the trip?  Pat discovered that with relative ease and little knowledge of the process, anyone can brew their own beer.  Thus he introduced me to Mr. Beer and my first kit, a Nut Brown Ale.

It’s true; anyone can make beer with a Mr. Beer kit.  The kit contained a two gallon plastic fermentation keg, a pre-hopped can of malt, a boosting agent (sugar), dry yeast, sanitizer, and a dozen bottle caps along with instructions.  The key to the process is cleanliness. Everything from the keg to the bottles, to the spoons used to stir and cups to measure must be absolutely sanitized.  If you miss that one small detail what you produce will not be called beer; but cider (more on that some other time).  It only took two hours to brew and a week to ferment.  Carbonating the beer is solved by adding a half teaspoon of sugar to each bottle of beer when it is bottled.  That’s all there is to making home brewed beer with Mr. Beer.

My first beer was ready to drink about two weeks after Christmas.  It was dark in color with a light malt flavor; but not much hop to it.  Regardless, I enjoyed drinking a beer I had made with my own hand.  I quickly went out and found a local hardware store that sold Mr. Beer supplies and purchased two more kits, an I.P.A. and a German lager.  After two months, along with three batches of beer, the challenge was gone.  Was this all there was to making home brew?  Not by a long shot.

Graduating to Bigger and Better Kits

Every Saturday morning I have breakfast with my twin brother, David.   Many years ago, David brewed beer in his basement.  He also made wine.  Over time he stopped making beer; but held on to all of his equipment.   Shortly after I received the Mr. Beer kit, I told David about my new hobby.   He indicated he no longer needed the beer making supplies and would show me where I could purchase more significant beer making ingredients than Mr. Beer offers.  With this new equipment, not only did I have the ability to make larger batches; but I also had the tools to determine the average alcoholic content of each batch.  All I needed were the ingredients and I would be brewing real home brew beer.

One Saturday morning, David suggested we take a road trip to a little store where he purchased his wine making supplies.  After a short drive down the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Bethlehem Pennsylvania, we were in a wine and beer making supply store.  There I purchased the ingredients to make my first five gallon batch of Irish Stout beer.  Over the next five months, I produced an American Pilsner, Scottish Ale, English I.P.A., and Steam Style Lager. 

Be the end of the summer, I had five cases of home crafted beer ready to share with my friends.  That was the beginning of a hobby that has produced many hours of enjoyment for me as I seek to produce new and different flavors in beer. 

Over the past five years I have used the same basic equipment to brew beer.  I have read numerous books on home brewing; but prefer to keep to the various home brew kits that are available at local home brewing stores.  Occasionally I will add an ingredient or modify a recipe to develop a different flavor.  Through this site, I hope to share with you my experience as a kit home brewer.  Please pour yourself a beer and join me as we explore what will come out of the Copper Brew Kettle.


Carey’s Jekyll and Hyde Scotch Ale

Scotch Ale

Jekyll and Hyde is a traditional Scotch Ale with the addition of a small amount of mulling spices to give the flavor a punch.  Perfect for these cold winter evenings, Jekyll and Hyde is meant to be enjoyed slowly by your fire.  Brewed around the birthday of Robert Lewis Stevenson, author of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this beer is aptly named as it will exhibit different flavors and personalities as it ages through the long winter months.


Remembering the Beers of 2009

Extra Special Bitter, commonly known as ESB, represents the best of English bitters. Despite the name they are not very bitter, although tradition records them as more bitter than standard pale ales. This Bonfire Bitter pays tribute to Best Bitters with malts giving a bronze hue and a sweet biscuit aroma. Fermented with Thames Valley yeast, this beer remains true to style while minimizing the fruitiness, buttery slickness, and esters common in some bitters.

Brewed over an open fire on November 5, 2009, this beer contains Muntons Extra Light Malt Extract, Munton & Fison Crystal Malt, and Briess Victory Malt, and Phoenix hops for bittering and Kent Goldings hops for finishing.  With an original specific gravity of 1.05  and a specific gravity of 1.01 at bottling on November 21, 2009, this beer contains 5.5% alcohol by volume.

In the tradition of a fine English Bitter, this beer is best served between 50° and 55°.

Capture the spirit beating of the California Gold Rush with this hearty lager reminiscent of the California Steam beers of the 19th century.

Unlike traditional lager, California Lager is an unrefrigerated lager beer, as has been brewed on the West Coast for over 100 years.  Yeast flavors mix with the hearty malt and hop flavors to give this California Lager a robust, almost ale-like character.

Brewed on August 22, 2009, this beer was crafted with 7 lbs. of blended malt extract, Northern Brewer and other hop. Measured with an original specific gravity of 1.07, this beer contains 6.3% alcohol by volume.  At bottling on September 5, 2000, this beer measured a specific gravity of 1.02.

To best experience this beer in the tradition of California Lager, this beer should be served at or near room temperature.  For a less traditional experience, lower temperatures of 40° to 50° may be acceptable.

Strong and spicy golden ale, made with authentic Belgian Candy Sugar, balanced with Czech and Slovenian hops and fermented with a Belgian Yeast.  It’s like a perfect evening in Brussels.

Brewed on June 20, 2009, this beer contains Munton’s® Light Malt Extract, pale grain malt, Northern Brewer and Styrian Goldings hops for bittering and Czech Saaz hops for finishing.  With an original specific gravity of 1.09, this beer measured a specific gravity of 1.02 at bottling on June 27, 2009.  A very potent brew, this beer contains 9.1% alcohol by volume.

To experience the true flavor of Belgium, this beer is best served between 40° and 50° with a slice of orange.

IPA is short for India Pale Ale.  IPAs were first brewed in England during the 18th century with light or “pale” malt, hence the name pale ale.  This style of beer was very popular with English soldiers serving in India.  Thus the name IPA is derived from the transport of these highly hopped pale ales to India. 

This new American classic serves it up big time with a massive floral aroma and malt flavor.

Brewed April 6, 2009, this beer was enhanced with Centennial, Willamette, Amarillo, and Cascade hops for a total of 7 ounces of hops.  An original specific gravity of 1.09 fermented to a specific gravity of 1.02 yielding 9.24% alcohol content by volume when bottled on April 20, 2009.

This beer is best served between 50° and 55° to best experience the aroma of the hops. 

Remembering The Beers of 2007 and 2008

 Red Penny Ale was a red ale brewed to for St. Patrick’s Day.   


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The Goober Pea Pilsner and Battle of Gettysburg Stout were brewed to compliment one another as a black and tan.  Either beer is fine alone; but together as a black and tan they tickled the tongue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   St. George Dragon Slayer was a traditional English Bitter while Blue Coal Miner was a Dark Wheat, so dark it looked black as coal.

Remembering Old But Good Home Brews from 2006

 Irish Stout

This full-bodied Irish Stout is brewed using a Mountmellick® all malt extract with roasted barley extract and hops.  The barley extract contributes a complexity and dark head characteristic of traditional Irish Stout.

Brewed on April 8, 2006, this beer was enhanced with an additional three pounds of caramelized malt extract to produce an original specific gravity of 1.07 (85°).  Bottled on April 18, 2006 and measuring a specific gravity of 1.02 (70°) this beverage measures 6% alcohol content by volume.

In the tradition of all Irish Stouts, this brew is best when served between 50° and 55°.  This will bring out the full aroma and soften the bite of the hops to the palette.  




 English I.P.A.

Capture the spirit beating at the heart of England with this English IPA.  This classic English Pale Ale has full depth of malt flavor and hop bite of the original brews that left the shores of England for India over 100 years ago – and full strength to last the journey.

Brewed on May 6, 2006, this beer is a “beer worth fighting for,” brewed using EDME® IPA hopped malt extract and Fuggle hops for finishing.  Measured with an original specific gravity of 1.055 (89°), this beer contains 6.65% alcohol by volume.  At bottling on May 14, 2006, this beer measured a specific gravity of 1.005 (62°).

To best experience the aroma of the hops, this beer is best served between 50° and 55°.  For a less aromatic experience, lower temperatures may be acceptable.


 Scottish Ale

Auburn earthy aromas of peat smoked malt and heather precede each sip of this thick beer.  Scottish yeast accents the sweetness of the malt and adds its own subtle smokiness.  As this beer ages, time will make it a mysteriously complex beer with many delicious but difficult-to-name flavors.

Brewed on May 17, 2006, this beer contains Alexander’s® Pale Malt Extract, cracked grains, Simpson’s® Peat Smoked Malt, Kent Goldings hops (bittering), Heather Tips (spice), and Fuggle hops (finishing).  With an original specific gravity of 1.0825 (70°), this beer measured a specific gravity of 1.0275 (68°) at bottling on May 25, 2006.  A very potent brew, this beer contains 7.21% alcohol by volume.

This beer is best served between 45° and 50°

 American Pilsner

Brewed in the tradition of America’s number one selling beers, this pilsner is the product of an all malt beer kit from True Brew®.

Brewed on June 2, 2006, this beer contains both liquid and dry malts.  Enhanced with palletized bittering hops and finishing leaf hops, this beverage measured an original specific gravity of 1.04 (96°).  When bottled on June 16, 2006 this beer measured a specific gravity of 1.005 (71°), producing a beverage with 4.72% alcohol content by volume.

In the tradition of America’s finest pilsners, this beer is best served cold.




 Pennsylvania Steam Lager

Steam Beer’s exact history is unknown; but the name seems to hearken back to steam-powered California of the 1800s.  Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, who brews the official “Steam” Beer, now owns the style.  This beer uses similar yeast to produce a warm-fermented lager with malty sweetness balanced with clean bittering hops.

Brewed on July 5, 2006, this beer contains Alexander’s® Pale Malt Extract, cracked grains, and Northern Brewer hops (bittering/finishing).  With an original specific gravity of 1.07 (81°), this beer measured a specific gravity of 1.0175 (70°) at bottling on July 15, 2006.  This beer contains 6.9% alcohol by volume.

Like an IPA, this beer is best served between 50° and 55° to best experience the aroma of the hops.