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Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
You're not alone if you're thinking: "What the hell is a Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel?!" But isn't it a great name? Let's deconstruct it!
What's in the name?
Houblon Chouffe hails from
), or "Chouffe", which is a small artisanal brewery in The Ardennes Mountains of Achouffe, Belgium. Owner Christian Bauweraerts' favorite style of beer is the Tripel. It's also nod to both traditional English India Pale Ales (IPAs) and the aggressive American Double IPA. And to round things off, "houblon" is French for "hop." As Chouffe puts it: "A unique marriage between the English tradition of IPAs, the American new revolution of Imperial IPAs and the classic Belgian way of brewing."
This past week we had the opportunity of doing a side-by-side tasting of the bottle and draft versions at
The Publick House
in Brookline - known for their killer fresh Belgian beer selection and love for Chouffe beers. Owner David Ciccolo was lucky enough to have the first keg in the area, plus specially made Houblon Chouffe glassware, and we had a special preview bottle thanks to importer, B. United (
). The three of us also visited
Chouffe in 2004
, so this was a perfect opportunity to try this new and unique beer!
Hops, hops and more hops!
First up, the draft. It poured tough to begin with. A lot of foam, but after a dozen pours it began to settle quite nicely. Due to the crazy hop usage, there's a lot of hop proteins in suspension, which probably agitated things when poured from draft. To boot, the amount of hops in the beer, which is unfiltered, unpasteurized and bottle-conditioned, also gives the beer's pale, golden straw color a natural cloudy appearance and massive, thick, creamy, chunky and sticky head that lasts until the end- hops acting as a foam stabilizer, too. Hops used were: Tomahawk in the kettle for bitterness, Saaz (mild, spicy) at the end of the boil for aroma, and then the beer was dry-hopped with Amarillo (floral, citrus, aspirin) for more aroma and finish. Bitterness was 59IBU (International Bittering Units), but as the beer was conditioned in the bottle and keg, the active yeast brought this down to 45IBU.
The final hop impact on aroma was surprisingly subtle, and incredibly pleasing, with a delicate citrus floral and fruity perfume that played with the nose. Flavor-wise, the beer is extremely smooth and creamy on the palate with an even and full body. As the hops hit the taste buds, it runs a bit coarse, with hop tannins, floral, citric, slight aspirin, mild spiciness, and a soft twang of rind that sticks to the palate and hangs in there for quite a while. This segues into pronounced esters and suggestions of sweet blood oranges that meld with a balanced malty sweetness, with grainy and bready notes from Pale and Pilsner malts. As for the bottled version, it was noticeably maltier, sweeter, with more grainy characters. Balance and refinement were pronounced, along with the carbonation due to a variation of CO2 levels between the bottle and keg; the keg version being lower so that publicans can actually pour the beer. The 9 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) in both was well hidden.
Extreme or not extreme?
Despite its name, to the experienced American Double IPA palate it might not be as bitter as hoped. However, any lack of bitterness is made up for with a complex hop flavor and an increase in perceived bitterness due to a dryness obtained from "Burtonization" of the brewing water - a common addition of brewing salts and minerals, such as calcium sulfate. That said, it's still very "hoppy," and much more than attempts by other Belgian breweries. Example: considered "bitter" by Belgian standards, Orval - Trappist Ale was tested against Houblon Chouffe by Bauweraerts, with some help from his production friends at Brassarie d'Orval. Tests showed that it was 50 percent more bitter than Orval.
Now for most Belgian beer lovers, the use of hops in beers like Houblon Chouffe is most untraditional, controversial, off the charts and extreme! Bauweraerts admitted, "From the start we were aware that we will 'fight' an uphill battle against everyone who follows 'conventional wisdom' and others who love to think in 'pure categories'," and that he fully expects comments such as "this is way too bitter for a Tripel ... estery notes do not belong in an IPA ... what is this, can't they make up their mind?"
To these naysayers, we say that
Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
is an amazing blend of brewing cultures that has inspired an outrageously delicious and artfully balanced beer which has captured not only what hops can do for a beer both technically and flavor-wise, but also pleases both palate and soul. Get over it, and get some!
750ml bottles and draft are available now at select beer stores and bars, but are extremely limited in availability. But don't worry if you miss this round, Bauweraerts mentioned that they're working on a second batch; release date to follow.
Vive la Chouffe!
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