At first glance, the idea of adding coffee beans to a Belgian-style tripel might not seem like the most amicable marriage of flavors, but as they say, things aren’t always what they seem. Craft brewing is all about experimentation, and with consumers constantly seeking out new tastes it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to see brewers trying out all manner of unusual ingredients.

The ingredient in this case is green coffee beans, which are added to Tripel Cafe from the Southern Tier Brewing Co. Released in November 2014, it’s part of the brewery’s Belgian Style Series, a product line that also includes the beers Grand Arbor, Sonnet and Tier de Garde.

Southern Tier Tripel Cafe bottle

Back to the beans, what’s unusual about them is that they aren’t roasted, so you shouldn’t drink this beer expecting layers of dark roast to intermingle with the complexities of a Belgian tripel. Instead, what they bring to the table is a light coffee-like bitterness which adds something extra to the mix of fruit and spice that form the foundation of the base beer.

As for other ingredients, coriander and orange peel are especially prominent in the aroma, backed by a yeasty element, fresh florals and pinch of peppery spice. There’s not really any hint of the coffee on the nose, but based on how the beans are used that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. As it says right on the label, Tripel Café is an “opportunity to rediscover these ingredients in an uncommon form.”

Flavor-wise, the story stays more or less the same, though the orange peel and pepper intensify a bit into the finish. They, along with the coffee component, come together to generate a moderate and complex bitterness that lingers into what is otherwise a fairly dry aftertaste. There’s a hint of warmth there as well, but that’s the only hint of the beer’s inner strength.

Southern Tier Tripel Cafe

In terms of drinkability, Tripel Cafe is a medium-bodied beer, but the expected bright carbonation lightens things up quite a bit. While I’m not sure I’d label it as smooth, it’s fruity core and brisk palate make for a pleasing pint of beer—or in this case, perhaps, given the shape of the glass and the origin of this website’s name, a tasty tulip of tnmu.

Southern Tier Tripel Cafe
BREWERY: Southern Tier Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Lakewood, N.Y.
STYLE: Belgian tripel
ABV: 8.1 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: n/a
RELEASE DATE: November 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottles
Tripel Cafe is probably best described as a stylistic tripel with a twist. The orange peel and coriander work to enhance the underlying citrus character created by esters from the yeast, while the coffee adds an unexpectedly complimentary component that works for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. The key I think, though, is the strength of the Belgian bones, since the base beer itself is well-executed to begin with. Either way, the flavors all come together to create an interesting and enjoyable brew that I would certainly have again.
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