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Belgian Tripel (For Beginning Homebrewers)

[Photograph: Sarah Postma]

This recipe is designed for the beginning brewer, and is about the same level of difficulty as the Pale Ale or Robust Porter recipes.

The specialty malt used for steeping is Carapils. The extract should be a Pilsner based liquid malt extract, and we will also need Belgian light candy sugar.

I like using a Chimay-syle yeast for this recipe, either Whitelabs WLP500 or Wyeast 1214, since it produces some really strong fruit and spice aromas and a distinct sweet Belgian finish. This recipe also turns out great with the more subdued flavors of the Westmalle yeast, which is Wyeast 3787 or Whitelabs WLP530.

Whichever Belgian yeast you choose, you will need to make a two liter starter 24-48 hours in advance. If you don't have the time or equipment to make a starter, use two packages of yeast to ensure proper fermentation. I do not recommend using any type of dry yeast substitute for Belgian styles of beer.

For purposes of conditioning and clarifying, you will need an additional 5 gallon glass carboy to transfer the beer into after primary fermentation is complete. This step adds a couple weeks to the brewing process, but it allows the complex flavors of the Belgian yeast to fully develop and produces a better looking and tasting homebrew.

As always, the first step to success is proper sanitation. Mix up at least three gallons of sanitizing solution in your sanitizing bucket (either Iodophor or Star San), and sanitize every utensil that comes in contact with the wort after the boil is complete. Before you transfer your wort to the fermentation vessel, pour the sanitizer into the vessel and swirl the sanitizer around so it touches every surface, then pour it back into the sanitizing bucket. There is no need to rinse the sanitizer or foam off of anything you use—there will be no residual flavor and the residue will actually help to keep everything clean.

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