Writing about Duvel yesterday, I got so many suggestions for trying Belgian Tripels. While I do love the style (serve me a Tripel Karmeliet any day!), I still prefer Belgian Golden Strongs because a few differences between the styles.
If you’re trying to memorize the difference in the style (I see you future Cicerone!) you can just remember four main things about the two styles.
Tripels are a touch darker in color (officially 4.5-7 SRM according to the BJCP) and lean toward a deep golden color. Another giveaway for a Tripel is that it may have a slight haze or cloudiness to it. This haze is created by grains used in the beer.
Belgian Golden Strongs are lighter in color (3-6 SRM) and are usually brilliantly clear, especially the archetype of the style, Duvel. These sparkling clear beers are very pale (like straw) to a light golden color.
Aroma & Flavor
Both of these golden colored Belgian styles are balanced toward yeast character. Because the yeast flavors are so dominate it leaves notes from the hops and malt playing a secondary role. Therefore, the difference between Belgian Golden Strong and Tripel is a variation in yeast expression.
Tripels tend to have more of the white pepper, cardamom, or cinnamon spice phenolics produced by Belgian yeast. Golden Strongs tend to lean on the ester side of the spectrum with more green apple or lemon peel characteristics. The
Overall Differences Between Belgian Golden Strong and Belgian Tripel
In summary, Belgian Tripels are slightly darker in color and may be a bit hazy, heavier in mouthfeel, have a more phenolic aroma, and are lower in alcohol. While Belgian Golden Strongs are paler in color, lighter in mouthfeel, have a cleaner aroma profile accented by esters, and have more alcohol.
The spicy phenols in a Tripel are slightly more prominent than the fruity esters in the aroma. While the Belgian golden strong is the opposite, with slightly fruity esters just edging out spiciness.
Everything else about the styles is almost identical, a thick white head, roughly 20-40 IBUs, I could go on.
The easiest way to identify a Belgian Golden Strong is an active pillar of carbonation from the bottom of the glass to the head. When identifying a Tripel, a slightly chewy mouthfeel and a flavor that approaches sweetness are the tell tale signs.