I was under the impression that tripel beer is supposed to be fermented inside the bottle.

From time to time I come across beers that are tripel but on tap. There is a substantial difference in taste I noticed. In my opinion, tripel beers that are served bottled are way better than the same tripel beer on tap. How and why do companies serve tripel beers on tap while they lack taste and they aren't really fermented further inside the bottle?

Do they just bottle them and put them in kegs at the same time so the beer that is bottled actually ferments more or do they keep the beer for the kegs fermenting longer and then put it in kegs?

  • 2
    Nothing says they have to be bottle conditioned... You can also do it in the keg. Chimay does this – Wayne In Yak Oct 2 '14 at 15:41
  • Exactly, Chimay does this as well. I didn't know the fermentation process could continue inside the keg. In the end it sounds logical. Still, the taste is so different on triple beer that is bottled and inside a keg... – Valentin Grégoire Oct 3 '14 at 9:51
  • Are you talking about the same beer in bottles and kegs? The only difference in process that comes to mind is forced carbonation on kegs as opposed to natural on bottles (not that it couldn't be natural on kegs also) – Cleber Goncalves Oct 9 '14 at 14:21
  • I am indeed talking about the exact same beer in bottles and kegs. Another example would be Tripel Karmeliet. Tastes waaaaay better bottled :). – Valentin Grégoire Oct 9 '14 at 14:57
  • I have read in an article that the tripel beer in a keg an bottled tripel beer is the exact same. I still don't know where the difference in taste comes from though. – Valentin Grégoire Oct 21 '14 at 11:31

The biggest difference between Singels, Dubbels, Trippels, and Quads is ABV.

The (purported) origin of these come from the Trappist Monasteries of Belgium where illiteracy was high. Because a lot of people couldn't read the kind of beer that was being brought to them, the barrels were marked with Xs. One X meant, low ABV (think <=3% ABV like Miller or Bud) four Xs meant super strong (along the lines of >10% ABV).

These are the BJCP Guidelines. They go into Belgian Doubles and Tripels on page 27 (actual pg 27 not e-page 27). Discerning between the styles is largely based on these kinds of guidelines, not on how they are fermented/conditioned/etcetera.

  • That sounds odd, cause I read in multiple documents that tripel beers are supposed to be fermented, where as normal "blondes" don't. Anyway, thanks for the interesting article!! – Valentin Grégoire Dec 20 '14 at 15:43
  • This might sound kind of crass; but, all alcoholic beer has to be fermented. Not sure if your comment was complete thought (ie. tripples are supposed to be bottle conditioned). The other problem we might be having is interchanging words. Some aren't an issue (porter and stout, even though they were originally different styles they are more or less synonymous now)... The difference between "bottle conditioned" and "fermented in a bottle" is HUGE, though. – BryceH Dec 22 '14 at 21:29
  • I really mean fermented in a bottle. – Valentin Grégoire Dec 22 '14 at 22:41
  • Unless someone can correct me... You never ferment in the bottle. The bottle would explode from the violent reaction that is fermentation. After your primary fermentation, you can choose to rack the beer into a secondary fermentor that will help your beer clear or bottle the beer with a little added priming sugar. The former allows the beer to clarify more while the latter will more than likely yield a yeast cake in the bottom of your bottle. – BryceH Dec 24 '14 at 13:38

Bottle fermentation is somewhat of a misnomer, as the term should really pertain to any fermentation done in the final packaging, in tap beer's case that's the keg. Pretty much any unfiltered beer (not just tripels) will have sugar added to continue to ferment in the bottle/keg.

If you think the bottled beer tastes better there's a simple explanation that isn't exactly pretty. There's a good chance your bar is not cleaning its tap lines regularly enough. This messes with the taste and can add some funk.

Edit: It could also simply be due to the beers age. If a bar regularly rotates out kegs it could be much fresher, versus a store where a bottle might sit in storage for a few extra months. In the case of a bottle-conditioned beer the older bottle will taste better than a newer keg.

  • I am pretty sure that is not the reason because I have tasted it multiple times in different bars. One of those bars is a bar of a friend of mine which I know takes this very seriously. – Valentin Grégoire Dec 22 '14 at 15:46

The differences in taste of bottled versus kegged tripels are more likely psychological rather than practical, as Belgian bottles tend to be expensive, rare, and exotic.

Because the primary purpose of conditioning is to carbonate the beer, the method (bottle vs keg) used to do so is a matter of personal preference or production constraints. At this point in the production cycle, the yeast have done all they're going to do with the wort (technically referred to as a yeast's "attenuation") and you're left with two options that yield virtually identical results: bottle the beer with some added sugar to motivate the remaining yeast to create more CO2, or force-carbonate the beer in a keg.

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