Two weeks ago, after a couple of days in Bamberg with two of my oldest friends from Ireland, and on the eve of my Birthday, we had an ideal opportunity to put a bottle of Alpirsbacher Ambrosius -- a new German Tripel released shortly before Christmas 2010 and the first of two German Tripels I came across since, the other being being the Franz Anton Schäffler Triple -- through its paces against a couple of Belgian Tripels and a German wildcard in a blind tasting.
Beer A I found had a warm, sugary, toffee-apple aroma. the first taste also felt warming, with big, soft raisin flavours. Somewhat thin on the mouthfeel, sugary malts up front, a light fruitiness, suggesting raisins, cut short by a pine-like bitterness that hangs around for quite a while. In summary, sugary, fruity, with a little too much residual sugars for my liking, but with a pleasant warming effect.
Beer B had very little aroma, and what it delivered was more along the lines of alcohol, with slight marker/acetone notes. Light and alomost wine-like, with a grape skin tannic edge bringing up the rear. Slight bitter almond/marzipan traces.. Overall, fruity in a grape-like way, juicy and a crisp tannic finish that I liked.
Beer C had similarities to B in many ways, but it upped things on the fruitiness. Pears, apples, oak-like vanilla notes. Dry, almost cranberry-like in the feel, but buffered by a light candy-like middleground. Quite an assertive bitter finish, with that dryness pushing a herb-like (it had me in mind of thyme or oregano) bitterness well to the front of the tongue. Overall, crisp, dry, nice fruity, orangy notes. My favourite of the four.
Beer D reeked of corn. That boiling corn on the cob kind of aroma. Really off-putting compared to the other three. Sugary to the taste, but with a cleansing German hop character, citric?lemon and slightly herbal. A pleasant warming pepperiness to the finish. Overall, like sweetcorn with hops.
I knew what the four beers were, so was the only one able to take a guess what each was. As it turns out, I was able to name all correctly.
Beer A: Alpirsbacher Amrosius
Beer B: St. Bernardus Tripel
Beer C: Westmalle Tripel
Beer D: Andechser Bergbock Hell
In the end, the Ambrosius is a fine beer, but to my taste, it doesn't come near the surprisingly crisp and refreshing levels that the Belgians hit, even with beers at that level of alcohol. Also, it's not bottle conditioned. Not a trace of yeast in the bottle, so I'm not sure I hold much hope for my remaining bottle developing much in the cellar. Time will tell.