Welcome to another week, my friends. Today, I have another first for me. That’s one of the great things about reviewing beer-so many firsts, such as New Holland’s Black Tulip Tripel Ale, my first tripel style beer. I know, it seems like many of my reviews are my first times drinking this or that, but what better way to give a true, “on the ground” report of a craft beer than from someone who is tasting for the first time? How else can we build the Craft Beer Legion than by showing the truth? Certainly not widespread marketing. That’s the domain of MilBudCoor, the Dark Lord of the Macro Realm. So, after that moderately dramatic interlude, it’s drinking time! For Micro Glory!
Starting strong at the popping of the cap, sweet and potent aromas of malts burst outward, filling the nose with freshly baked dinner roles. Next up is a subtle roastiness, deep underneath the malts. It jumps in and out, in front of and behind the main bread notes, influencing just enough to keep a hearty bread edge to the overall presentation. Around the edges, there’s a crisp sweetness, seemingly from more than just the malts, that mingles with the bread notes and provides a slight spice to the mix-perhaps cloves and maybe cinnamon. They’re very subtle, just barely making an appearance. It still has that malty “beer” aroma, but with some added personality that makes my mouth water.
The first taste from the bottle caught me off guard. I knew that tripel style ales had a bit more kick than others, but I guess I didn’t think it’d be that pronounced. It’s nothing like a shot of vodka, or even a strong stout, but from the instant the beer hits your tongue, there’s an intense alcoholic edge, present in both taste and feel. It brings a slight burn to the tip of the tongue, and sets the cheeks and gums atingle from the get go. Despite that, the dominating flavors are the warm, bready malts from the initial aroma. There’s a gentle earthiness just under the surface that seems to push the malts up, increasing the bread’s potency and fullness. The bottle says that beet sugar is used, so perhaps that is where the earthy sweetness is coming from. If you hate beets like me, don’t worry-the influence is slight, acting as a subtle sweet edge that accentuates the bread just like the aroma. Keep in mind, this all happens within the first couple of seconds after the first taste. Following this, some faint yet remarkable banana notes arrive, starting very subdued, but increasing in potency as time goes by. It adds a fruity lightness to the middle of a heavy combination of flavors and feels. Arriving just after the banana are those faint spices-clove and cinnamon again-influencing the banana just enough to create a distinct spark of intrigue within the midst of potent bread malts. The aftertaste is primarily bread, taking up most of the tongue. But there is also a potent alcohol tang at the cheeks and back of the mouth. Everything ends with a sweetness that clings to the entire mouth longer than I would have expected with this alcoholic strength. It’s a fantastic combination of flavors and potency.
I decided to pour this into a tulip glass-snifter hybrid, mostly because it’s Black Tulip ale, and I wanted to be clever. As a result, the post-pour aromas are malty and floral, with a slight, buttery sweetness that follows immediately after the malts. It’s a wonderful scent of butterscotch-not quite as sweet as a Worthers, but more like one of those hard candies that your grandma always had in a little bowl on a doily-covered end table. There’s an earthy tang that follows everything else, pushing the other scents to the front of the nose. Despite the malty dominance, the butterscotch notes rise to the top, distinct yet mellow and acting like the bread’s best friend. Visually, it pours an amber-pumpkin hue, under a thin white head that fades quickly.
Finally, we come to the post-pour taste, and what a taste it is. The flavors are much more potent and rich. Notes of smoke emerge, taking a back seat to the still-dominant sweet malts. The fruit notes are still present, but no where near as evident as in the bottle. Hints of banana settle on the back of the tongue, bringing the slightest moments of spices, but the strengthened malts and alcohol profile push them out of the way fairly quickly. The butterscotch from the poured aroma has a subtle presence, adding a smooth butteriness rather than a true butterscotch flavor. As the beer flows over your tongue, it initially feels rich and creamy, but becomes dry and tingly towards the back of the mouth, no doubt because of the unmasked alcoholic kick. Additionally, this causes the aftertaste to fade faster than other beers-even faster than the bottle taste. I wish the flavors would have stayed a bit longer, but it was a willing trade-off to experience the almost barley wine-like edge of alcohol.
Overall, this was a wonderful beer that was potent as hell yet deeply flavorful at the same time. The aromas and the palate notes constantly mix with each other throughout the drinking experience, sometimes shifting flavors mid-taste. Sweet malts make up the backbone, but the side notes are perfect and wonderful. Bananas, spices, and beet sugar pop within the bottle, while butterscotch and a deep richness show up after the pour. A potent alcohol kick is present for the entire ride, stronger after the pour than in the bottle. Be sure to enjoy this beer slowly, as drinking it too fast could knock your tongue out of action and deny you the pleasure of experiencing the shifting and subtle flavors. Despite the kick it packs, it goes down super smooth while retaining a crunchy crispness. The flavors wont last as long as other beers you’ve tried, but the alcohol induced tingle will remain for a while after drinking. As always, it’s a bit pricey, but if you pick up a 6-pack, enjoy a bottle every week or two, and spread out the wonderfulness. Call it a “special occasion” beer.
I would suggest enjoying this beer on a warm-ish fall day. Not Indian Summer warm, but not “day before winter” cold. Look for enough chill to prompt a reach into your hoodie drawer, but be prepared to pull off said hoodie once you near the end of the bottle. Another great time to drink this is at night. If you usually enjoy a whiskey or other slow-drinking alcohol, replace it with one if these. It’ll go down just as smooth, and provide that mellow tingle like a pro. New Holland’s Black Tulip Tripel Ale earns an A-, but down here on the front lines of the Great Beer War, we can hardly see that little “-” mark.
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9.2/10 A-