The brew line River Horse, out of Lambertville, NJ, impressed me with every selection I tried when I first became aware of them—except for their winter selection last year—and gave me the idea that they know what they’re doing.

The Tripel Horse, their Belgian-style ale with spices is no exception.

At 10% alcohol by volume (abv), the Tripel Horse lives up to the style it mimics. Tripels, otherwise known as strong pale ales, were made popular by Trappist monks. This is why many tripels feature monks on their labeling—for instance Weyerbacher’s Merry Monks. The old label for the River Horse Tripel featured a monk. And of note, the most famous Trappist selection of a tripel is made in Westmalle, Belgium.

According to the website of beer reviewer, Michael Jackson, “tripel” is a “Dutch-language term usually applied to the strongest beer of the house.”

The beer has a complex blend of flavors, each time I drink it I tend to taste something different in it, and tonight is no difference: I’m reminded of honey and malt. I checked a few other reviews on beer sites and people were coming up with all sorts of ridiculous foods to compare it too—someone wrote that it tastes like “orange peel and watermelon rind”—it is a little heavy, but easy and entirely refreshing to drink.

This beer has the same problem as Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, it’s a sly beer that serves to dupe your senses so that if you purchase a six-pack and drink through a few without looking at the bottle, you might not notice that the beer is 10% abv until it’s too late. Another way to look at it, if you think of it in those terms: it’s a cheap twelve-pack in six bottles.

I also like good, creative labels on beer, but after River Horse changed their label from their old style—which looked like covers to a badass western film—to the new style, I can’t be sure if I like it, and that leads me to believe there’s something off, or lacking in the label, because I can’t make up my mind. A small gripe, sure, that has nothing to do with how the beer literally tastes, but it does effect how I enjoy it in some way. Take, for instance, the Flying Dog brand that features artwork from Ralph Steadman. Those labels are interesting enough that if the beer sucks, all you have to do is hold the bottle up and ignore the beer.

What I do enjoy about this beer is that it has no fierce characteristics—no face wrinkling aromas—that some great hoppier beers will have. And it bodes calmness—as if being at the end of a long weekend and in need of serious rest. A simple, and nice beer to drink.

Overall: 8 out of 10.

Availability: Widespread, I would imagine, but you’ll find it in a well-stocked American Belgian-style section.

Appearance: Golden, a little darker than the average pilsner.

Aroma: Sweet and faint enough that it’s hard to pick out specific smells from the blend.

Taste: Malty, sweet, and there’s honey and citrus flavors flowing around in the drink. And I wonder what spices are brewed in it, because I don’t pick up anything in particular. Rather, it all seems well blended.

-Joshua L Durkin

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