Every year, a few winners of the Grumpy Troll Homebrew Challenge, a competition organized by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, get to make their beer on a commercial scale. In 2011, more than 50 beers were judged. Among top winners, a few are singled out by the Grumpy Troll to appear on its taps. One of last fall's winners is a wheat-based Belgian Tripel called Zippity De Dieu. The beer went on tap a few weeks ago, and has developed an enthusiastic following at the Mount Horeb brewpub.
What is it? Zippity De Dieu from the Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.
Style: The Belgian Tripel is a medium- to full-bodied light golden beer. It can be quite complex, with mild spicy tones and hints of clove. However, it's known more for its yeasty character in aroma and flavor. The Tripel is not a bitter beer; its emphasis is more on fruity and yeasty sweetness. Belgian candi sugar is often used to increase fermentable sugars and alcohol content without adding body. Traditionally the style is bottle conditioned, making it hazy and effervescent. The Tripel is a strong beer at 7%-10% ABV.
Background: Zippity De Dieu was the winning entry in the 2011 Grumpy Troll Homebrew Challenge, created by Byron Burrier, Keith Akstulewicz and Steve Olson of Appleton. Wheat malt makes up over half of the total grains that go into this beer. In addition, malted barley from France, oats, orange blossom honey and Belgian candi sugar are part of the recipe. The honey is added late in the boiling process, while the candi sugar gets added during fermentation. The honey gives some sweetness, and the candi sugar increases the beer's strength without adding body/mouthfeel. Four strains of Belgian yeast go into this beer, and it ferments at a warm temperature of around 75 degrees for two to three weeks before it goes into a cold conditioning period for nearly two months.
Brewmaster Mark Knoebl says he enjoys working with homebrewers because of the creativity and problem solving that is involved. "They really pushed me to think about how fermentation temperatures would affect the flavor profile of this beer," he says.
Zippity De Dieu was brewed last October and has been on tap since mid-January. It's expected to be around well into April. It finishes at 8.4 % ABV. The beer sells for $4.50/pint or $12/growler (refill).
Other specialty beers from Mark Knoebl to watch for in the next several weeks include a Belgian India Pale Ale and a Maibock.
In other news, the Grumpy Troll has new owners. Jack and Annette Slocum of Mount Horeb recently purchased the brewpub from Doug Welshinger, who owned it for the past six years. Also, the brewpub's North Star Dark Lager just won "Best in the Midwest" (PDF) in the dunkel lager category at the U.S. Beer Tasting Championships. This beer will be back on tap in the fall.
- Aroma: Begins with a light grainy nose, but the yeasty-fruity tones take over.
- Appearance: Hazy golden with a soft white head.
- Texture: Medium bodied and a round mouthfeel
- Taste: A sweet combination of yeast with a hint of honey in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Some fruitiness and the light flavor of honey lingers.
Glassware: The Grumpy Troll serves Zippity De Dieu in the standard bar pint. If you bring home a growler, sip this beer in a tulip glass while appreciating its bright hazy golden color and soft white head.
Pairs well with: Try it with the Skogstroll, a mushroom sandwich from the brewpub's menu. The yeasty-sweetness of the beers really complements the earthy sweetness of the mushroom, which is topped with Swiss cheese.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Zippity De Dieu has a distinctive sweet, fruity-yeasty flavor. I really enjoy the Belgian Tripel style. If you do too, you'll find that this beer has a softer mouthfeel and a stronger sour fruity background, from its multiple varieties of yeast and large amount of wheat. I appreciate the creativity in tweaking the style a bit with wheat, but others might see it as just too much creative license. Regardless, it's a flavorful, fun beer and one well worth the drive to Mount Horeb.