Beer Review 0574: Great Divide Orabelle Belgian-Style Tripel

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Great Divide Brewing Co. is the vision of Brian Dunn, who during the late 1980’s, spent five years outside of the United States building farms in developing countries. Dunn had a passion for beer, and upon returning home to Colorado, started home brewing and graduated from college.

Dunn thought that he could start a brewery in Denver, and with help from family, friends, and a loan from the city, Great Divide started producing beers in 1994. At first, Dunn was the only employee — but his beers were outstanding, winning medals at beer festivals and catching attention by word of mouth.

Things got big, and today Great Divide has 47 employees, and has won eighteen Great American Beer Festival medals. Now brewing 10 year-round beers and 12 seasonals, Great Divide proudly says they have “something for everyone.”

Up today is Great Divide’s winter seasonal, which is a Belgian-Style Tripel they call Orabelle. This beer is brewed with two yeast strains, orange peel, and coriander. It also has a variety of malts, including barley, wheat, oats, and rye. Available in six-packs, the brew comes in at 8.3% ABV (alcohol by volume).

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The pour made for a small, almost sparse frothy head. It quickly disappeared to just a rippled cover on top of the beer, which was yellow in color, verging on golden. The body was exceptionally cloudy, which made the brew opaque, although there were no particles or sediment… until you get to the end of the bottle, when it looks like there’s actual orange peels floating in your beer. But it’s not, it’s all yeast; it does help with head retention a smidgen. Lacing is fair, leaving patchy thin suds on the glass.

The nose reminded me more of a wheat ale rather than a Tripel. That’s not a bad thing as the aromas here are still nice; we’ve got orange represented heavily, with orange peel, orange slice, and spicy orange all in the house. There’s a decent dose of coriander, but more minor players of banana and bready notes. I also noticed a fair amount of candy-like sweetness, which amps up the oranges in a good way. As it warms, some burnt clove begins to appear.

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On the palate, Orabelle unleashes a huge blast of orange, covering the whole fruit, practically…orange peel, orange juice, sugar-coated orange slices, and spicy orange. If you like orange, you’ll dig this. It begins to open up some with hits of coriander and grainy malt, along with some clove. It’s sweet and crisp, and finishes out riding more of the orange with interludes of banana, bubblegum, and a light bitterness that dries out the tongue just a tad. Alcohol is completely hidden. Orabelle is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

Like I mentioned in my description of the aroma, this brew reminds me more of an imperial wheat ale rather than a Tripel. While it has the Tripel flavor characteristics, it doesn’t seem as complex, and this style does seem to incorporate a touch of alcohol in taste. You could get in trouble with this beer, especially if you like oranges, and even more if you love orange juice. This beer just seems to be missing some ‘wow’ factor.

Great Divide Orabelle Belgian-Style Tripel, 86 points. Price: $1.99 US for one 12 oz. bottle.

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