WITH THREE OF FOUR Ten Ninety beers sporting ‘imperial’ distinctions and the last being this 11% ABV Jaggery Tripel, savvy beer drinkers might easily deduce the meaning behind the brewery’s name. The allusion is to 1.090, the starting (or original) gravity of all four beers—in other words, a wort nearly 10% denser than water that commonly produces beers of 9+% ABV. In Ten Ninety’s case the use of other adjuncts and high attenuation rates easily boost those figures up into double digits. The only reason Jaggery lacks the imperial prefix is because tripels have elevated ABVs as a matter of course. Thus it was only natural for Ten Ninety to include such a beer in their repertoire. But if their MO to date was to elevate more modest styles, would they similarly aim to supercharge their tripel or be content with its already elevated figures?
A little of both. The Jaggery Tripel is indeed unusually strong at 11% ABV, whereas most tripels stop short of double digits. But the flavor profile of the beer is fairly traditional, if somewhat dampened, and aside from some extra alcohol warmth on the finish there are few indications that it’s as potent as table wine.
Jaggery pours an unusually clear amber with moderately persistent bubbles, giving off a yeasty aroma with some alcohol prickle. Few fruity esters come through until the retronasals, where lemon and apricot compete with biscuity malts and a slightly elevated bitterness. The beer’s moniker, meanwhile, stems from its key ingredient—instead of Belgian candi sugar it is an Asian palm variety, which replaces the standard undertones of candy or cake with earthiness and faintly tropical yellow fruit. The hops bring Jaggery back towards traditional realms, with herbal notes indicative of noble cultivars. Though none too pronounced they’re still enough to edge out the yeast’s subtler fruit tones or any piquant phenols that would have provided a welcome contrast in the finish. The body is medium light, meanwhile, with fairly high but not quite crackling carbonation.
It’s altogether a worthwhile experience, albeit a little ‘on the hump’. Exceptional tripels often depend upon a brewery’s house character or unmistakable yeast strain, which is something Ten Ninety will struggle to achieve as contract brewers. Perhaps once they graduate from to their own facility this beer will take on more singular airs. Until then the founders are focused on positioning their brand as food-centric, upscale competition to wine in “white tablecloth” restaurants. To be sure, unusual ingredients, large-format bottles, and scaled-up ABVs will help in that effort. But Jaggery has a way yet to go to earn a truly premium price tag.
Served: 750 ml bottle