Welcome to Belgium.
OK, this beer was brewed here in Milwaukee County, but this is the first Belgian style ale that I have had in My Year of Beer. In Companion, MJ lists six types of Belgian ales - one of which is "Trappist." The Trappist religious order maintains six different monasteries - five in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. They make about 20 different beers, and only these beers can be called "Trappist." But if you want to brew a beer in that style - relatively strong, bottle-conditioned, plenty of yeast, fruity and aromatic - you can use the word "Abbey" instead. (pp. 131-133) The "fruit" that I taste is apple, and it has a crispness like an apple cider. It even looked a bit like apple cider. While with yesterday's red ale, I felt that the malt kept the hops balanced, with this beer, I feel the yeast is accomplishing that task. So what does "relatively strong" mean? Well in Ultimate, MJ lists the alcohol content of American Ale, Redhook ESB at 5.4 alcohol by volume (abv), Goose Island's Honker's Ale at 3.8 abv, Franziskaner Kristallklar Weissebier st 5.0 abv... and this Abbey Triple tips the scales at 8.4 abv. Four of the five Abbey Beers he details in Ultimate are between 8.0 and 9.0 abv. The other, Orval, is "only" 6.2 abv. According to MJ, single, double and triple correspond to the strength of the beer. I'm feeling the triple.
MJ and other beer aficionados take their Belgians very seriously. In Ultimate, he calls abbey beers aperitifs - a beverage to whet the appetite. Elsewhere he says, "some of the abbey beers are excellent, characterful brews, but none is a classic." (Companion, p. 133) Maybe not, but I'd have another of these - so it rates a 3.