Stemming from some of the world’s oldest breweries, the Quadruple (quad) style, a designation more frequently used in North America, is a style of ale largely distinct to the Belgian-region that’s frequently and simply labeled with a number such as 12. This numeric system, most often utilized by Trappist brewers, is an indication of the beer’s alcohol content, which is often quite strong in the quad style. 6, 8, 10, and 12 are the more common numerical replacements for a “brand name” and refer to the original gravity (amount of sugar in solution) of the beer before it goes through the fermentation stages where sugars are converted to alcohol. For example, a beer with an original gravity of 1060 would be labeled 6 while a beer with 1080 would be labeled 8 and so on.
While the type of beer itself dates back far beyond the application of the quad label, originating with the Monastic monks of France, Northern Europe, and later Belgium, the style is not confined solely to a region of Belgium or the Trappist brewers themselves the way Champagne or Scotch are to France and Scotland respectively. The exact origins of this type of beer is a bit convoluted due to a few pesky historical details such as the French Revolution and a short guy named Napoleon but, suffice it to say the monks who were brewing this beer ended up building or restoring their Abbeys in what would become Belgium.
Because the bulk of this style of beer is of Belgian origin and has a long, storied history, they are most often the ones of highest quality though that’s not to say great examples are not produced elsewhere, even here in America! And, until very recently, Koeningshoven of The Netherlands was the only Trappist brewery operating outside of Belgium. Now there are 11 Trappist Monasteries brewing under the La Trappe designation; four have opened in the last 4 years including one here on the east coast!
Brewed with a base of Belgian pale malt, some brewers may incorporate few to many malts for a more complex base which means these beers can be range from golden to dark brown in color, appearance not affecting the outcome of the strength. Much of the strength outcome (aside from the malt’s majority share) is dependent on adjuncts added to the beer such as light or dark candi sugar, which, believe it or not, does not lend cloying sweetness to the flavor or a thick feel to the body. Because these simple sugars are easy for the yeast strains to consume, they’re quickly fermented out, turning into alcohol, in turn raising the content and drying the finish out.
Yeast is, in fact, one of, if not the largest contributor to aroma and flavor of a quad; it’s classic spicy, fruity character ranging from bold and rich to deep and complex depending on the process. While still an ale, some of these brews may take as long as a lager to ferment as many go through both primary and secondary fermentation, sometimes with multiple yeast strains. A quad’s alcoholic strength usually begins around 10% ABV and goes up from there, sometimes poignant and solventy, other times smooth and dangerously hidden.
One of the exciting attributes of many of these Belgian beers is their abounding love for particularly shaped and branded glassware, unique to each brewery. In fact, many pubs that offer such beers in Belgium will not serve your requested beer if all the brand’s corresponding glasses are currently being used or have not yet been cleaned. So…maybe this makes them responsible for the origination of #properglassware? In any case, if their branded glass is unavailable I prefer to enjoy these types of beer from a tulip, which collects the delicate and deep nuances of the beer more effectively than a goblet or chalice, as blasphemous as that switch may be.
Boston Beer Co. – Samuel Adams Tetravis – 95 / 100
The Bruery – 7 Swans-A-Swimming – 89 / 100
Deschutes Brewery – The Stoic – 90 / 100
Destihl Brewery – Quadruple – 86 / 100
The Lost Abbey – Judgement Day – 78 / 100
New Belgium Brewing Co. – Cascara Quad – 75 / 100
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Ovila Quad – 78 / 100
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Ovila Barrel-aged Quad – 89 / 100