Belgian Quadrupel, often referred to as “Quad,” is a unique and robust beer style that originated in Belgium. Known for its rich flavors, high alcohol content, and complex taste, this dark ale has become increasingly popular among beer enthusiasts worldwide. Inspired by the Trappist brewers of Belgium, Quadrupels are characterized by their bold flavor profile, which sets them apart from their sister styles, Dubbel and Tripel.
Quads typically possess an alcohol by volume (ABV) ranging from 9.1% to 14.2%, offering a strong, malty taste with dark fruit and spicy undertones. The distinct characteristics of a Quadrupel beer can be observed in its deep amber to coppery-brown color and its relatively light body, considering its alcoholic strength. Authentic Belgian Quadrupels can be identified by the hexagonal sticker on the bottle, stating “Authentic Trappist Product.”
- Belgian Quadrupel is a strong, dark ale known for its complex taste and high ABV, ranging from 9.1% to 14.2%.
- Quadrupels share origins with the Trappist brewing tradition of Belgium and are distinguished from Dubbel and Tripel by their bolder flavor profile.
- An authentic Belgian Quad can be identified by the hexagonal sticker on the bottle, signifying it as an “Authentic Trappist Product.”
The history of Belgian Quadrupel beer can be traced back to the 1600s when Trappist monasteries began brewing Belgian ales for public consumption. This practice served multiple purposes: it kept the Trappist monks occupied, and it generated income to cover the monasteries’ living expenses and charitable endeavors.
Quadrupel, also known as “Quad,” originated from the Belgian Trappist brewing tradition. It is a type of robust, dark ale known for its rich and complex flavor, as well as its high alcohol content. This strong beer has steadily gained popularity among enthusiasts around the world.
Belgian Trappist ales have a unique naming convention that is based on the brew’s alcohol content. The lightest beers are known as Enkel (single), medium-strength beers are called Dubbel, and Tripel refers to those with an alcohol content of 9% or higher. Quadrupel, being the strongest of the group, took its name from this numerical system.
The Dubbel beer style was first brewed in 1926 by Westmalle, one of the Trappist breweries. Dubbels are typically darker in color, with fruity (esters) and spicy (phenols) flavors derived from the yeast, as well as some hints of dark dried fruit coming from the darker malts used during brewing. It is important to note that Quadrupel beers inherited some of these characteristics, but are notably stronger and more complex in flavor.
Major Breweries and Brands
La Trappe is one of the most renowned producers of Belgian Quadrupel beers. This brewery, managed by the Koningshoeven Abbey, is well-known for its rich and dark Quadrupel, which showcases complex flavors and a bold strength. Their signature Quad, La Trappe Quadrupel, has become a standout brew amongst beer enthusiasts.
St. Bernardus is another prominent brewery in the Belgian Quadrupel scene. Their Abt 12, a high-quality Quadrupel ale, offers a perfect blend of malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements, making it a favorite among beer aficionados.
Managed by the La Trappe brand, the Koningshoeven brewery has a long and storied history in producing quality Belgian Quadrupel beers. The brewery itself is deeply rooted in Trappist brewing traditions and manages to produce a variety of authentic and flavorful Quadrupel ales.
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV is the brewery responsible for the production of the aforementioned St. Bernardus Abt 12 Quadrupel ale. This brewery maintains an unwavering commitment to quality and tradition and is highly regarded within the Belgian beer scene for its authentic and delicious Quadrupel brews.
Brewery Ommegang, located in the United States, has successfully entered the Belgian Quadrupel market with their creation of Three Philosophers, a unique blend of Belgian dark ale and cherry-infused beer. This combination results in rich, dark fruit flavors, complemented by the distinct malt richness typical of the Quadrupel style.
Boulevard Brewing Co
Boulevard Brewing Co., another American brewery, produces a popular Quadrupel called The Sixth Glass. This beer exhibits the traditional characteristics of Belgian Quadrupels such as a complex flavor profile, high strength, and a blend of malt, fruit, and spice elements.
Weyerbacher Brewing Co
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. is another notable American brewery in the world of Belgian Quadrupels. They offer a distinctive beer called Quad, which presents a complex bouquet of flavors from banana and dark fruits to caramel and toffee.
The Lost Abbey
The Lost Abbey, a respected American brewery, has made its mark with a well-loved Quadrupel named Judgment Day. This rich and complex ale features notes of raisins, plums, and spices, making it an expertly crafted and highly enjoyable beer within the Quadrupel category.
Belgian Quadrupel Characteristics
Color and Appearance
Belgian Quadrupels are typically dark in color, ranging from deep amber to coppery-brown. These beers often have garnet hues and a clear appearance, hinting at the rich and complex flavors within.
The aroma of a Belgian Quadrupel is a delightful blend of both fruity and floral notes. They often exhibit scents of raisin, plum, fig, and sometimes pear. Along with these fruit characteristics, Belgian Quadrupels also contain spicy phenols which contribute to their overall aroma profile.
Quadrupels are rich and complex in flavor, boasting a mix of malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements. Predominant flavors include dark fruits like raisin, plum, and fig, alongside a touch of chocolate and sweetness. The spiciness from phenols adds depth and character to the overall profile without overwhelming the palate.
The mouthfeel of Belgian Quadrupels is smooth and full-bodied, lending to the beer’s strong, yet approachable quality. The balance of maltiness, fruity flavors, and spicy phenols creates a pleasantly textured beer that is both satisfying and enjoyable to drink.
Brewing Process and Ingredients
Hops and Malt
Belgian Quadrupel, a strong and complex beer, uses a combination of high-quality specialty malts and a generous amount of gravity-boosting extracts. To begin the brewing process, perform a mini-mash with grains and water. Steep the grains at 152-158ºF for 45 minutes. During this time, the malt’s character and sugars are extracted, which contributes to the beer’s flavor, color, and body. After this, add extracts and candi sugar, which help to increase the alcohol content and enhance the taste.
For bittering hops, add them to the mixture and bring it to a rolling boil. This brewing step extracts the essential oils and alpha acids responsible for the beer’s bitterness. In the case of Belgian Quadrupel, a specific combination of hops is used, which complements the beer’s flavor profile.
Yeast and Fermentation
Belgian Quadrupel beers require the use of a unique Belgian yeast strain, which imparts a special character to the beer. These yeast strains are top-fermenting and contribute to the beer’s distinct aroma and flavor. When the wort (unfermented beer) reaches a temperature of around 72ºF, transfer it to a primary fermenter and add the yeast. The fermentation process transforms the wort’s sugars into alcohol, and the Trappist beers’ high alcohol content is achieved through this process.
It’s essential to maintain proper brewing techniques when crafting a Belgian Quadrupel. After completing the hop boil, cool the wort quickly, which prevents the formation of off-flavors and encourages proper yeast performance. Once cooled, transfer the wort to a primary fermenter and aerate it by introducing oxygen. This helps the yeast’s metabolism, leading to a healthier fermentation.
When serving a Belgian Quadrupel, it is important to choose the right glassware to fully appreciate its complexity and flavors. A chalice or goblet is an ideal choice for this style of beer, as it allows the aromas to concentrate and helps with head retention. The wide opening of these glasses allows for easy sipping, and their stemmed design helps maintain the ideal serving temperature.
Belgian Quadrupels are best enjoyed at a slightly warmer temperature than other beer styles in order to fully appreciate their intricate flavors and aromatic profiles. It is recommended to serve Quadrupels between 50°F (10°C) and 57°F (14°C), allowing the beer to warm up gradually in the glass and release its complex array of flavors and aromas.
Belgian Quadrupels, with their rich flavors and high alcohol content, pair exceptionally well with a variety of foods. Some ideal food pairings include:
- Abbey Ales: These traditional Belgian beers complement the rich and complex flavors found in Quadrupels, and help create a harmonious dining experience.
- ITA: This refers to “Italian Trappist Ales,” which, similar to Abbaye-style ales, have rich, complex flavors that play well with the strong characteristics of Quadrupels.
- Grand Cru: This term is often used to describe top-quality and well-aged beers, and these high-end brews can provide an elegant contrast to the bold flavors of Quadrupels.
When choosing a meal or snack to accompany your Belgian Quadrupel, consider foods that will hold up to its bold flavors and not be overwhelmed. Rich meats, aged cheeses, and hearty stews can all be excellent choices.
Comparisons to Other Beer Styles
Belgian Quadrupel and Tripel share some similarities, as they are both Trappist beer styles, with a rich history and strong flavor profiles. However, they differ in several aspects. Tripel is a lighter, golden-colored beer, while Quadrupel is a darker, stronger ale. Tripels typically have a more pronounced fruitiness, balanced by a moderate to high hop bitterness. The Quadrupel, on the other hand, is known for its rich maltiness, complex dark fruit flavors, and spiciness, without excessive bitterness.
The Dubbel is another Belgian beer style with Trappist roots. It is lighter in both color and strength compared to the Quadrupel. Dubbels are typically characterized by their dark, ruby-brown color, malty sweetness, and fruity flavors reminiscent of raisins, plums, or dates. They also possess a lower alcohol content and less complexity than the Quadrupel, which brings a more intense, richer malt character and darker fruit flavors.
|Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
|International Bitterness Units (IBU)
|10 – 14%
|25 – 50
|7.5 – 9.5%
|20 – 40
|6 – 7.6%
|10 – 35
As observed from the table, Belgian Quadrupels have the highest alcohol content among the three beer styles, with an ABV ranging from 10% to 14%. They also possess a moderately low to high IBU, which indicates their lower bitterness level, as they prioritize malt richness and dark fruit flavors. Tripels and Dubbels have a lower alcohol content compared to Quadrupels, and their bitterness levels vary according to their specific style characteristics.
Notable examples of Belgian Quadrupels include La Trappe Quadrupel, Three Philosophers, The Reverend, and Abt 12. These exemplary beers showcase the unique qualities associated with the Quadrupel style, featuring high alcohol content, rich maltiness, complex dark fruit flavors, and a smooth yet potent character.
Cellaring and Aging
Belgian Quadrupel, also known as “Quad,” boasts high alcohol content (usually between 9% and 14% ABV) and a complex flavor profile. These characteristics make it a prime candidate for cellaring and aging, allowing the beer’s flavors to develop and mature over time.
When it comes to cellaring Belgian beers, proper storage is crucial. The ideal environment for cellaring your beloved Quads is a dark, cool place, ideally with a consistent temperature of around 55°F (12°C). Many beer enthusiasts choose basements, cellars, or designated beer fridges for this purpose. It’s important to keep the beer away from direct sunlight and drastic temperature fluctuations.
Some well-known Belgian Quads worth aging include Westvleteren 12, Rochefort 10, and Chimay Blue. Experts typically recommend a cellaring period of 3-6 years for Quads, but individual preferences may vary, so feel free to experiment with different durations. Westvleteren 12, a world-renowned Quad from the Westvleteren Brewery in Brussels, is known to age gracefully, developing richness and depth in flavor.
While aging, the taste profile of a Quadrupel may shift, with some flavors becoming more pronounced and others diminishing. This transformation can be exciting to experience, as it alters the original beer into something unique. However, make sure to taste your aged Quad periodically as it may reach its peak sooner than expected.
Always remember to store your Belgian Quadrupel in a bottle that is properly sealed, either with a cork or a cap. This will ensure that the beer is protected from excess oxygen exposure, which can cause undesirable off-flavors. Additionally, storing the bottles upright rather than horizontally helps prevent any potential leakage and eases the process of separating yeast sediment when pouring.
Quadrupel Style Across The Globe
The Belgian Quadrupel, commonly known as “Quad,” is a highly potent, dark, and complex ale that traces its origins to the Trappist monks of Belgium. This rich and flavorful beer displays a beautiful blend of malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements, making it popular among beer enthusiasts worldwide.
In Belgium, the Quadrupel is associated with the Trappist breweries, home to some of the world’s finest and most authentic versions of this style. The genuine Quadrupels are identifiable by the hexagonal sticker on the bottle, which bears the phrase “authentic Trappist product.”
Quadrupel has not only gained popularity in its homeland but also in countries outside of Belgium, primarily the United States. American breweries have adopted this style and produced their unique interpretations of the Quadrupel. Although these versions may not bear the “authentic Trappist product” sticker, they serve as a testament to the global admiration and appreciation for this strong Belgian ale.
In the United States, quad has become a generic trademark for strong ales inspired by the Trappist version of the Quadrupel. The American iterations of this beer retain the bold flavor and high alcohol content that characterizes the originals, offering a diverse range of options for those looking to explore this beer style. It is not uncommon to find domestic craft breweries experimenting with the Quadrupel style to create innovative and complex variants that cater to different tastes.
As the world continues to recognize and celebrate the Quadrupel, the Belgian beer tradition expands its reach, providing beer aficionados with an ever-growing selection of strong ales to satisfy their palates. The intersection of traditional Trappist brewing methods and modern craft brewery innovations maintains the Quadrupel’s reputation as a legendary beer style across the globe.
Flavor Enhancing Additives
Belgian Quadrupel is a strong dark beer with a rich, complex flavor profile. A key aspect of its taste comes from the various flavor-enhancing additives used during the brewing process. To achieve that characteristic profile, brewers often incorporate spicy and fruity elements, as well as traditional ingredients like malt and hops.
One common additive is various forms of pepper. This can range from actual ground pepper to peppercorns and even pepper extracts. The use of pepper adds a distinct peppery flavor to the beer, lending it an attractive spiciness. Additionally, certain yeast strains can also contribute to the development of a peppery taste in the beer.
Clove-like flavors are also often found in Belgian Quadrupel. This can be attributed mainly to the types of yeast used in brewing, which produce phenolic compounds responsible for the clove-like taste. These yeast strains usually work best at higher fermentation temperatures or under specific brewing conditions, which then help to amplify the clove-like flavor.
Fruits are another integral part of a Belgian Quadrupel’s flavor profile. Dark fruits like plums, raisins, and figs are often used in the brewing process to enhance the complexity of the beer’s taste. These fruits also contribute to the dark color that Belgian Quadrupel is known for. Fruitiness can also result from the fermentation process, depending on the yeast strain and fermentation conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a tripel and a quadrupel?
A Tripel and a Quadrupel are both Belgian-style beers, but they have different characteristics. Tripels are typically lighter in color, ranging from golden to light amber, and have a more delicate, fruity, and spicy flavor profile. They usually have an alcohol content of around 8-10%. On the other hand, Quadrupels are darker in color, with deep red and ruby brown hues, and have a richer, more complex taste, with malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements. The alcohol content is generally higher in Quadrupels, ranging from 10-12%.
How does the brewing process for a quadrupel differ from other Belgian beers?
While the brewing process for a Quadrupel may share similarities with other Belgian beers, it is the choice of ingredients and the fermentation process that set it apart. Quadrupels typically use a blend of special malts and yeast, which contribute to their complex flavor profile and higher alcohol content. The fermentation process for Quadrupels often includes multiple stages and a longer maturation period, which allows the flavors to develop further and achieve the desired richness and depth.
What are the key flavor profiles of a Belgian quadrupel?
Belgian Quadrupels showcase a complex blend of flavors and aromas. The key flavor profiles include malt sweetness, dark fruit flavors (such as raisins, figs, and plums), and spicy notes, which can include hints of coriander, anise, or even cloves. A well-balanced Quadrupel will present a smooth and rich mouthfeel, with a sweet and slightly warming finish, owing to its higher alcohol content.
Which breweries produce the best Belgian quadrupels?
Some of the best Belgian Quadrupels are produced by traditional Trappist breweries, which are characterized by their strict brewing practices and high-quality ingredients. Notable examples of Quadrupels include Westvleteren 12 by the Westvleteren Brewery, Rochefort 10 by the Brasserie de Rochefort, and La Trappe Quadrupel by De Koningshoeven Brewery. However, many non-Trappist breweries also produce excellent Quadrupels, such as the Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel by the De Halve Maan brewery.
How does a Belgian quadrupel compare in alcohol content to other beer styles?
Belgian Quadrupels are among the strongest beer styles, with alcohol content usually ranging from 10-12%. This is higher than most other Belgian styles, such as Tripels (8-10%), Dubbels (6-8%), and Belgian Pale Ales (4-6%). In comparison, a typical American Lager or Pale Ale will have an alcohol content of around 4-6%.
What is the best way to serve and enjoy a Belgian quadrupel?
The optimal serving temperature for a Belgian Quadrupel is between 55-57°F (13-14°C). It is best served in glassware that allows the aromas and flavors to be appreciated, such as a snifter or tulip glass. Pour the beer gently to create a thin, creamy head which can enhance the sensory experience. As you sip, take the time to savor the complex flavors and aromas, while appreciating the warming sensation from the higher alcohol content. Also, consider pairing a Quadrupel with rich, flavorful foods like roasted meats, aged cheeses, or dark chocolate.