Belgian dark strong ales

If you're looking to try a Belgian dark strong ale, here are a few options for you to seek and enjoy.

Here in the United States,we’ve become fairly accustomed to seeing beers in the so-called quadrupel style. There are dubbels, tripels and quadrupels, right? It makes sense that a Belgian dubbel and tripel would be followed by a quadrupel.

The first quadrupel didn’t officially appear on the market until 1991, when the Netherland’s La Trappe released a then-seasonal ale with the name Quadrupel, which is essentially its version of its Belgian dark strong ale. The brewery maintains it had made the world’s first quadrupel.

Dark strong ales, on the other hand, have been brewed for centuries. They’re beers that have a higher alcohol content and are darker in color than their lighter-hued Belgian siblings, with complex aromas and flavors of dark fruit and sweet dessert.

The Beer Judge Certification Program doesn’t have a category for quadrupels and puts La Trappe’s Quadrupel and Weyerbacher Brewing Co.’s QUAD into the Belgian Specialty Ale category because of their barleywinelike characteristics.

Compare that to the style guideline from Brewers Association, and you’ll find a category for both Belgian-style dark strong ales and quadrupels.

There’s not too much that’s cut and dry about labeling these kinds of beers.

For ease of reading, we will refer to this style as a quadrupel for the remainder of the column.

Today, you’ll find traditional Belgian-style quadrupels brewed with a fairly simple grain bill, often consisting of just Pilsner or pale base malts, a couple of darker specialty malts and sometimes with candy sugar. In the case of Trappist monasteries, the yeast is proprietary, and only beers produced there can call itself Trappist. (Read more about this at bit.ly/LNP_lambics.)

Some quadrupels have any number of adjuncts added, from vanilla to cherries to thyme. Many of these get finished in a barrel, further adding complexity to an already rich, character-filled style.

Oerbier

De Dolle Brouwers’ Oerbier is a 9-percent alcohol-by-volume Belgian beer that poured a somewhat murky reddish-brown with a tan head into the glass. The aroma carried with it raisins, Smarties candies, prunes, alcohol and just a touch of funk. In the mouth, an underlying bitterness reminding me of cranberries persisted throughout the sips, mixed in with semisweet chocolate in a relatively high carbonated body.

I found the flavor slightly dull and one-dimensional in comparison to the other beers in this session, but still enjoyable.

Rochefort 10

The Trappist Abbey of Rochefort in Belgium adds candy sugar to Rochefort 10’s wort, which increases the fermentable sugars and increases the final alcohol by volume; this big beauty poured from the bottle at 11.3 percent. The color was burnished mahogany with a creamy tan head and flecks like black pepper in the body, a reminder that this is an unfiltered beer with a layer of sediment at the bottom of every bottle.

Its aroma was joyous, with prunes, cherries, raisins, dark brown sugar, shoofly pie, vanilla and caramel. Flavors were also warming and sweet with those prunes, raisins, sticky caramel and an almost burnt sugar. Toffee and Biscoff cookies joined the merry party, and despite all these sweet delights, Rochefort 10 still finished somewhat dry.

Three Philosophers

Brewery Ommegang in New York state is brewing up consistently outstanding Belgian-style beers and its Three Philosophers blends a mixture of 98-percent quadrupel with 2-percent Liefmans Kriek-Brut, a tart cherry ale from Belgium.

The color was reddish-brown in the glass and topped with a tan head, similar to the other two. Its aroma had subtle cherries, prunes, brown sugar, candy, bittersweet chocolate and caramelized apples.

I found the flavor remarkably similar to Rochefort 10, but with an added cherry depth from the Kriek addition. Chocolate, molasses and prunes rounded out the dessertlike flavors, and I kept thinking about treacle (you can find tins of this British syrup in some grocery stores).

Three Philosophers offers a wonderful American version of the quadrupel style. You’ll readily find all these beer selections in the area.

Contact Amber DeGrace with comments and questions at adegrace@lnpnews.com and find her on Twitter at @amberdegrace.

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