A Quadrupel Battle at Harvest Gastropub

A beer pairing dinner at Harvest Gastro Pub ended with a face-off between two Quadrupels. I wrote about the dinner for Appetite Philippines, as a promise to their web editor who is an old and dear friend from back in high school. The card was stacked, with the early rounds featuring the ubiquitous witbier from Japan, two top-notch Norweigian craft beers, the pound-for-pound Tripel champion of the world, and a fan-favorite imperial coffee vanilla porter. This post then, will focus on the main event of the evening, one round between two beers in the Quadrupel division.

These beers, plus the Nøgne ø IPA, make for a solid 6-pack. Minimum ABV: 7.5%.

The Quadrupel style is the Belgian answer to the Imperial Russian Stout. It’s among the biggest of beers, usually around 10.0% alcohol by volume. It’s also among the most complex of not just beers, but any drink. It is often bottle-conditioned, meaning that the addition of yeast into the bottle itself continues the fermentation of the beer even while it is sitting on your shelf. Thus, this is one of the more popular beers for cellaring, aged from anywhere between one to five years, sometimes even more. Traditionally, these beers are brewed by Trappist monks of the Cistercian Order, and are some of the most loved and sought-after beers in the world.

In this corner, La Trappe Quad, from Konigshoeven is able to call itself Trappist, despite being the only monastery located outside of Belgium, in the Netherlands. The brewery is also the most recently accredited one, as the appellation was denied them because the brewing was actually contracted out by the monks, albeit under their direct control and supervision. The International Trappist Association relented on appeal, upholding the argument under the control test.

To be honest, this beer was quite a disappointment. The aroma was of black sugar (i.e. gulaman) and nail polish remover, and the taste was more of the same with some fruitiness. It had a weak head and even thinner, hazy body for its style, despite its 10% ABV. The La Trappe postures and talks a lot of trash with its Trappist appelation, but when it comes to fight night, it fails to deliver.

St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a highly-regarded quad, but one may be surprised to find out that unlike most quadrupels, it’s not brewed by Trappist monks. At least, it no longer is, despite the recipe being developed by a brewer-monk from Westvleteren itself. However, being brewed in such a tradition, beers from the St. Bernardus breweries are still called Abbey Ales.

The St. Bernardus won this bout easily. It came out ripped, with a more impressive and substantial head and body, and weighing in at a staggering 10.5% ABV. It was also sweet, with dark fruit and cherry, with a more complex spice aroma and evident booziness. Sadly though, our taste buds were already tapped out to the point that we could not enjoy this beer as much as we could have and should have. While the St. Bernardus won via unanimous decision, and the match was not competitive in the least, it could have put on a much better show. I guess the blame on that falls on me, as matchmaker. My friend still has a bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12. I think a better matchup would be the Rochefort 10, and this time, with fresh palates.

(Obviously, I’m really psyched for Silva-Sonnen II tomorrow. Apologies.)

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