Last week a few of us from Carolina Beer Temple sat down with the guys from Wooden Robot Brewery to take our first step in creating a collaboration brew! We had already decided on what beer style we were going to brew – a Belgian Quadruple. Why? Well, Carolina Beer Temple is big on Belgian ales and we have the finest Belgian beer selection just about anywhere. And of all the Belgian beer styles, the quads are probably the most revered.
As part of our collaboration we decided to do a taste test and decide among the group which beer we liked the best and what qualities of each quad we enjoyed! Carolina Beer Temple Minister of Beer, Jordan Linger, assisted in pulling together a sampling of quads to try and even donated a rare offering as well to the mix.
We sampled each beer. We took notes and commented on the qualities we all enjoyed. And we ranked them all! Below is a listing of the beers we tried and the consensus ranking among the group.
#8 North Coast Brewing – Brother Thelonious Belgian Strong Ale
I wanted to throw a good example of an American made quadruple or Belgian Strong Ale into the mix. Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing in California is one of my personal favorite Belgian ales made in the U.S.A. We found this beer flavorful, sweet with a strong malty forwardness to it. A very respectable beer in its own right, but it fell to the bottom of our list when put up against six quads from Europe. RateBeer Rating 95
#7 – Oak Aged LaTrappe Quadruple
The La Trappe Oak Aged Quadruple was the only Trappist ale in our sampling. It is also brewed in the Netherlands, not Belgium. The La Trappe Quadruple, without oak aging, tends to be lighter in color than most Belgian Quadruples with a lighter body, but it still packs a nice amount of flavor. The oak aged version was very strong on the oak giving it a whiskey aroma and flavor. A nice beer for sure, but we ranked it low because the oak overwhelmed most of the nuances that make a quad a quad. RateBeer Rating 99
#6 – Kasteel Barista
Kasteel Barista (formerly known as Kasteel Winter) is a chocolate infused Belgian Quad. Sweet, with big notes of coffee and chocolate. While we all enjoyed this beer, it was quite a deviation from the traditional style. RateBeer Rating 94
#5 – St. Bernardus Abt 12
There will always be a special place in my heart for Abt 12. This is one of the beers that turned me on to Belgian Ales in the first place. In my experience this beer seems to consistently present itself better on draft than out of the bottle. The nose was very mild, the flavor sweet and enjoyable, but not very complex. Serve this beer out of a 750ml bottle after it has aged 1-2 years and the experience will be different. However, we had a fresh Abt 12 out of a 12oz bottle to share among 8 tasters – so with less than 2 ounces each to sample it ranked at the bottom of the Belgian Quads truly from Belgium. RateBeer Rating 100
#4 – Westvleteren 12
We had to thank Jordan and his cousin for contributing this rare find. Westvleteren 12 is predominantly only available in Belgium! They’ve only imported once into the U.S.A. and that was several years ago. Thankfully Jordan’s cousin brought back a few from his recent trip to Belgium, so we all got to sample it. Similar in body and color to Abt 12, but a more profound nose and more dark fruit complexities on the finish. This beer has frequently ranked as one of the worlds best year after year (and if you dig into the history, this beer and St. Bernardus Abt 12 have a lot in common). It ranked a solid 4th among our group. RateBeer Rating 100
#3 – Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau
Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau is a unique beer in that it is specifically designed to taste like a Quadruple aged for 10 years! The story of this beer is that the head brewer at Van Honsebrouck Brewery found a 10 year old bottle of the Kasteel Donker (their Belgian quadruple). He was so impressed that he wanted to design a beer that tasted the same way, but without having to wait 10 years. Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau still takes a few years of aging to get it right, but not 10. This beer has a fruity nose, is full of flavor reminiscent of dark fruits such as raisin and the flavor intensifies as it warms up. Among the group, two of us (myself included), ranked it #2, while the remaining six ranked it #3. This and Straffe Hendrik Quadruple were the only beers we had any disagreement on in terms of ranking. RateBeer Rating 94
#2 – Straffe Hendrik Quadruple
Straffe Hendrik Quadruple has always been a long time favorite of mine since I first discovered and enjoyed it in Bruges, Belgium. Ever since I discovered this delicious example of a Belgian Quad, I’ve since met many people who all remember the first time they had this beer! It’s one of those beers that stick with you for a long time. This beer has a more carbonated mouthfeel over the other quads, the nose is prevelant with Belgian yeast and semi-sweet scents. The flavor is reminiscent of dark fruit. There was little argument among the group that this beer, along with Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau ranked amongst the best. RateBeer Rating 99
#1 – St. Bernardus Abt 12 Oak Aged Edition
This is a very rare edition of St. Bernardus Abt 12 as very few bottles have been released. As well, the bottle we were enjoying had been aged at least 1.5 years. Unlike the La Trappe Oak Aged edition we sampled earlier in the tasting event, the oak scent and flavor was much more subtle in this remarkable edition of St. Bernardus Abt 12. Without a doubt the oak aging helped draw out more a lot more flavor than could be found in the regular Abt 12. It probably didn’t hurt that this beer had also been aged a bit to help its true flavors shine through! Hands down, this beer ranked #1 among our tasting panel! However, it was also agreed that the magic that went into producing this brew likely could not be duplicated! RateBeer Rating 99
Collaboration Brew Next Year!
After our tasting was concluded, we discussed the highlights and features we liked the most from the sampling we had completed. The result is going to be a beautiful, Belgian-style Quadruple brewed by Dan Wade, Josh Patton and the guys at Wooden Robot with some input from our guys here at Carolina Beer Temple and our future head brewer, David Jones, at Seaboard Brewery! Look forward to the result in early 2017!