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Quadrupel Your Pleasure

by Matt O'Connor

Summer has quickly slipped away from us and we’re left staring at changing leaves and temperatures in the 50s and 60s at noon. It’s autumn. With colder temperatures come, at least in my mind, darker beers. We’ve covered some of the Oktoberfest favorites these past few weeks here, but I’m ready to get the jump into the next season: Winter.

Some of my favorite beers in the winter months are Belgian or Belgian-spired quadrupel ales. These are usually dark beers with ample amounts of barley, additional bits of candi beet sugar, and fermented with particular Belgian yeast strains. The result is a beer that smells of plums and raisins, can taste a bit syrupy in sweetness with just enough carbonation to cut the taste, and has a relatively high alcohol content (normally above 10% ABV).

These beers are strong and meant to be savored, but often the mark of an excellent beer is its pure quaff-ability. That is nothing like “drinkability,” so don’t sue me, Bud Light. Seriously, alcohol can truly be a flavor in some beers. It is very common to find a nice bit of burn in the finish to drive home a hoppy IPA, but more often then not a refined beer is one that you hardly know is alcoholic. In a majority of these Quads, the alcohol is barely noticeable under the silky flavors of the beer, so be careful.

The beer staring in today’s review comes from a brewery that I’ve really grown to love: Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri. Their take on the Belgian quad style is called The Sixth Glass. Its label includes a devilish figure, which is appropriate since if you actually had six glasses of this beer, it’s likely you’d visit the Devil by the end of the evening. Maybe Saint Peter, if you’re lucky. So, with Boulevard’s Sixth Glass leading off (as a Red Sox fan baseball metaphors are all I have left) here’s a list of my favorite Quadrupel ales:

The Sixth Glass, Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City, MO) A fantastic beer, if you can find it, available in 12 ounce packs of four or 750ml big bottle formats. Grade: A

Abt 12, St. Bernardus Brouwerij (Watou, Belgium) This is the true measuring stick that I use for the Quad style. There are other beers that are supposedly better, but they’re so rare you almost literally need to visit the monastery they’re brewed at to taste. Clearly, I do not have the means to do so, so Abt 12 is my gold standard. Grade: A+

Leviathan Quad, Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA) A very solid take on the style from a local favorite. This one’s a bit boozy in taste and hovers on the sweet side, so it’s not the first I would grab, but a good beer nonetheless. Grade: B+

Trappistes Rochefort 10, Brasserie de Rochefort (Rochefort, Belgium) A true Belgian classic. One of just a few beers brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery. This one explodes with the dark plum and molasses flavors. Fantastic. Grade: A+

Four, Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME) A bit pricey; I think Allagash runs this in small batches. At roughly $18 for a 750ml bottle, I’ve only ever bothered to try this once or twice, but it’s something I would come back to when, or if, I get a real job out of this law school gig. Smells of raisins and has a very nice carbonation level. A great American take on the style. Grade: A-

Baby Tree, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project (Somerville, MA) With all the fantastic beers that Pretty Things makes, I’ll admit that this is the one I drink the least often. Especially because when winter’s a-calling I reach for their winter seasonal Our Finest Regards, an English Barleywine style. Baby Tree used to be brewed with dried plums, but hasn’t been since mid-2011. This is a good move; I found it to be a bit overwhelming in its previous incarnation. As it stands this is something I would reach for above many others, even if it’s not the first Pretty Things brew I would grab. Grade: A-

And I Didn’t Forget!

Original Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr Brewery (Munich, Germany) So, I tried this one, as I said I would last week, and it’s damn sure delicious. Perfect balance of malts. This is a true fall classic. Grade: A-

Image courtesy of the author


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Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]