While I’m on the topic of strong beer, a recent tasting conducted by Young Dredge over at Pencil & Spoon has stirred up some controversy over the style term “quadrupel” (or “quadruple” or simply “quad”). I feel compelled to chime in.
Like Tripel, Quadrupel is a term invented by a Trappist brewery for one of their commercial beers, the former by Westmalle and the latter by Koningshoeven/La Trappe. Both follow logically from the classic abbey designations of enkel, or single, being an everyday beer of low strength, and dubble, or double, being a stronger, more nutritious beer reserved for visitors, feast days and periods of fasting.
So one’s as legit as the other, right? Maybe not.
Westmalle Tripel, by most people’s calculations, was the first tripel, it being specifically created for commercial purposes and marketed under that name. It was “likely created,” speculates Stan Hieronymus, author of Brew Like a Monk, to satisfy “drinkers in the 1930’s who wanted both stronger beer and one the color of trendy, light-colored Pilseners.”
La Trappe Quadrupel, on the other hand, was created in 1991 to be the strongest beer of the abbey’s line, originally intended as only a winter seasonal. As its popularity grew, however, it became a year-round brand and the “quad” tag began to be stuck to beers of all sorts, which is where problems arise.
The style Stan calls “not quite a style” is now said to include beers such as Westvleteren 12, St. Bernardus 12 and Rochefort 10, all strong and dark ales that were included in Young Dredge’s tasting and all beers which pre-existed the La Trappe Quadrupel. The question which arises, then, is can a new style name and definition be applied to beers that were well-established long before its creation?