Discovering the perfect Belgian quad recipe can be a truly rewarding experience for both your taste buds and your brewing skills. Belgian quads, also known as Belgian Dark Strong Ales, are characterized by their rich, complex flavors and high alcohol content.
In this article, we will delve into the essential ingredients in a Belgian quad recipe as well as take a look at the processes involved in crafting this beer, to include selecting the right malt and hops to experimenting with different yeast strains.
We will start out with giving you a recipe you can brew up today and then further in the article we will delve into more details about this beer as well as explaining how you can design your own Belgian quad recipe…
Belgian Quad Recipe
This recipe will produce a 5-gallon batch of beer.
– 12 lbs Belgian Pilsner malt
– 2 lbs Munich malt
– 1 lb Special B malt
– 1 lb Melanoidin malt
– 0.5 lbs Chocolate malt
– 1 lb Belgian Candi Sugar (Dark) – add during the last 15 minutes of boil
– 1 lb Belgian Candi Sugar (Amber or Dark) – add to primary after primary fermentation slows (to boost ABV and contribute to flavor).
– 1 oz East Kent Goldings (bittering) – 60 minutes
– 0.5 oz Styrian Goldings (flavor) – 15 minutes
– 0.5 oz Styrian Goldings (aroma) – 5 minutes
– Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity) or SafBrew Abbaye BE-256
– 1 tsp Irish Moss (or Whirlfloc tablet) – 15 minutes left in boil
– 0.5 tsp yeast nutrient – 15 minutes left in boil
Mash at 150°F (65°C) for 60 minutes. Sparge with enough water to collect around 6.5 gallons of wort. This accounts for boil off and losses. Boil for 60-minutes. Add hops according to the schedule. After booil cool the wort quickly to around 68°F (20°C). Transfer the cooled wort to your sanitized fermenter and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 68°F (20°C) until primary fermentation slows (around 5-7 days), then add the additional 1 lb of Belgian Candi Sugar to boost ABV and flavors. After another week, transfer to a secondary fermenter and let it age for 2-3 months to develop flavors. Optionally, you can add oak chips or cubes to the secondary for added depth and character.
History of Belgian Quad
The Belgian Quad has roots in the Trappist monastic brewing tradition, which began after the Roman Empire crumbled in the fifth century. Trappists, also known as the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are a Roman Catholic religious order. These monks brewed their own ales to sustain themselves and provided them as a source of income for their monastic communities.
Belgian Dark Strong Ale vs Belgian Quad
Belgian Quads are a subcategory of Belgian dark strong ales. While both are high in alcohol content and share similar flavor profiles, some differences set them apart:
– Belgian Dark Strong Ale: Traditionally known for its rich malt character, these beers often present notes of dark fruits, such as raisins, and a subtle spicy character derived from Belgian yeast strains.
– Belgian Quad: Also known as “quadrupel,” this subcategory tends to have a more complex flavor profile, with additional caramel and toffee notes, along with a higher alcohol content.
Impact on Brew Culture
Throughout the years, Belgian Quads have greatly influenced beer culture in various ways:
– The distinct flavor profile and high alcohol content of Belgian Quads have made them popular among beer enthusiasts, who appreciate their complexity, depth of flavors, and sipping nature.
– As the demand for Belgian-style ales grew, many breweries outside Belgium began to explore and produce their own versions of Belgian Quads.
– The rich history and association with Trappist monks have added an element of mystique to the Belgian Quad, making it a favorite among craft beer drinkers who appreciate the art of brewing and the unique characteristics of this iconic style.
Belgian Quad Characteristics
In this section, we will focus on the Belgian Quad’s characteristics that make it a distinct and enjoyable beer style. We will discuss its color and appearance, flavor profile, and alcohol content.
Color and Appearance
The Belgian Quad tends to have a rich, dark color, ranging from deep amber to dark brown. The SRM (Standard Reference Method) value for this style can usually be found between 12 and 22. The beer often has a thick and creamy head, which can vary from off-white to light tan. The overall appearance of the Belgian Quad is characterized by its deep color, high clarity, and prominent head.
The Belgian Quad boasts a complex flavor profile, which comes from a combination of malt, yeast, and often dark candi sugar or syrup. This complexity is marked by strong malt flavors including toffee, caramel, and toasted bread, along with fruity esters from yeast that evoke notes of raisins, plums, and figs.
The beer may also display spicy phenols with clove-like or pepper-like aromas, as well as some alcohol warmth. The finish is typically sweet but balanced by a moderate level of hop bitterness.
One defining aspect of the Belgian Quad is its high alcohol content. Most Belgian Quads have an ABV (Alcohol By Volume) ranging from 9% to 14%. The beer’s gravity measurements also reflect its strength; the “original gravity” (OG) typically falls between 1.075 and 1.110, and the “final gravity” (FG) is often in the 1.015 to 1.025 range. Despite the high alcohol content, the Belgian Quad still achieves a smooth and balanced flavor profile, making it an enjoyable and robust beer experience.
Belgian Quad Recipe Key Ingredients
The following will help you design your own recipe from scratch…
When crafting a Belgian Quad recipe, you should begin with high-quality malted grains to achieve desired color, flavor, and mouthfeel. Key malt types are:
– Pilsner malt: The base malt in the recipe, providing a light, crisp flavor.
– Munich malt: Adds a touch of sweetness and depth to the beer.
– Special B malt: Imparts dark fruit flavors and enhances the beer’s complexity.
For a Belgian Quad, hop selection is vital as it contributes to the beer’s bitterness and balance. Here are some common hops to consider:
– Northern Brewer: This hop is used for its moderate bitterness, typically around 25-30 IBUs, which complements the beer’s rich, malty profile.
– Styrian Golding: A variety of noble hop, Styrian Goldings can be added in small amounts to impart a subtle spicy, floral character to your Belgian Quad.
The right yeast strain affects the beer’s flavor profile and fermentation. Some recommended yeasts for Belgian Quads include:
– Belgian Abbey Ale yeast: This strain imparts fruity esters and spicy phenolics, enhancing the beer’s complexity.
– White Labs Trappist Ale WLP500: Another excellent choice, producing a balanced beer with fruity esters and spicy phenolics.
Don’t forget to add yeast nutrient or a yeast nutrient substitute to ensure a healthy fermentation.
Considering how much water is in beer it plays a huge role in the quality of the brew. The best water for brewing beer is water that is closest to what the original style was brewed with. As such you should take the time to learn about water chemistry. Water chemistry plays an essential role in brewing a Belgian Quad. Aim to use water with soft, neutral characteristics to allow your malt and hops flavors to shine through. It is crucial to maintain proper pH levels while brewing, typically around 5.3, to promote ideal enzyme activity and improve beer stability.
Belgian Candi Sugar
To finish off the recipe, incorporating Belgian Candi Sugar will provide the distinct flavor and boost the ABV. Dark Candi Sugar, up to 12%, contributes caramel, toffee, and dark fruit notes that are signature to Belgian Quads. Remember to add the sugar during the boil for best results.
To begin the brewing process, you will need to perform a programmed infusion process with the following schedule:
– 60 minutes at 63°C (145.4°F)
– 30 minutes at 72°C (161.6°F)
– 1 minute at 78°C (172.4°F)
The pH of your beer is also important to pay attention during mashing; maintain a pH of 5.3 to extract the sugars and enzymes from your grains. Be sure to sparge at 80°C (176°F) to rinse the remaining sugars and achieve your desired pre-boil gravity.
Once you’ve completed the mashing process, it’s time to proceed to boiling. Your boiling time should be 90 minutes. You will need to add your hops at specific intervals:
– First hops: 10 minutes into the boil
– Second hops: 50 minutes into the boil
– Third hops: 90 minutes into the boil (end of the boil)
At 85 minutes, add the extra sugar to increase the beer’s ABV and contribute to its unique flavor profile.
After boiling, it’s crucial to quickly cool your wort down to 21°C (69.8°F) before transferring it to your primary fermenter. The fermentation process should take approximately 7 days. Make sure to monitor the temperature and maintain it at 21°C throughout the fermentation period to ensure a proper yeast performance.
To enhance the clarity and help yeast and other particulates settle, you’ll need to cold crash your beer. Once primary fermentation is complete, lower the temperature of your fermenter to around 0-4°C (32-39°F). Let it rest in these conditions for at least a couple of days before moving on to the aging process.
To bring out the complex flavors and character of a Belgian Quad, an aging period is necessary. After cold crashing, transfer your beer to an appropriate vessel suitable for long-term aging, such as a glass or stainless steel container. The aging process can vary, but it’s generally recommended to let your Belgian Quad age for at least 2-3 months, with some brewers opting for several months to a year. During this time, monitor the temperature and keep it consistent, preferably between 15-22°C (59-71.6°F).
Belgian Quad Recipe Construction
When crafting your Belgian Quad recipe, consider a 5-gallon batch size. This is a common volume for homebrewers and will provide a sufficient yield for enjoying and sharing your beer.
Typically, the boil time for a Belgian Quad recipe ranges between 60 to 90 minutes. Aiming for a 60-minute boil time is standard for most homebrew recipes, allowing for ample hop utilization and wort concentration.
The malt bill of a Belgian Quad consists mainly of Pilsner malt, with smaller amounts of Munich malt and specialty grains. Here’s a suggested grain bill:
– 20 lbs Pilsner malt
– 5 lbs Munich malt (German)
– 1 lb Aromatic malt
– 10.4 oz Special B
– 2 lbs D-180 Candi syrup
– 2 lbs cane sugar
These malts provide the base for the rich maltiness and dark fruit flavors often found in Belgian Quads.
The hop schedule for a Belgian Quad recipe should target around 25-30 IBUs, with bitterness balancing the malt profile. Usually, traditional hops like Hallertau and East Kent Goldings are used. You can try the following schedule:
– 2 oz Hallertau hops (60 minutes)
– 2 oz East Kent Goldings hops (5 minutes)
The specific hop additions will create a medium-low to moderate bitterness and complement the malt richness and fruity notes.
Choose a Belgian yeast strain that’s known for producing higher alcohols, esters, and sometimes phenolics. When you pitch the yeast into your fermenter, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the appropriate pitching rate based on your recipe’s original gravity (OG).
After pitching your yeast into the primary fermenter, follow a fermentation schedule that allows the yeast to work at its best. Typically, Belgian Quads have a fermentation period of at least two weeks, with some brewers opting for an extended period. Monitor your specific gravity throughout fermentation and consider transferring to a secondary fermenter if desired. Once the fermentation process is complete, bottle or keg your Belgian Quad and enjoy the complex, rich, smooth, and deceptively potent flavors.
Analyzing the Finished Product
To create the perfect Belgian Quad, it’s helpful to understand the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) guidelines for this type of beer. According to these guidelines, Belgian Quads should possess a complex flavor profile, incorporating dark fruit flavors and occasional spice notes. The bitterness should be medium-low to moderate, with an estimated 25-30 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) being ideal. You can achieve this by using noble hops.
Due to its high alcohol content and rich flavor profile, you can expect a higher calorie count for this beer. Though the exact number of calories will depend on factors such as sugar and alcohol levels, keep in mind that indulging in a Belgian Quad may have a more significant impact on your calorie intake compared to lighter beer styles.
The taste of your Belgian Quad should primarily feature a harmonious blend of dark fruit flavors and some spiciness. Complexity is key, with components such as raisins, plums, and dates being commonly associated with the style. Additionally, you may find subtler notes of spices, such as cloves or anise, that add depth and character to the flavor profile.
All Grain vs Extract Brewing
Benefits of All-Grain Brewing
When brewing a Belgian quad, you have the option to choose between all-grain and extract brewing methods. All-grain brewing involves using only malted grains as the source of fermentable sugars, which allows you to have greater control over your beer’s flavor and composition.
By working with a variety of grains, you can create unique malt profiles and experiment with different combinations. This method is ideal for those who want to learn more about the brewing process and have the equipment to handle mashing and lautering steps. Additionally, all-grain brewing can be more cost-effective as the expense of grains tends to be lower compared to extract.
Benefits of Extract Brewing
Extract brewing, on the other hand, utilizes malt extracts in either liquid or dry form. These extracts have already undergone the process of mashing, which means you won’t need special equipment or as much brewing time. This is an attractive option for beginners or those with limited space.
One of the advantages of extract brewing is its simplicity and shorter brewing time. Since the mashing process is already completed for you, your focus can be more on the brew day itself and customizing your Belgian quad with specialty grains, hops, and yeast. Additionally, extract brewing can offer more consistent results due to the standardized nature of the malt extract.
When crafting a Belgian quad recipe, whether you choose all-grain or extract brewing, your primary concern should be selecting the right fermentables that will contribute to the complex flavor profile associated with this beer style.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best fermentation schedule for a Belgian Quad?
To brew a Belgian Quad, start by fermenting at a lower temperature, around 63°F (17°C) for the first few days, then gradually raise the temperature to 70°F (21°C) over the course of a week. Allow the beer to rest at the higher temperature for at least another week or until fermentation is complete. After primary fermentation, it’s recommended to age the beer for several months to improve its flavor and complexity.
Which yeast strain is ideal for brewing a Belgian Quad?
The Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast is a great option for brewing a Belgian Quad. This strain contributes to the fruity and spicy flavors often found in this style, while providing a good balance between attenuation and alcohol tolerance.
What are the main differences between a Belgian Quad and a Tripel?
Belgian Quads and Tripels both originate from the Trappist brewing tradition, but they have some differences in terms of color, strength, and flavor profile. Belgian Quads are typically darker, with more malt sweetness, a richer mouthfeel, and an amber to dark brown color. They also have a higher alcohol content, usually between 9% and 12%. In contrast, Belgian Tripel recipes produce a beer that is lighter in color, ranging from pale golden to amber, with a more delicate balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness. Their alcohol content usually falls between 7.5% and 9.5%.
How does the taste of Belgian Quad beer differ from other Belgian styles?
Belgian Quad beers are known for their rich, complex flavor profile. They often exhibit fruity, spicy, and dark caramel-like notes from the malt and yeast, which distinguishes them from other Belgian styles, such as Dubbels, Tripels, Golden Strongs and Belgian Dubbels. Additionally, Belgian Quads tend to have a higher alcohol content, contributing to a warming sensation and more pronounced mouthfeel compared to other Belgian styles.
What is the typical alcohol content of Belgian quads?
Belgian Quads generally have an alcohol content ranging from 9% to 12%, making them one of the strongest Belgian beer styles. The high alcohol content contributes to their complex flavor profile and warming mouthfeel.
What key ingredients are essential for an authentic Belgian quad recipe?
An authentic Belgian Quad recipe includes Belgian Pilsner malt as the base, with Munich malt making up around 20% of the grain bill to enhance the rich maltiness. Dark candy syrup, accounting for up to 12% of the fermentables, is another essential ingredient, as it contributes to the distinctive color, flavor, and aroma of the beer. Additionally, a Belgian Abbey yeast strain, such as Wyeast 1214, is crucial for producing the characteristic fruity and spicy flavors in this style.