Quads are a style I was a bit confused about until fairly recently. Most of that confusion comes from the fact that they go by multiple names. Quad or Quadruple is used interchangeably by most people with Belgian Dark Strong Ale OR Belgian Strong Dark Ale. There is a lot of room to play in this style, as Dubbel and Tripel are the more common sister styles. You can think of a Quad as a souped up Dubbel, or you can take it in another direction. A lot of American craft brewers seem to like to add fruit, two examples local to my area being Tröegs’ Mad Elf with cherries and Spring House’s Cosmic Monster with a couple different types of berries. For this Quad, I’m staying away from fruit and staying fairly traditional, albeit with some ingredient choices that may seem odd.
I’ve been planning this beer for a long time, and yet I feel like this is one of my looser brew days. I’m brewing two different beers from the same mash, the second being Night Work which I’ll write about tomorrow, and the volumes and gravities I’m going for are fairly elastic.
I originally planned to make a full five gallons of each and have them both be similarly strong, pushing 10% ABV. With a ten gallon mash tun and dented ten gallon brew kettle, though that just isn’t realistic. I’ve decided that the volumes could be a little lower and I don’t mind Night Work’s gravity dropping, but I want this to be a full powered quad.
I am mid mash as I write this and here is the plan: I will pull the first gallon and a half or so and sit it aside, then continue to drain the mash tun. I’ll see how much I get and what the gravity is before deciding how much water to sparge with. My mash tun is packed to the top with twenty five pounds of grains and as much water as I could fit.
Again, this isn’t how I normally do things, but I’m shooting for a little bit of a moving goal today. Also, it’s been close to two months since I last brewed and I’m more anxious than normal to play around on this brew day. I’m hoping to get at least eight gallons in the kettle to start the boil, but the gravity will have to warrant it. I don’t have a set number in mind but certainly won’t let it get under 1.065ish for pre-boil OG.
Getting back to that first gallon and a half, though, it will boost the gravity. Instead of buying candi syrup, I’m going to use the method I did for PROOF of boiling a bit of the wort separately from the rest so that it will get extra caramelization. I’m going to step it up even more, though by adding two pounds of sugar to this part of the wort. I’ll add the sugar and start the heat on the stovetop while the rest of the mash is draining, which will give it about an extra hour of boiling over the main wort’s ninety minutes.
I’ll be keeping an eye on it and adding a bit of water if it gets too thick. I’m looking for something a little bit syrupy, but not as unmanageable as the caramel syrup I made for Yellow Cat Candy Apple Cider. I will pull off and chill the wort for Night Work after the boil and add this syrup to what is left, which will be the Quad.
Okay, I need to tend to the wort. I’ll come back to write more about the recipe and update on how the brew day is going once I get to the boil.
I’m close to ten minutes into the boil now. I ended up with a little less wort than I planned on, but I want to keep the gravity high and I’m willing to lose volume for that. For the quad at least. Night Work will be going through some changes that I’ll cover tomorrow.
My pre boil volume was a little over seven gallons. I’m not sure of the exact gravity, but the runnings were getting pretty thin so I decided to cut it off. The wort is a nice dark brown color. It is a little bit darker than I expected but definitely in the right range. I planned on the syrup darkening things up but it won’t have much work to do in that arena.
I aroma coming off the brew kettle, still without any hops added, is great. There is some coffee and toffee, it is sweet and roasty. Great combination. How I got this wort was with a fairly simple but maybe slightly off kilter grain bill.
Generally, most Belgian beers use Pilsner and Munich for the base malts. That is true for this beer, but I used German Pilsner, as I usually do. Belgian Pilsner is readily available but I like the lighter, crisper maltiness of German malts, even in this dark, heavy beer. I used American Munich malt because I wanted that little bit extra maltiness, but not some of the heavier characteristics that come with European sourced Munich malts. I made that decision based on the specialty malt that I’m most hoping to showcase here.
It is probably the most off kilter addition to the grain bill but I’m excited to try English Dark Crystal (150L). I have never used this malt and only discovered it last month at the Lancaster Brewers Club’s crystal malt experiment. If you haven’t read my post about that meeting, the idea was to brew a bunch of beers with identical recipes except that each had a different type of crystal malt. The one with this, while not anywhere near the Pale Ale style that most of the beers were supposed to be, was one of my favorites. It was much fruitier than the other dark crystal beers, including the one with Special B which was my originally planned crystal malt. Prune was the distinct character that I got and while English malt are not common in Belgian beers, this character seemed perfect for my Quad.
Aside from that, I also used a bit of flaked wheat to help give the strong, dry beer more body and better head retention.
I’m also using another English ingredient. East Kent Golding hops. Again, English hops aren’t the norm, but this beer is only getting one bittering addition, just enough to balance the other flavors and I have some EKG left from the pound bag I bought for Old SMaSHy. They should provide a good, clean bitterness and all of their trademark flavor and aroma will be boiled away in the hour that they spend in the kettle.
For yeast, I decided to go with White Labs’ 530 – Abbey Ale, which is the Westmalle strain. I originally planned to use this for the beers that became bCloud and Triple Valor but reconsidered and used WLP500, the Chimay strain instead. I kind of regret that now. The Chimay strain is said to be easier to work with, fermenting anything you throw at it to appropriate dryness. It is also much fruitier as opposed to the spicier, more phenolic profile of this yeast.
This strain originates from Wetmalle, but they share it with some other Belgian and Trappist brewers, including the lauded Westvleteren. I hope to achieve the trademark “Abbey” character and if the yeast does stall out, I can always re-pitch something else to finish the job after this yeast has given it’s flavor.
Anyway, it is now the end of the brew day and I ended up with four gallons of very high gravity, very dark and aromatic wort. I’m excited to see how this beer turns out and I look forward to it warming many cold Winter nights.
Style: Belgian Dark Strong Ale/Quad
Brew Date: October 28, 2014
Serve Date: Winter 2014/2015
Expected FG: 1.020
Approximate ABV: 11%
60% German Pilsner
24% American Munich
10% English Dark Crystal 150L
6% Flaked Wheat
+ 2 lb of Cane Sugar, caramelized with a portion of the wort
Hops (approximately 7 gallon boil, some wort used for different beer)
2 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 min
White Labs WLP 530 – Abbey Ale (Westmalle)