On December 23rd at 5:00 p.m. Hale’s Ale Brewery will release their Belgian-style Quadruppel. If you attended the Winter Beer Festival earlier this month, you may have gotten a sneak preview of this big, ambitious beer. This limited-release beer will be poured at both the Hale’s Brewery in Seattle and the Hale’s Alehouse in Silverdale. Don’t delay, it will likely go fast.
We sampled the Hale’s Quad at Winter Beerfest but also attended a more formal, special tasting with Mike Hale last night at the Hale’s Alehouse in Silverdale. This beer, lovingly nicknamed figgy pudding, is robust and powerful. It is complex and delicious. You will notice many different flavors: from figs to almonds to chocolate. It invites contemplation as it warms in your hands and changes on your palate. It is not for the faint of heart of the unadventurous beer drinker. It’s a big ‘un.
Here is how the beer is described by Dave Seiler, head brewer at Hale’s.
Sometimes you have to let the brewers have some fun. The Quadruppel was that beer for us this year. I wanted to produce a big barrel aged beer for the 2010 holiday season. I was hoping to produce something that hadn’t been seen too much in the Northwest, if at all. The Belgian Quarduppel fit the bill nicely. While most Belgian brewers will produce a Dubbel and a Trippel, the Quadruppel is further than many will go. It also lends itself a little bit open to translation because it isn’t altogether that traditional. I hadn’t heard of anyone in the Northwest who had produced the beer yet, and actually just a few brewers anywhere in the U.S. And it gave us a bit of a challenge on the brew system, a beer this big has a monster mash and is a challenge to keep from getting stuck.
The malt that we wanted to play with the most in this beer was Special B. It left the beer with a lovely purple-reddish hue that affected not only the beer but the lacing. Add in a little Cara-Vienna for some light caramel notes, some Cara-Pils for mouthfeel and hint of chocolate malt to tie it all up, and the beer was almost complete. That “almost” is important because a Belgian beer isn’t quite the same without candy sugar to drive down the finishing gravity and give what Belgians call “digestibility”. While most American brewers look to Belgian Candi Rocks to get what they’re looking for in sugar character, we decided to go a bit more traditional and use liquidBelgian Candy Sugar, two different versions in fact; each with their own interesting flavor additions. We did use some Candi Rocks as well, a nod to the American Belgian tradition. The last touch in the wort mix was a little bit of Turbinado sugar, a final boost to the starting gravity. We hopped it with Goldings because I love Goldings. While more of a traditional English hop, they’re used often in Belgian beers and can give a nice spicy-fruity character. The hops should hardly be apparent aside from a hint in the finish. In fermentation we used the same yeast blend that had been employed in our “IX Gold”. It is a blend of three different Belgian strains: two Trappist and one Belgian ale. On top of that just to make sure the beer was able to finish as far as we wanted, we also added Champagne yeast. We planned on a pretty warm fermentation to make sure that the Belgian yeast character and the fruitiness that comes was able to fully develop. The first batch finished sweet. After some deliberation, we brewed a second batch and made absolutely sure it finished dry. We then put both batches unblended into whiskey and brandy barrels as well as stainless steel. Then we sat on them for a year. The age took out the hot alcohol character of the beer as well as the hop bitterness. It also allowed the flavors to meld a little bit and the oak, vanillin and coconut to come out of the barrel. When blending it back together we tasted a couple different percentages between sweet and dry to find the one that hit the balance point best. A 60% dry and 40% sweet had just the right amount of body characteristic without being too sweet.
Appearance – The beer itself is a deep reddish brown color. The purple-red of the Special B was slightly affected by the coloring from the barrel. The head also has both hues, though we kept the carbonation low to allow the beer to speak for itself.
Aroma – Oak and vanilla come out strongly from the barrels. Hints of brown sugar and fruit come quickly after with a hint of an almost wine-like characteristic.
Flavor – Caramel, chocolate and fig with more of the wine-like characteristics and a hint of vanilla.
Take your time with this beer — sip slowly by a fire, to perhaps. As the beer warms up, a new layer of flavors will start to come out. Pair with dark chocolate or a fine cheese.