Beers are always trying to one-up each other, and the tripel and quadrupel styles are (sort of) results of that trend.
A few years back, every IPA brewery was trying to make the hoppiest West Coast bad boy they could. Today, tons of popular breweries are trying to make beers so hazy that you can cut through them with a knife.
But of course, forcing ABV to ungodly levels has always been important for brewers and beer drinkers alike. Why buy a 7% ale when we can get a 10% ale?
This isn’t why tripels and quadrupels first came about, but Americans have taken these classic, name-brand styles and made them into the beautiful boozy monsters they are today.
Tripel Ale – A History
Tripel (pronounced ‘triple’) can be traced back to at least the mid 1950’s to Trappist, a dope brewery chain thing located in Europe and America.
Trappist style beers are pretty much all top-fermented ales, although there are some lagers thrown into the mix. For the most part, their beers can be divided into two categories: dubbel and tripel, or double and triple. At one point in time Trappist also made singles, but those have since fallen out of favor.
Dubbel and tripel beers originally measured the malt and gravity of beers, but they’ve since been used to describe a range of ABV.
Generally speaking, dubbels are going to be near the 6% range while tripels hit the 9% range.
Tripel, which by the 1950’s was a brand name for Trappist, slowly made its way into beerspeak, and Americans decided to take the word and slam it on any heavy ale they were making.
The result? The Belgian Tripel, a classic style that many breweries have adopted.
Generally speaking, Belgian-Style Tripels hit near that 9% range and don’t have particularly high IBUS. They’re light in color, pretty clear and carry a slight spice flavor.
Quadrupel Ales – Straying from God’s Light
At some point in history, a Trappist brewer thought, “hmm…9-10% isn’t doing it for me anymore.” They then proceeded to make quadrupels.
The best way to describe quadrupels (pronounced ‘quadruple’) is any Trappist-Style Belgian ale that hits above the 10% ABV mark. While it’s a brand name for one of the Trappist breweries, some other breweries have started adopting this.
With a quardupel, you’ll basically be getting a pretty dark, strong ale with tons of spice flavor – and plenty of booze.
In my opinion, there are some good quadrupels out there. Also in my opinion, there are plenty of quadrupels where some brewer at some point should have taken a look in the mirror and said, “what have I become.” By forcing the ABV so high, you really start to lose a lot of those Belgian-Style ale flavors that made dubbels and tripels popular in the first place.
That being said, a well-done quadrupel can be a pleasant surprise.
Of course, I highly doubt that most people brewing or drinking quadrupels are looking for tons of subtle flavors. The beautiful thing about quadrupels is that they know exactly what they are, and we can love them for filling a niche that we never knew had to be filled.