Belgian beers and beer styles are like a complicated puzzle. Sometimes even the most expert beer drinkers are struggling to put together all the pieces. Belgium has around 1600 beers by known brewers and countless beer styles.
Internationally, Belgium is often associated with Trappist beers, beers brewed by Trappist monasteries. Trappist monasteries have generated several beer styles on their own. There is often confusion with Triple, Double and Quadruple beers that all originate from Trappist monasteries. But what is the difference between them? That is exactly what we are here to discuss today.
What connects the Triple, Double and Quadruple beers?
As we already mentioned, these beer styles all originate from Trappist monasteries. They used to be described as strong Belgian ales. All these three beer styles have been brewed in Belgium for generations. Moreover, these styles share a common brewing method, and these beers are made using top fermentation.
The names of the beers are associated with the amount of malt used. The single beers that monks used to brew for themselves were light and used twice less malt as the Double beers. For a triple beer, the amount of malt tripled.
Although all these styles originate from Trappist monasteries, nowadays not all double, triple or quadruple beers are Trappist beers. Over time these monastic brewing rules have changed. Some of these beers may present themselves as Abbaye beers. This means that the beer is associated with an abbey but does not mean that it has been brewed between the walls of a monastery. Often the term abbey beer is used more for marketing. Nevertheless, if it is a true Trappist beer, you can be confident that it has been following the monastic brewing tradition, and all the profit goes to charity.
What are the main differences between triple, double and quadruple beer?
One of the main differences between these beer styles is the alcohol content and the colour. You may think these two characteristics go hand in hand, but in reality, it is not that simple. The flavour profile is another fact that makes these beers distinguishable from each other.
But let’s break down these beer styles to understand the differences better.
Let us start with the lightest one, the double (dubbel) beer. Dubbel beer style was created by the monks at Westmalle monastery in 1856. The beer was strong, with an alcohol level between 6-8.5% and a dark colour. The doubles today still come in a darker, amber to copper colour and within the same alcohol level. The flavour profile is generally malty with a caramel-like sweetness. You can expect just slight hoppiness and moderate bitterness.
Some of the best Belgian Double beers:
- Westmalle Trappist Dubbel
- Prior 8 de Sint-Bernardus
- Dubbel Pater by Corsendonk
- Rochefort Trappistes
- Chimay Rouge
- Fagnes Brune
Triple beer has a higher alcohol content than a dubbel beer, but surprisingly the colour is lighter. That is a common assumption from amateur beer drinkers that as the beer gets stronger, so does the colour. It comes in a light, pale to deep gold colour and is often hazy. The colour difference comes from the ingredients used to make the beers. Unlike the dubble, triple beer does not use caramelised sugar and is brewed with light Pilsner malt. The alcohol level of a triple beer reaches from 7.5-10%. Some triple beers can even exceed the 10% ABV. Triple beers often have fruity aromas, and you can get notes of banana. The flavour profile is hoppier compared to the dubbel beer, and you can notice all sorts of flavours like banana, fruit, citrus and spiciness. The mouthfeel of the beers is good, and you will not notice the strong alcohol content.
Some of the best Belgian Tripel beers:
- Westmalle Trappist Tripel
- Paix Dieu
- Tripel d'Anvers
- Guldenberg by De Ranke
- Jambe de Bois
- Rebel Local by Verzet
Quadruple beers are the strongest Belgian Ales that reach an ABV between 10-13%. You may not want to drink several of these, as you will already get tipsy from just one. Quadruples follow the flavour profile of dubble beers, but the alcohol strength of the triple beers. Thus, a perfect mix of both. The colour of a quadruple is either dark brown or deep red. On the palate, you can notice some spiciness, dark fruit and breadiness. They usually have a medium-sweet finish.
Some of the best Quadruple beers:
- Abt 12 de Sint-Bernardus
- Val-Dieu Grand Cru
- Préaris Quad by Vliegende Paard
- Barista Chocolate Quad
- Malheur 12
Though there are differences between these beer styles, there are no hard rules. That adds more complexity to learning these styles, yet excitement as well. Which is your favourite style among these? Do you prefer a Triple beer, a Dubble beer or a Quadruple beer?
Are you still confused about all the Belgian beer styles? Read also our guide to Belgian beer styles.