I’ve been waiting about two years to finally do this: a blind tasting between a bunch of quads. I’ve had the bottles ready to go since early 2009, as a result, some of them are aged while others have been dropped from the potential line-up and replaced by newcomers. The reason I wanted to do these as a blind tasting was to see how well Westvleteren 12 fared against the others in its class and to do it without bias of knowing what we were drinking.
The line-up was: La Trappe Quadruple, Rochefort 10 and St Bernardus 12, all about two years old, plus Westvleteren 12, BrewDog AB:01 and Struise St Amatus Oostvleteren 12, all about nine months old (the Struise is a cheeky Oostvleteren equivalent to the Westvleteren neighbours, while the AB:01 is made with the Westvleteren yeast, hence they were added to be modern contenders).
Here’s what we (four of us) thought, drinking them one at a time and then comparing the lot at the end and giving a mark out of 10...
Beer 1: Sweet yeast, tea, lots of raisins and figs, relaxed as the fizz disappeared giving off honey and vanilla. Great aroma, a lightness of flavour. (1st place - 30/40)
Beer 2: A harsh ethanol and nail varnish taint spoilt the great fruity depth beneath. A punchy hop hit finished the mouthful. (6th place - 19/30)
Beer 3: Like beer number one but fuller bodied and more intense in flavour with lots of prunes and raisins. It tasted aged, a little sticky and had a great flavour. (joint 3rd place – 24.5/40)
Beer 4: Floral, smooth, a little peppery, light in body and a bit odd in comparison to the others, marking itself as different. (joint 5th place – 22/40)
Beer 5: A little boozy, a floral hop burst, almonds and fruit, very clear in the glass but lacking anything to make us go wow or dip back in for another taste. (joint 5th place – 22/40)
Beer 6: The best looking, retaining its head even though it was poured over 30 minutes before. Lots of fruit, great flavour and depth, tasty and interesting. (joint 3rd place – 24.5/40)
The best beer was unanimously number one; it was the Westvleteren 12 (I remember the Beer Nut did a similar tasting a while ago with the same result). The others were, in order of 2-6: St Amatus, St Bernardus, AB:01, La Trappe and Rochefort 10. Why was the Westvleteren better? It had a different depth of flavour, but a real lightness to it as well. The St Bernardus had the biggest flavour, almost like an amplified version of the Westvleteren, and it seemed to age handsomely into something different and new.
Surprisingly, this was hard work. Some were bursting with flavour, others were seemingly dying inside. The one thing that we all commented after this was that quads are a style we rarely drink and none of us saw a real place for them in our fridges, seldom getting a craving for a dark, hearty monastic brew.
Are quads your thing? Is a number 12 your number one, do you prefer the 10 of Rochefort or are there modern versions which better the others?