Brew Like a Pro: How to Brew a Belgian Quad

Our Belgian Quad in front of a rustic wooden backboard.

The Belgian Quad, or Belgian Dark Strong Ale, is a dark, complex, very strong Belgian ale. It has wonderful malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and the famous Belgian spice. The BJCP guidelines describe it as “complex, rich, smooth, and dangerous.” Many of the top-rated beers in the world, such as Westvleteren 12, are Belgian Quads. The style guidelines are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.075 – 1.110
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.024
  • Alcohol by Volume: 8.0% – 12.0%
  • Bitterness: 20 – 35 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 12 – 22

Belgian Quad Ingredients

Malt

Even though the Belgian Quad is known for its complexity, the grain bill is straightforward. The bulk of this base is a Belgian Pilsner malt. To this, you can add Munich malt up to around 20% of the grain bill to beef up the rich maltiness. You can stop here, but if you’d like to add some more complexity consider adding 3% – 5% of aromatic or Special B malt. The aromatic malt adds a nice strong malty aroma to the beer, while Special B adds a raisin-like flavor.

Hops

The Belgian Quad has a medium-low to moderate bitterness, so I would add around 25-30 IBUs worth of a German noble bittering hop at 60 minutes. Hops are not usually noticeable, but if you want to add some, add a small amount of the same German noble hop to add a light spicy, floral character. In addition to the hops, you will want to add dark Belgian candi sugar. This will boost the ABV while adding caramel and burnt sugar flavors.

Yeast

For the Belgian Quad, the following are good choices.

  • Belgian Abbey Style Ale – 1214 (Wyeast)
  • Belgian Ardennes – 3522 (Wyeast)
  • Belgian Dark Ale – 3822-PC (Wyeast)
  • Belgian Ale Yeast – WLP550 (White Labs)

Water

Last but not least, the water. I use a reverse osmosis filtration system for all beers I brew and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 27 ppm
  • Sulfates: 99 ppm
  • Chloride: 45 ppm

Recipe

Our Belgian Quad in a glass made by Pretentious Glass.
Belgian Quad

The following is a 5-gallon version of a Belgian Quad. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.103
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.024
  • Alcohol by Volume: 10.0%
  • Bitterness: 29.8 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 25.3

Grain Bill

  • Floor-Malted Pilsner – 11 lbs (60.3%)
  • Munich Malt – 4 lbs (21.9%)
  • Special B – 12 oz (4.1%)
  • Aromatic Malt – 8 oz (2.7%)

Hops/Miscellaneous

  • 3 oz of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh at 60 minutes (29.2 IBU)
  • 2 lb dark candi sugar at 15 minutes
  • 0.5 oz of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh at 3 minutes (0.6 IBU)

Yeast

Belgian Abbey Style Ale – 1214 (Wyeast)

Mash

Add your salts and pH adjustment, if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 148 degrees Fahrenheit. We mash at 148 degrees for 75 minutes to ensure the maximum amount of fermentable sugars for that dry finish. For me, the strike water was 5.1 gallons at 159 degrees Fahrenheit. After 75 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mashing out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.091. For me, it was 3.65 gallons.

Boil

Boil the wort for 120 minutes and add the hops as needed. At 15 minutes, add your sugar. At 10 minutes, I added a yeast nutrient, and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.103. I let this free rise to 67 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 67 degrees for 5-7 days until the primary fermentation starts to slow down, and then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees. Hold it here for a day or two to make sure fermentation finishes. Once fermentation is complete, cold crash to 33 degrees, hold it for at least a day, and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.8 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Belgian Quad recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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