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No Rests for the Wicked: Fit for a Chalice

Belgium’s dark, strong ales are among the most complex and impressive beers in the canon—yet extract brewers can tackle them as well as anyone, as long as we pay attention to a few key points.

Annie Johnson May 2, 2022 - 10 min read

No Rests for the Wicked: Fit for a Chalice Primary Image

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Equally enjoyable at a festive gathering or as a quiet nightcap, Belgium’s stronger, darker Trappist ales—think Rochefort 10, Westvleteren 12, or Chimay Blue—are among the richest beers from one of the world’s richest brewing traditions. Yet, by understanding a few key points, even beginning homebrewers can produce something that tastes as great as it looks in the glass.

These beers are dark and complex, yet light and lively for their extraordinary strength; some call them “quadrupels”—taking a cue from the Dutch Trappist brewery, La Trappe, but also following the logical sequence beyond singles, dubbels, and tripels. Even if American brewers and geeks have taken to calling them “quads,” Belgian brewers generally don’t use the Q-word. Instead, they let the dark color and high strength do most of the talking.

These delightful ales are full of rich flavors and history. Anyone who knows me—old-school master that I am—knows that I appreciate history and hold a reverence for older styles. So, let’s dive into this big, rich, boozy tradition.

The Trappist Tradition

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Annie Johnson is an experienced R&D brewer, IT specialist, and national beer judge. Her awards include 2013 American Homebrewer of the Year honors.