Sierra Nevada – Ovila Quad

Tasting: February 28, 2012
Style: Strong Ale – Quad (Belgian)

Sierra Nevada Ovila

You’ll hear the terms double (doppel), triple (tripel) and quad associated with (amongst other styles) Belgian-style ales. Basically – these are designations associated with the alcohol’s strength. In early times, monasteries would mark casks with one cross, two crosses or three crosses and each would represent an increase in strength. In the simplest terms, the amount of malt sugars combined with yeast and yeast strain usually equates to alcohol strength. There may very well be a close correlation between the amount of malt sugars used – double, triple or quadruple normal amount – but using that as definition would be incorrect.

Some will also incorrectly confuse these double, triple and quad designations with the amount of times a beer is fermented. Most beer is fermented only once. Some brewers will “bottle condition” a beer and in one type of bottle conditioning it is fermented a second time by adding yeast to the bottle. However, in most bottle-conditioned beer, the original fermenting beer is left unfiltered and allowed to continue to ferment in the bottle. I wouldn’t call that a second fermentation.

Not to confuse the issue, but there are beers that are truly fermented multiple times. Yeast consumes sugar and makes alcohol and carbonation. Once the sugars are depleted to a certain gravity — more fermentable sugars are added. I think I’ve only seen one example of multiple fermantations (outside of bottle conditioning) — that was a Canadian ale called La Fin Du Monde (the end of the world). But even at that, if don’t really remember seeing their explanation of the process.

Ovila is a collaborative brewing project of Sierra Nevada and the Abbey of New Clairvaux. The abbey isn’t located in Belgium- it’s located in northern California just a few miles from Sierra Nevada. I read on their website that they make wine — but no mention of beer. A portion of the proceeds go toward the restoration of the historic Ovila building on the grounds of the abbey. This medieval house dates to 1190 A.D. near Trillo, Spain. Monks lived there for hundreds of years. In 1931, publishing legend William Randolph Hearst purchased the Abbey, dismantled it stone-by-stone, and shipped it to Northern California. Hearst’s plans to reconstruct the Abbey were never realized, and the stones fell into disrepair. In 1994, the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux gained possession of the ruins, and began the painstaking reconstruction of the historic abbey.

So, knowing what we know, the ABV should be high — and it is 10.4% ABV. It pours a dark brown with an off-white head. Has that belgian yeast funk over some nice light chocolate, nutmeg and cherries. Alcohol is masked fairly well. Really an enjoyable sipper — 88 points.

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