#22 Joyeux Noël

A Belgian quadruppel is to many the platonic ideal of a malt beverage. Unless you live on the Brixton Road, and then it's probably Supermalt... Borderline racism aside, the spicy, rich, rummy flavours and fluffy, effervescent head are the height of beery indulgence. It probably helps that for many years Westvleteren XII has been ranked the best beer in the world by those lucky enough to try it (or willing to shell out £25 for a single bottle at BottleDog). I'm not one of those individuals, but I do have a soft spot for Rochefort 12 and St Bernadus Abt 12, and even (is this a sacrilege?) Great Divide's Grand Cru (the non-peachy iteration, anyway).

It struck me recently that the profile of this style is the beer equivalent of Christmas pudding. Heavy, sweet, with lots of lovely cooked fruit. Since cold weather is the perfect time to enjoy the warming alcohol of a Belgian quad, why not put a Christmas spin on one?

With little inclination to muck about with yeast starters so close to Christmas (drunken office parties and expensive packets of yeast are a bad combination) I decided to make a small batch to avoid the dreaded sin of underpitching. Just 4 litres, equivalent to 12 normal size bottles. I brewed this slightly before Christmas 2014.

The Fermentables

1.5kg Maris Otter
0.5kg Munich malt
300g muscovado
100g Sultanas

The Hops

Negligible, and I can't remember. Something inoffensive and continental?

The Yeast

Wyeast Belgian Abbey II

The Sciencey Bits

4 litre batch
OG 1.086
FG 1.010
ABV 10%

My previous attempts at Belgian ales have not been unequivocal success, I suspect for a variety of reasons. With this batch, I kept the malt bill relatively straightforward. I had some Maris Otter and Munich to use up, and decided to boost the alcohol and dry the beer up with some Muscovado sugar (which ostensibly leaves a rummy aftertaste) and some sultanas (which, you'd think, would contribute to the rich flavours of dried, candied fruit). I have no idea how much the sultanas actually contributed to the OG.

After about a week in the demijohn, I racked it on to 350g (1 jar) of sour Morello cherries and 30g fine dried orange peel for about 4 weeks. Then, in mid-January, I crash cooled it for 2 days in the fridge, and bottled with 6g/l of muscovado sugar syrup and 5 drops of rehydrated champagne yeast on. At the time, there were strong rummy flavours coming from the young beer. It was dry, and obviously alcoholic, but the cherry and orange flavours not obvious.

The 12 bottles of Joyeux Noël are now sitting with the Christmas tree decorations until next year, thinking Christmasssy thoughts. I'm planning to crack the first bottle in early December just in time to use the feedback for the second generation of this beer. So check back in about 9 months!