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Beer Reviews

Garage Project 12th Anniversary Belgian Quad, 12% ABV

 

Garage Project, despite its humble beginnings in the relatively small country of New Zealand, has made a fantastic ascension to become one of the most highly-regarded craft beer producers Down Under, if not around the world. Founded by Pete and Ian Gillespie, and Jos Ruffell, Garage Project transformed a disused petrol station, which its name gave a nod to, into a craft beer powerhouse.

Early on, they gained most attention from the craft beer community for their 24/24 project, where they brewed 24 distinct beers over 24 weeks. For 6 months, they had to make a new beer every week, releasing a beer every Tuesday 5pm at a local craft beer bar. Folks who didn't make it in time would painfully miss out. This helped build their cult following, as it also demonstrated their versatility and ability to explore a plethora of styles and flavours. The tagline became "Try something new".

 

The good guys behind New Zealand's cult favorite Garage Project. (Image Source: Beer and Brewer)

 

Garage Project's popularity can be attributed to their daring and experimental approach, which defies common themes and embraces high-frequency new releases.

 

 

Their repertoire spans the entire spectrum of craft beer, often incorporating unconventional techniques, through unique yeast trains, collaborations with other breweries, and the integration of unconventional ingredients like breakfast cereals. This approach was the beginning of a broader trend in the craft beer industry, where craft breweries distinguished themselves through innovation and uniqueness.

 

 

Another cornerstone of Garage Project's success is its active participation with the community, being known for creating some really memorable experiences at beer events and festivals. A notable example that Jos Ruffell shared with me (more on my meeting with him later) is their Two Tap Flat White - comprising two distinct beers, an Imperial Coffee Stout and a Milk Cream Ale poured on nitro, poured into each other to mimic the layers and flavours of a flat white coffee and it even has a latte art foam top. Seriously, you have to watch this video:–

 

 

Serving up such memorable experiences cemented their status in the hearts of craft beer fanatics.

Couple of weeks ago, I went back to one of Singapore's most popular craft beer venues, Orh Gao Taproom. Apart from being another beer guzzling excursion, Jos Ruffell, the co-founder of Garage Project happened to be in town to visit Orh Gao, which recently received several fresh kegs of Garage Project's beers. The kitchen prepared a spread of Peranakan dishes for Jos and Charlie (who runs Orh Gao), and Christian from Bad Decisions Imports. 

 

I've yet to find another craft beer venue on the island that matches Orh Gao in the quality of food served. 

 

Charlie very graciously invited me down to have a chat and interview with Jos himself, and I couldn't pass up this special opportunity. But apart from speaking to these bunch of craft beer legends, I took the opportunity for a couple of quick half-pints of Garage Project's new beers fresh off the tap. 

 

Craft beer pals – Charlie (Orh Gao Taproom), Jos Ruffell (Garage Project), Christian (Bad Decisions Craft Beer Import).

 

Here's my review of the popular Garage Project 12th Anniversary Belgian Quad.

The Belgian Quadrupel style originates from Belgian Trappist brewing traditions. Belgian beer styles are incredibly diverse and are in general celebrated for their complex yeast-driven flavours, high alcohol content, high effervescence and occasionally a rustic farmhouse funkiness (as in Saison beers). 

Trappist-style beers (denoted by names like Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel) were historically produced by a group of robed bros in Normandy, France who formed a religious order over 300 years ago and called themselves the Trappists. 

If you think a lifetime of monastic existence and celibacy was a dull one, think again because these Belgian monks regularly got hammered.

 

Brother Manu van Hecke, an abbot of St Sixtus abbey which produces Trappist beers in Belgium (Source: Yves Herman/Reuters)

 

Beer brewing was and still is an integral part of Trappist monastic life. Monasteries were often able to grow their own grains and hops, and even cultivate their own yeast strains. Beer brewing was a natural extension. Beer brewing also allow monasteries to provide a nutritious drink to pilgrims and travellers, and raise revenue to fund charitable activities or maintain their monasteries.

Over centuries, beer became a cherished Trappist tradition. It has been used in religious rituals and celebrations, sometimes substituting for wine in the Eucharist when wine was unavailable. 

The Belgian Quadrupel got its name from its brewing process, where brewers used up to four times the amount of malt as in a standard Trappist ale. The style is known for its complex balance of malt sweetness, fruitiness and phenols. Unlike sour Belgian beers which adds lactic acid bacteria or wild yeasts like Brettanomyces (like the Lambic, Gueuze or Flanders Red Ale), the Belgian Quad is not so sour or funky.

 

 

This brew was released in October this year to celebrate Garage Project's 12th anniversary. It's made with a complex grist of barley, rye, dark candy sugar and a 'special Belgian yeast'.

Let's give this a taste.

Garage Project 12th Anniversary Belgian Quad, 12% ABV – Review

I know this is far from a full pint but I'm a glass one-tenth full kind of guy. Also, I'm a responsible driver.

 

Nose: Rich, dense and complex. Opens with a dominant oaky character intertwined with molasses, coupled with medicinal undertones reminiscent of candied sea coconut and Wood's Original cough drops. The sweetness deepens into marshmallow and treacle notes, accompanied by a sweet layer of Kopiko coffee sweets and banana split with Hershey's Chocolate Sauce.

Palate: A remarkably dense mouthfeel and thick on flavour. Leads with a thick caramel sweetness and toffee richness, developing into softly sweet pear undertones with a mild tropical essence of jackfruit.

There's a pleasant espresso bitterness and a dry oak astringency countering the sweetness, and an intriguing but fleeting lambic-like character that brings in nuances of wood varnish and a touch of paint thinner, before transitioning into eucalyptus mint drops.

Finish: Quite prolonged. The strength of the alcohol is much more apparent towards the finish, creating a warm, slightly tingly salivating sensation on the tongue. Lots more lashings of caramel, espresso, molasses and then a slightly medicinal liquorice note.

 

My Thoughts:

This Belgian Quad has the dense, sweet and syrupy characteristics typical of the traditional Quad style, but has a number of interesting divergences. While traditional Trappist quads often lean towards sweet wine-like notes with dried fruits and spices, this one stands out for a herbaceous note.

It's a thoroughly enjoyable brew, rich in flavour and with a satisfying texture. Just tread lightly since its high alcohol content can catch you off-guar. Overall, this is an uncommon instance of a well-balanced rich brew that I'd happily order again without being sick or jelak of it. It's a delightful interpretation of the traditional Belgian Quad.

Rating: 7/10

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

@CharsiuCharlie