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Double, Triple & Quadruple Definitions in Beer

19th Mar 2015

With over 1,200 different beers in our store and online we have a significant number with the words Double, Triple or Quadruple in their names. A question we regularly get is what do these terms mean?

Double (or Dubbel)Triple (or Tripel), and  Quadruple (or Quad) all originated amongst the  Trappist monasteries of Belgium. They are used to describe strong Belgium Ales, and the different alcohol content of each. Originally as the majority of people were illiterate, there was no specific words used, but rather X’s to represent alcohol content. X represented a single, XX a double, XXX a triple and XXXX a quadruple. It is believed that over time the labels morphed from featuring these X’s to using the terms themselves.

With respect to the beers of Belgium, these terms not only represent the varying changes in alcohol content but also the type of beer as well.

A single, also known as “pater” beer, is typically a lower alcohol table beer made for the daily use of the monks. The beer is typically 4.5% – 5.5% ABV and can usually only be purchased from the monastery (we do however sell  Chimay’sversion Dorée).

A double, is typically a dark amber or brown beer with an ABV of 6%-7.5%, a triple, a golden brew ranging from 8% to 9.5% ABV, whilst a quadruple is the highest alcohol version at 9% and varying from dark brown to golden/amber in colour.

Over time these terms have evolved from being used solely to describe  Belgium Trappist beers, to becoming incorporated into many of the new world styles that we see today. ‘Double’ is the most common, used often interchangeably with ‘Imperial’ to describe any beer that is higher in alcohol than the standard. It is regularly used to describe India Pale Ale’s (called  Double IPA’s) and Stouts (called  Imperial Stouts) that are higher in alcohol.

There is definitely no hard and fast rule on when the terms are used – we have seen standard  IPA’s that are up to 7.7% in alcohol, while Double IPA’s have appeared which are 7% or less – a confusing world indeed.

Interested in learning more about Trappist beers? Check out our blog The Story Behind Trappist Beer.