In January 2011, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company announced an initiative to produce a series of Belgian abbey ales1 in collaboration with the Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, Calif.2 The first of these, Ovila Saison, was released in March of that year, followed in later months by Ovila Dubbel3 and Ovila Quad.

The now-rotating series has gone on to include a Belgian Golden Ale and barrel-aged versions of the quad and dubbel, all of which debuted in 2012. Peppercorns, along with mandarin oranges grown at the monastery, were added to the saison recipe in June 2013, while a tripel joined the lineup in August 2014.

Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad With Plums Bottle

Another of the collaborations, labeled as a Belgian-Style Abbey Quad Ale Brewed With Plums, first came out in January 2013. Like the most recent version of the saison, it featured fruit harvested by the monks themselves. In this case, plums from a 130-acre orchard located on the Abbey grounds were infused into the beer, which was sold in four-packs of corked and caged 12.7-ounce bottles.

Popping the cork on a bottle of this quad reveals a brew with a chestnut brown color topped off by a moderately active tan head. Dark fruit is the most prominent component in the aroma, though it is met with a dark malt character that is nearly its equal. Notes of caramel, brown sugar, raisins and plums are easily identified, as is what might best be described as a dash of holiday spice.

Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad With Plums

A similar story can be told regarding the taste, though a hint of chocolate does manage to sneak out on the back end, adding yet another layer of complexity. A lingering sweetness persists, but intensity in this respect is a characteristic of the style. The same can be said for an element of cardboard which suggests a bit of oxidation has worked its way into the beer. This aspect, in fact, falls right in line with the Brewers Association guideline of being “mild and pleasant.”

The beer finishes with some light bitterness, but there’s nary a hint of the 10.2-percent ABV other than a blanketing warmth that settles in over time. That alone would make this beer a sipper, though the richness of character in and of itself – not to mention the dense, full body – also suggests Ovila Quad Ale Brewed With Plums to be savored and not shotgunned.

Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad With Plums
BREWERY: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Chico, Calif.
STYLE: Quadrupel
ABV: 10.2 percent
IBU: 21
PRICE: n/a
RELEASE DATE: January 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 375ml bottles
BEERS POURED: Two
Dark fruits lead, but don't dominate this beer thanks to the strength of the underlying malt character and accompanying spices. Indeed, many quads favor the malt with the fruit playing more of a supportive role, but the roles in this beer are somewhat reversed. Some might find the fruitiness to be a bit much, but the brewer's intention by adding plums was surely to enhance the ester profile provided by the Belgian yeast strain. The result, in essence, is that the malt and fruit come together to more or less share the stage and give this beer what I would call a balanced intensity of flavors. Given these factors and the depth of the final product, this would seem to be a beer that is both well-executed and well worth seeking out if you have the opportunity.
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