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.
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.
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.