Brewery Extrava has added a quad to its lineup of Belgian beers. Photo by Benjamin Moore

When seeking inspiration, local breweries often look close to home, making use of local grains, fruits and hops. Others, however, borrow from other cultures. Many of the styles in the American craft beer landscape got their origins in Europe, and some brewers are reaching across the pond for additional ideas.

Sticking close to tradition, some local brewers have opted to brew beer styles that were first made popular in Germany, namely lagers. And, in connection with upcoming Oktoberfest celebrations, you’re likely to see more beer in the next few months that emulate the styles of festbiers (light, easy-drinking lagers) and marzens (maltier, earthy lagers perfect for fall).

Foundation’s Hansel and Gretel are German-inspired beers perfect for celebrating Oktoberfest. Photo courtesy of Foundation Brewing Co.

Two excellent examples of German-inspired beers are Foundation Brewing Co.’s lagers, Hansel and Gretel. The lighter of the two, Hansel is a Helles-style lager, which is golden in color and modeled after the golden-hewn beers from the Bavaria region. The smooth beer is gently hopped, but the malts and bread-like notes are the stars of the show here. It is crisp and light, but not watery or thin. Formerly known as Gemütlichkeit (which means friendliness, warmth and belonging), Hansel is a fantastic example of what happens when you look to tradition to guide you toward an interesting but drinkable beer.

Gretel is a bit more of a party beer. Like some Oktoberfest beers, it falls on the orange side of the spectrum and has a bit more depth to its flavor. Gretel is a Marzen, which is the German word for March. Typically, the style is brewed in the spring and then lagered until the fall, when it’s broken out for the festivals. Gretel comes in at about 1 percent higher alcohol content than Hansel, but they are both under 6 percent, so you can have a few to celebrate without passing out next to an oompah band.

An obvious country of inspiration is Belgium, where brewers, including the monks at monasteries that have followed traditions passed down for hundreds of years, have come to appreciate the role of yeast, as well as the rich flavors that certain grains can provide. Brewery Extrava, a recent addition to Maine’s brewing scene, has been chasing those flavors in its lineup of beers, which include the Single, Dubbel and Tripel – the classic trio of traditional Belgian-style beers. But coming soon is a special, brewery-only release inspired by Belgian traditions: a Quad, (also known as a Quadrupel).

Quads are both special and relatively rare among American craft brewers, and probably because they are brewed so perfectly in Belgium, it seems nearly blasphemous to attempt to recreate them here. So brewers that have made quads have modified them. Weyerbacher, a Pennsylvania-based brewery, made a bourbon barrel-aged one that was incredibly boozy. Ommegang in central New York has one called Three Philosophers, but that is a blend of three beers (hence, the three philosophers) rather than a straight quad. Allagash brewed a quad at one point called Four, but even that delicious brew was slightly more hop-centric than a traditional quad. Despite this, someone started an online petition to convince Allagash to bring back Four, and I wouldn’t object to that at all.

However, Brewery Extrava’s quad takes no such extremes, choosing rather to be guided by the traditions of breweries like De Struise and Westvleteren. Extrava neither adds extra ingredients, nor puts hops where they do not traditionally belong. It is simply crafted in the manner of the monks. The result? A dark mahogany beauty that takes you straight to an abbey. It is about 11 percent ABV, which can pack quite a punch, but this is a sipper, rather than a fest-based chugger. The flavors range from plums to raisins to dates, and it is truly on point for the style.

As fall starts to settle in to Maine, and while we sit around the last of the late summer fire pits, it is worth looking out for these and other beers that are inspired by seasonal traditions far from our backyards.

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