If you love beer, get ready to have your mind blown by the unique and downright delicious offerings brought to you by Belgian breweries. The land of waffles and chocolate is also home to some of the most renowned styles in the world, from rich and malty brews to fruity and spicy aromas, and everything in between.
But what sets Belgian beer apart from the rest? Is it the use of unusual ingredients like coriander and orange peel? Is it the centuries-old brewing traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation? Or is it simply the fact that Belgians just know how to have a good time?
Whatever the secret may be, one thing is for sure: the frothy and flavourful Belgian craft beer is not to be missed. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or just looking to expand your palate, there’s something for everyone in this quirky and creative world of brewing. So grab a glass (or two, or three…) and take a dive into the world of Belgian brewing.
Belgium has been brewing beer for over a thousand years, with monks playing a significant role in its development. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were centres of brewing, as this drink was seen as a more sanitary alternative to water. Monks developed many of the unique brewing techniques that are still used today, and they also developed a special style known as Trappist beer.
Belgium’s brewing tradition was further refined during the Industrial Revolution when the country became a major producer of beer. Many of the breweries that were established during this time are still in operation today, producing some of the most beloved drinks.
Belgian ales are some of the most well-known beer styles in the world, and for good reason. They’re typically light-bodied, with a refreshing carbonation and a fruity, spicy flavour. The most popular ale styles from Belgium include Witbier, Saison, and Belgian Pale Ale.
Witbier, also known as “white beer,” is a wheat brew that’s made with coriander and orange peel. It has a hazy appearance and a refreshing, citrusy flavour. The most famous example of this style is Hoegaarden.
Saison, which means “season” in French, is a farmhouse ale that was traditionally brewed in the winter for consumption during the summer months. It’s light, effervescent, and often has a slightly sour or spicy taste. Saison Dupont is a classic example of this style. Other popular examples include Saison de Pipaix, Saison Voisin, and La Choulette.
Belgian Pale Ale is a hoppy brew that’s similar to an American Pale Ale, but with a distinct twist. It’s typically fruity and spicy, with a slightly sweet maltiness. The most well-known example of this style is Palm.
Sour ales are distinct Belgium beer types. They’re brewed with wild yeast strains and bacteria that give them a tart, acidic taste. The most famous Belgian sour ale styles include Lambic, Flanders Red Ale, and Oud Bruin.
Lambic is a spontaneously fermented brew made in the Pajottenland region. It has a tart, fruity flavour that’s often described as “funky.” It’s typically served in a traditional goblet and can be enjoyed young or aged.
Flanders Red Ale is a complex brew made of a blend of yeasts and aged in oak barrels. It has a sour, fruity taste with hints of cherry and caramel. Rodenbach is the most well-known example of this style.
Oud Bruin, also known as “Old Brown,” is a sour brown ale that’s brewed with a mix of yeast and bacteria strains. It has a sweet and sour flavour with notes of caramel and dark fruit. Liefmans Goudenband is a popular example of this style.
Stouts are a relatively recent addition to Belgium’s brewing scene, but they have quickly gained popularity among enthusiasts. These Belgian beers are characterised by their dark colour and full-bodied, roasted flavour. They often have notes of chocolate, coffee, and dark fruit, and are typically higher in alcohol content than other Belgian-style beer. Some popular examples include St. Bernardus Abt 12, Pannepot, and La Trappe Quadrupel.
To be classified as a Trappist, the beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, and the brewing process must be overseen by the monks. There are currently only 11 Trappist breweries in the world, and six of them are located in Belgium. These beers are considered to be some of the best in the world and are known for their complex flavours and high alcohol content.
The most popular Trappist styles include Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel. Dubbel is a brown ale with a rich maltiness and a complex flavour profile. Tripel is a pale ale with high alcohol content and a spicy, fruity flavour. Quadrupel is a dark ale with a deep, rich flavour that’s often described as “caramelized.”
Some of the most famous Belgian Trappist breweries include Chimay, Westvleteren, and Orval.
Belgium’s brewing tradition has given us some of the world’s most unique and flavourful alcoholic drinks. From refreshing wheat styles to rich and boozy Trappists, there’s something to suit every taste. Now it’s up to you to find Belgian beer in Australia, try some of these iconic brews and raise a glass to centuries of brewing tradition. Cheers!