Guide to Belgian Beer

FROM The man in the front seat / July 18, 2014

Belgium is home to some 125 breweries which between them produce approximately 500 standard beers but it is it’s the ‘Special Brews’, many of them one offs, which put the Belgian brew on the Beer map. When we include these Special brews the total number of Belgian beers is up around 8700.

A few terms to help you to decide

Types of Beer

Trappist Beers

Are beers brewed in a Trappist monastery

For a beer to qualify for this category, the entire production process must be carried out by, or supervised by, Trappist monks on the site of the monastery. Only seven monasteries currently meet this qualification, six of which are in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. The Trappist beers have very little in common with each other aside from the place of origin. The traditional “Holy Trinity” of Trappist beers (enkel, dubbel and tripel) are now brewed by only two monasteries.

The current Trappist producers are Achel, Chimay, Konigshoeven (the Netherlands), Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren

Abbey Beers (Bières d’Abbaye or Abdijbier)

Are brewed by commercial brewers, and license their name from abbeys, some defunct, some still operating with the most internationally well-known brand of Abbey beer is Inbev’s Leffe

Abbey beers mainly came into being following World War II when Trappist beers experienced a new popularity so Abbey beers were developed to take advantage of the public’s interest in the Trappist beers

Amber

Modifications of British-style ales that were developed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the discerning Belgian taste

Belgian Blonds

Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and ‘Duvel’

Duvel is a typical blond Belgian ale, and the most popular bottled beer in the country. Its name means “Devil” and some other blonde beers follow the theme — Satan, Lucifer, Piraat and so on.

Light on colour but not on anything else….. This little devil packs an 8.5% punch!

Flemish Reds

This beer’s distinguishing features from a technical viewpoint are a specially roasted malt, fermentation by a mixture of several ‘ordinary’ top-fermenting yeasts and a lactobacillus culture (the same type of bacteria yoghurt is made with) and maturation in oak. The result is a mildly strong ‘drinking’ beer with a deep reddish-brown colour and a distinctly acidic, sour yet fruity and mouthy taste

Lambici

Is a wheat beer brewed in the Pajjotenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) by spontaneous fermentation. It is produced by exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. Afterwards the beer then undergoes a long aging period ranging from three to six months (considered “young”) to two or three years for mature

It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste

Oud Bruin

This style, aged in wooden casks, is a fuller-bodied cousin to the sour red style. Examples include Goudenband and Petrus

White Beer

This type of beer, commonly called witbier in Dutch, biėre blanche in French and Wheat beer in English, originated in the Flemish part of Belgium in the Middle Ages. Traditionally, it is made with a mixture of wheat and barley

Before hops became widely available in Europe, beers were flavoured with a mixture of herbs called gruit with hops being added to the gruit in the later years of the Middle Ages.

That mixture continues today in most Belgian/Dutch white beers

Enkel

This beer is the basic recipe for what was traditionally a range of three beers of increasing alcohol content

Unlike the words “dubbel” and “tripel”, it is currently not in use by either Trappists or abbey breweries as the name of a beer

Dubbel

With it’s characteristic brown colour, it is one of the classic Abbey/Trappist types, having been developed in the 19th century at the Trappist monastery in Westmalle

Today, some commercial brewers using abbey names call their strong brown beers “Dubbel” with a typical Dubbal brew being between 6 and 8% av.

Tripel

Although the version developed by Westmalle in 1934 was blond, the colour can range to near-black (Westvleteren and Rochefort) and is traditionally the strongest (in alcohol) of a range of Trappist beers.

The term “tripel” has since been adopted by non-Trappist breweries to signify a strong ale

Popular Brews

Chimay

The Trappist Monks at Chimay have been producing fine beers and equally fine cheeses since 1863.

Duvel

the little blond ‘Devil’ from the Duvel Moortgat family of Flemish brewers since 1871.

Pauwel Kwak

Or simply ‘Kwak’, an 8% Belgian amber from the family owned Brewery Bosteels. Named after Pauwel Kwak, an 18th century inn keeper and brewer it is traditionally served in a round bottomed, hour glass shaped glass held upright in a wooden stand.

Westvleteren

The original Trappists, serving up Dubbels and Tripels since 1831

Leffe

Named after the abbey Notre Dame de Leffe in southern Belgium, the most famous of the abbey beers and is available in Blonde, Bruin, Tripel, Ruby as well as specials

Hoegaarden

The famous Belgian white beer. Along with the traditional ingredients of water, hops, yeast, wheat and coriander, the distinct flavour draws from the use of ‘Lahara’, a dried orange peel from Curacao in the Dutch Antilles

Orval

The Orval Trappist Ale is often referred to as The Queen of Trappists with it’s 6.2%, light in colour, slightly cloudy, and with a large foamy head. A complex aroma of leather, horse blanket, spice and many other earthy components.

P.S thanks Tim P.

Enjoy, Prost!

Guide to Belgian Beer
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LeffeBlonde_reduced. Leffe Blonde
Belgian Beers. Chimay Blue
Hoegaarden. Hoegaarden
Belgian Beers. Orval
Belgian Beers. Pauwel Kwak
Belgian Beers.
Belgian Beers. Westmalle
Belgian Beers. Piraat
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