A newbie&x27s information to Belgian beer – Lonely Planet


Belgian beer is world-renowned – Belgium is the one nation whose beer tradition is inscribed on UNESCO’s Consultant Record of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This small nation is house to the most important brewery on the earth, in addition to tiny, unbiased operations situated on farmsteads, in outdated factories, and in cave-like casemates. “In Belgium, the Justice of the Peace has the dignity of a prince,” wrote Belgian poet Émile Verhaeren. “However by Bacchus, it’s true that the brewer is king.”

So what makes Belgian beer so particular? Let’s dive in.

A short historical past of Belgian beer – and three the explanation why it’s so well-known

Belgium’s brewing panorama developed throughout rural farmland, small cities and monasteries, mushrooming round communities and instilling a resistance to the mass manufacturing methods that took maintain rather more shortly in neighboring international locations. Listed here are a few of the causes Belgium’s native beer tradition developed into a world phenomenon:


To Belgium’s west is France and its myriad winemakers, from whom Belgian brewers absorbed data in regards to the microbiological advantages of oak getting old in giant foeders. To the nation’s east lies Germany, the place technical proficiency in lager fermentation and yeast administration influenced high quality management in Belgian brewing. And to the north, simply throughout the channel, sits England, influencing each brewing and hop rising in Belgium, significantly after WWI.

This mishmash of influences (and the truth that Belgium has been dominated by numerous regimes) inspired Belgians to develop sensible workarounds and create new and distinctive beers.


Regardless of its comparatively small dimension, Belgium’s beer variety impresses even probably the most skilled brewheads. This begs the query, why so many regional specialities? Within the early to mid-Nineteenth century, the common Belgian brewery was very small, largely as a result of there was a tax incentive to stay so. Quite than packaging beer, they have been promoting beer from picket barrels on to shoppers in their very own pubs.

In 1845, there have been 3089 breweries in Belgium – as we speak, there are simply round 380. In consequence, manufacturing and consumption has stayed native, preserving distinctive sorts of yeast and sustaining the distinctive character of a city’s beer fashion. This restricted attain is the rationale why Lambic beer remains to be discovered within the Pajottenland and the Senne Valley, why Oud Bruin manufacturing stays strongest in South West Flanders and why Saison remains to be most related to the province of Henegouwen.

Elements and course of

Belgian yeasts kick off a pronounced vary of taste and aroma compounds when in comparison with yeasts from different international locations. Due to these compounds, Delirium Tremens evokes the essence of pears and oranges, Chimay Bleue tastes like figs and prunes, and Sint Bernardus Wit embraces the zest of pepper and clove.

And Belgians aren’t afraid so as to add flavors to their beer, both, whether or not it entails emptying their spice cupboard of bitter orange, coriander and grains of paradise, or throwing in fruits corresponding to cherries, raspberries, or apricots.

Belgian glassware enhances the beer it accommodates – it may be an artwork type of its personal © Arterra / Getty Photographs

Glassware in Belgium: the theater of Belgian beer

Presentation features as a key aspect of Belgian beer tradition, significantly with regards to glassware – it’s one half advertising and marketing, one half theater, and one half try to maximise the beer expertise. From goblet to tulip and from shaker to stange, loads goes into the choice: the extent of alcohol, desired serving temperature, fragrant qualities, stage of carbonation, and dealing with dynamics.

There are additionally sensible concerns: how simple a glass is to scrub, how “stackable” it’s, and naturally, how a lot it prices. The ensuing array of accessible glassware consists of beauties just like the bulbous Kasteel chalice from Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in Izegem, the ridged Ronceva stem of Palm’s Cornet glass, or the curvaceous, inwardly tapered vase of Brugge Tripel.

One modern function that has turn out to be more and more fashionable in Belgian glassware is the nucleation level, an etched mark on the underside of the within of the glass that helps launch the carbonation by creating a gradual stream of bubbles emanating from the nucleated sample to the highest of the beer. Take a second to note these bespoke nucleation designs on the backside of the subsequent glass of Belgian beer you drink. However work out a solution to take away the beer from the glass first.

Belgium has a big selection of beer to choose from © Arterra / Getty Photographs

The seven types of Belgian beer

Belgium has a wealthy and numerous line-up of indigenous beer types. Whereas there are numerous variations inside every one – and far over-lapping between them – sure extensively regarded conventional classes assist drinkers perceive what to anticipate from a beer’s taste profile:

1. Abbey-style or monastic ale

There are six Trappist breweries in Belgium, all brewing completely different types of beer (Belgian Pales Ales, Tripels, Dubbels, Quadrupels, and so forth). “Trappist” will not be a mode, then, however an appellation tied to the truth that brewing takes place contained in the partitions of a Cistercian Abbey underneath the supervision of monks, with the proceeds of beer gross sales going again to the neighborhood. These beers have impressed an entire wave of “Abbey beers,” usually bottle-conditioned ales with pronounced yeast profiles, excessive carbonation, and loads of alcohol. Many are produced by business breweries and haven’t any affiliation with an Abbey, though some breweries license the identify from a monastery.

Abbey-style of monastic ales to attempt:Westmalle Tripel (9.5% ABV, Brouwerij Westmalle)Trappist Westvleteren 8 Dubbel (8% ABV, Brouwerij Westvleteren)Orval Trappist Ale (6.9% ABV, Brasserie d’Orval)

2. Blond and golden sturdy ales

Belgian Blond Ales have a delicate citrus and spice yeast complexity, with a level of malty sweetness and a delicate end. Golden Robust Ales share these yeast flavors and malty mouthfeel however usually showcase extra hop character, extra alcohol, drier finishes, and much more intense carbonation.

Blond and golden sturdy ales to attempt:Ename Blond (6.6% ABV, Brouwerij Roman)Omer (8%, Brouwerij Omer Vanderghinste)Duvel (8.5% ABV, Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat)

3. Saisons

Saisons are a household of refreshing, dry, hoppy, and pretty bitter Belgian ales. They’re usually extremely carbonated, with aromas and flavors of citrus and pepper. Saisons are “provision” ales from Wallonia, the southern area of Belgium. Whereas the origin story to Saison has been disputed, some declare that the beers have been produced as an financial necessity for farms who needed to retain and occupy their saisonnière (seasonal) employees in the course of the low season – these saisonnières brewed in the course of the winter and quenched their thirst with the beers in the summertime as they toiled the land.

Saisons to attempt:Saison Dupont (6.5% ABV, Brasserie Dupont)Saisonneke Additional (4.4% ABV, Brouwerij Belgoo)La Saison d’Epeautre (6% ABV, Brasserie De Blaugies)

The seven types of Belgian beer embrace white beers like Devil from De Block © Thierry Monasse / Getty Photographs

4. Spéciale Belge

Created throughout an early-1900s competitors to provide you with a regional specialty beer that competed with imported British ales and continental lagers, Spéciale Belges are malty, average-strength beers with a crimson or copper colour. There’s a delicate fruitiness from the yeast and a bready (typically toasty) malt character, however general they’re identified to be well-balanced and easy-drinking.

Spéciale Belges to attempt:Bolleke De Koninck (5.2% ABV, Brouwerij De Koninck)Palm Spéciale (5.2% ABV, Brouwerij Palm)Spécial De Ryck (5.5% ABV, Brouwerij De Ryck)

5. Belgian wheat beers

Belgian wheat beers (additionally “white beers” or “witbiers”) are pale, hazy beers brewed utilizing 30-60% of uncooked wheat. Coriander seed and dried Curaçao orange peel are sometimes added to intensify the mildly fruity-spicy character of the witbier yeast. Belgian wheat beers are delicate, moderate-strength ales identified for his or her refreshing qualities in the course of the summer time.

Belgian wheat beers to attempt:Sint Bernardus Wit (5.5% ABV, Brouwerij Sint Bernardus)Jan de Lichte (7.5% ABV, Brouwerij De Glazen Toren)Ertvelds Wit (5% ABV, Brouwerij Van Steenberghe)

6. Oud Bruin

Oud Bruin is a household of reddish-brown or brown beers with a caramel-chocolate malt taste and a red-fruit complexity. They’re usually each candy and bitter, and typically current with a dry, tannic end like a classic crimson wine.

Oud Bruins to attempt: Rodenbach Classic (7% ABV, Brouwerij Rodenbach)Cuvée des Jacobins (5.5% ABV, Brouwerij Omer Vanderghinste)Liefmans Goudenband (8% ABV, Brouwerij Liefmans)

7. Lambic beers

Lambic is a spontaneously fermented wheat beer aged on wooden. No yeast is pitched by the brewer. As a substitute, the yeast and micro organism within the neighborhood of the brewery remodel it into beer. Lambics are blended into Geuzes to turn out to be very refreshing, extremely carbonated, and pleasantly bitter beers which are sometimes complicated, oaky, and fruity. Brewers generally mix Lambic with fruit, significantly cherries, raspberries and apricots.

Lambic beers to attempt:3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze (6% ABV, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen)Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait (8% ABV, Brouwerij Boon)Fou’ Founne (Lambic with Bergeron Apricots) (5% ABV, Brasserie Cantillon)

In Belgium, there is no scarcity of atmospheric locations to sip © Arterra / Getty Photographs

The place to drink Belgian beer

There are various nice locations to attempt Belgian beer throughout the nation.

Belgium hosts a beer pageant virtually each week of the 12 months, too. When you can time it proper, absorb a conventional occasion (Zythos, Bruges, or Belgian Beer Weekend), pattern a contemporary pageant (Bxl Beer Fest or Billie’s), or dive deep into the area of interest (Oud Bruin Fest, Kerstbierfestival, Poperinge Hop and Beer Pageant, or the Toer de Geuze).

When you’re on the lookout for suggestions of beer cafes, bottles outlets, and breweries, try our record of 25 nice locations to attempt beer in Belgium. Mount your bike, get in your automobile, or leap on a prepare, and uncover probably the most enjoyable, quirky and fascinating locations to drink on this nation’s improbable beer tradition.

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