About Belgian Beer

About Belgian Beer
Belgium: Home of Abbey Ales, Lambic, Wit and Diverse, Distinctive Ales

Belgium is a small, beer-producing country where beer, culture and religion coexist in unique harmony. People have been brewing a variety of styles in this region since as early as the 1st century BC, and continue to offer a wide assortment of exotic ales to today’s connoisseur. Belgian brewers capture a wide range of flavors by straying from the German tradition of strict adherence to yeast, malted barley, water and hops and experimenting with barley sugar, fruits and spices in their beer-making process. The results are strikingly varied beer styles that mirror the diversity of the people and culture of the country.

Unique to Belgium is its long-standing tradition of producing beer in self-sufficient monasteries—a process rooted in the Middle Ages—with seven monastic breweries still operating in Belgium and Holland today. These Trappist breweries are part of the Benedictine order of Catholic monks and produce about 25 labels, all marked with the special designation of “Trappist” ales. It is from this tradition that the separate categories of “abbey” ales were developed, typically brewed in commercial secular breweries.

Other popular Belgian beer styles include lambic and wit beers. Distinctive in the world of brewing, modern lambic beers are almost wine-like and have tart, acidic flavors. Some are flavored with fruit juices. This style has become synonymous with producers like Bellevue, Cantillon and Lindeman’s. Alternatively, wit or white beers are cloudy wheat ales, traditionally lighter and easier on the palate and spiced with coriander and orange peel. A classic example of this style is Hoegaarden (the model for Blue Moon), which resurfaced in the U.S. and is increasingly popular with consumers.

Although fewer than 200 breweries are currently active in Belgium—compared to approximately 3,000 at the beginning of the 20th century—those that remain continue a rich tradition of brewing diverse, distinctive ales. Of the breweries still in operation, many can trace their foundation back further than 300 years. To the U.S. consumer, Belgian beers represent sophisticated examples of beer styles that the US craft-brewing industry strives to emulate. These distinctive ales invite contemplative, less-hurried drinking, serve as striking examples of Belgium’s rich brewing history, and are superb accompaniments to their cuisine.

Top Picks for Belgium

Rodenbach Brewery Rodenbach Belgian Red Ale
97 points
Mahogany color. Aromas of ripe cassis, eucalyptus, beeswax, anise, barnyard, and marinated beets with a round, racy, finely carbonated, fruity medium body and a tingling, very complex, very long thyme, oregano, dried cranberry, chocolate brittle, and oak finish. A fabulously complex Flanders-style Red Ale that will please the connoisseur’s palate; stylish and deeply satisfying.
Rodenbach Brewery Rodenbach Caractère Rouge Ale
97 points
Minutely hazy sunburst color. Aromas of black cherry, wine barrel, candied orange peel, leather, candied nuts, sweet and sour sauce, and candied red apple with a round, tart, finely carbonated, sweet-and-sour light-to-medium body and a warming, refreshing, medium-length rose hips, pickled watermelon rind and strawberry, sea salt, and pickling spices finish. A lightly salty Belgian Style Ale with a welcome, vibrant sour character and electrifying aromas.
Rodenbach Brewery Rodenbach Alexander
97 points
Dusty mahogany color. Savory, sour aromas of reduced lemon with balsamic, sour cherry kefir, and lettuce greens with pickled veggies and vinaigrette with a satiny, vibrant, finely carbonated, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a smooth, compelling, medium-long sourdough cherry toast with lemon-kiwi marmalade, marinated artichokes, nuts, and brandy barrels finish. A complex, delicious and flavor pack sour fruit beer that will rule at the table.
Rodenbach Brewery Rodenbach Grand Cru
96 points
Reddish mahogany color. Complex aromas of salami, blueberry pancake, balsamic vinaigrette, sundried tomato, and arugula and bib lettuces with a silky, tart, effervescent, fruity sweet medium body and a tingling, compelling, medium-long pomegranate glaze, mace, ripe strawberry and feta, fig, and meyer lemon spritz finish. A very appetizing and balanced Flanders-style ale that will delight enthusiastic diners.
Brasserie Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux Saison
96 points
Hazy old gold color. Aromas of sliced peaches, buckwheat crepes, asparagus, sourdough, and coriander with a crisp, finely carbonated, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a medium-length tinned vegetables and sliced banana finish. A crisp and funky saison with plenty of hop influence.
Awards: 2017 Best Belgian Beer
Vliegende Paard Brouwers Prearis Quad
96 points
Cloudy walnut color. Toasty aromas and flavors of dark chocolate cake, roasted nut brittle, sassafras, and banana bread pudding with a satiny, soft, finely carbonated, off-dry medium body and an engaging, medium-length mocha, chocolate cream, and hint of peppered greens and cedar finish. A delightfully smooth and chocolatey quad with beautifully meshed flavors.
Brouwerij Timmermans Kriek Lambicus
95 points
Brilliant light garnet red oak color. Fruity aromas of candied and dried cherries, honeyed fruit cake, and pleasant cherry cough drop with a satiny, tangy, finely carbonated, off-dry medium body and a tingling, distinctive, long sourdough with cherry chutney, lemon verbena, mesclun with cherry vinaigrette, and almond cookie finish. A rich and commanding kriek that pours forth with an army of cherry flavors and nuances.
LambickX Private Domain 2015
95 points
Minutely hazy gold color. Lively, smoky, sour aromas and flavors of grilled lemon, dark roasted nuts, scorched prairie, and horse blanket and barn with a tart, effervescent, sourish light-to-medium body and a tingling, medium-long nectarine pit, baked lime, chalk, and chia and hemp seeds finish. A very complex gueuze with cascading waves of flavor.
Liefmans Brewery Goudenband
95 points
Dull dark bronze color. Bright, sour, rotten funky malty aromas of honey roasted chestnuts, dried cherries, silly putty and Playdoh, and soy rice cake with a soft, tangy, fizzy, very sweet medium body and a graceful, layered, medium-long cherry barrel, dried raspberries, tamarind vinaigrette, and earth finish. A complex and layered Flanders red ale with impeccable balance.
Lambickx 2014 Lambickx Private Domain Gueuze
95 points
Brilliant clear light gold color. Bold, sour, earthy aromas of white balsamic vinaigrette, sourdough nut bread, reduced lemon, and stinky cheese rind and horse hair brush with a silky, puckering, spritzy, sour light-to-medium body and a tingling, long Swiss chard, citrus pith, and sour green apple finish. A racy, palate awakening lambic that will excel at the table.