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

Brouwerij Lindemans Cuvée René Oude Kriek
97 points
Cloudy red oak color. Funky, fruity, jammy, phenolic, sour aromas of cherry pits, plastic/bandaid, black tea, and cinnamon with a slightly chewy, tart, frothy, sweet-and-sour medium body and a smooth, interesting, medium-long fresh dark red cherries, raw almonds, candied orange peel, and lime zest finish. A classic Kriek-style beer, with fresh cherry and almond notes sure to create many a lambic fan.
Brasserie Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux Saison
95 points
Gold color. Interesting aromas of gentian, cucumber, wild lemon, fruitcake, and roasted nuts with a satiny, vibrant, effervescent, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a warming, charming, medium-long dried mango, grapefruit, bitter orange, and mirepoix finish. A melange of exotic citrus makes this a great saison choice for the cocktail crowd.
Brasserie Dupont Saison Farmhouse Ale
93 points
Gold color. Aromas of bread dough, clay, mixed citrus wheels, sweet pear, and almond slivers with a satiny, crisp, effervescent, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a peppery, subtle, very long black pepper, watercress, and soufflé finish. An outstanding example of the category; firmly European in style and with loads of complexity.
Brens German Style Lager
89 points
Yellow color. Aromas and flavors of brioche, cornbread, lime, and chive butter with a satiny, crisp, effervescent, dryish light body and a sleek, medium-length finish. A solid Mexican-Lager-like beer with refreshing acidity and fizz.
Lindemans Young Lambic Ale
89 points
Minutely hazy pale gold color. Citrusy, vinegary, phenolic, peppery aromas of lemon pith, apple cider vinegar, apricot, and shortbread with a lightly tannic, crisp, petillant, dry-yet-fruity light body and a sleek, interesting, breezy orange zest, raw almonds, sourdough, and underripe mango finish. Light citrus flavors combine with a soft acidity and refreshing finish to create an approachable and drinkable lambic with vinous undertones; a wine drinkers beer.
Brouwerij Van Steenberge Gulden Draak
88 points
Burnt sienna color. Aromas of cherry preserves on buttered toast, chamomile tea, candied almond, and banana with a satiny, vibrant, spritzy, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a warming, intricate, long candied ginger, baked stone fruit, flaky pastry, and toasted raisin bread finish. A cellarable barley wine with a nice spectrum of malty, complex spicy flavors.
White Tide Belgian Wheat Ale
86 points
Cloudy light gold color. Aromas and flavors of sliced oranges, lemongrass, mimosa, caramelized parsnip, piles of coriander, and chamomile with a round, crisp, petillant, dry-yet-fruity light body and a seamless, medium-length finish. A light and citrusy Witbier for anytime sipping.
Brasserie de Brunehaut Saison
84 points
Cloudy light gold color. Aromas and flavors of sauerkraut, steamed spinach, and lemon spritz with a satiny, crisp, spritzy, dry light-to-medium body and a tingling, medium-length finish manifesting notes of bitter citrus pith finish. A bitter, vegetal brew for the pairing.
Brouwerij Van Steenberge Gulden Draak Imperial Stout
84 points
Dark mahogany color. Aromas of fruitcake, bubblegum, rum-raisin, nutmeg, and spiced pumpkin with a satiny, bright, effervescent, very sweet medium-to-full body and a medium-length egg custard, nut shells, and parchment finish. A very sweet beer that might be a nice holiday desert pairing.