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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Brouwerij Timmermans Strawberry Lambic
92 points
Nearly opaque dull sunburst color. Aromas and flavors of strawberry fruit leather, oily roasted nuts, fruit custard tart, and hint of banana taffy and silly putty with a round, vibrant, finely carbonated, off-dry medium body and a smooth, complex, medium-long finish with notes of berry tart, orange blossom honey, and hint of peppered arugula finish. A rich and flavorful fruit lambic with a super approachable and satisfying style.
Rodenbach Brewery Rodenbach Classic
90 points
Dull bronze color. Aromas of white balsamic vinaigrette on lettuces with sourdough croutons and dried apple with a supple, lively, effervescent, sweet-and-sour medium-to-full body and a tingling, delightful, medium-length honeyed mulberries and quince and starfruit finish. A mellow sour ale with a very traditional style and effortless drinkability.