Belgian beer has the world’s best variety. It is unlike the German and Czech beers in that it does not pertain to strict brewing methods or purity laws. Hence, there are numerous beers to choose from here, a great majority of which are undoubtedly the world’s finest. The Belgian brewing industry is nearly one thousand years old, with Belgium being considered the best beer making country in the world.
What Makes Belgian Beer So Different
Belgian beers are not similar to a great many European beers. They are a great deal stronger than most English and Czech beers. Weaker Belgian beers are at least 5%, with the stronger beers ones being 8%.
Belgium produces beers as strong as 10% and beyond that. Most Belgian beers are bottle fermented which means that the beer matures in a bottle that contains sediment. The beer itself is not generally clear, with the bottle fermentation process lasting several years.
Identification of the various Belgian brewing styles is an easy way of placing the beers in their own unique categories, such as, Pilsners, Lambics, Witbeirs, Saisons, Trappist and Abbey Beers.
Belgian Pilsner Beers
Belgians Pilsners are your normal lager beers, refreshing and crisp to the palate, although somewhat flavourless. The best known Belgian lager beer in Europe is undoubtedly Stella Artois, although you also have Maes Pils and Jupiler. The aforementioned beers are the weakest ones brewed in Belgium, at about 5%. They are easy to drink, however, lack character when compared to other Belgian beers.
Lambics are a unique beer. They are made by using stale hops, matured with various yeasts as well as bacteria for between three to five years. They taste sour and acidic, dissimilar to the majority of beers around. They sound weird yet are a very refreshing drink.
The most pure of Lambic beers is the Gueuze family, which is nearly 100% Lambic. This unique brewing style makes for Mort Subite Gueuze, which has a fruity flavour and is not too sour. If you can adapt to the sour taste, then there are further extreme examples like Cantillon, which is even more sour and acidic, yet interesting.
Witbeirs, otherwise known as Wheat beers, are enjoying a renaissance in Europe presently. This is mostly due to the popularity of Hoegaarden which has shown the public that cloudy beer can actually taste good. Other excellent examples of this style include the beautifully refreshing Wittekerke and the consistently tasty Vlaamsch Wit.
Saisons, as per the name, suggests seasonal beers which are made to be drunk during the summer in Wallonia. They are normally cloying, thick beers which are hard to find, yet enjoyable. Dupont is a fine example of a Saison.
Trappist and Abbey Beers
Perhaps the best Belgian beers are the Trappist and Abbey beers. They originate from times when drinking water caused illnesses, hence, monks brewed their own beer to keep their own and their visitors’ thirst quenched.
Abbey beers have become more commercial nowadays. Trappist beers are made traditionally to this day. Six Belgian Trappist breweries are still directly supervised by Trappist monks, the most well known Trappist beer being Chimay. There are many types of Chimay, with the complex, dark Chimay Blue being one of the best. The beer itself is 9% plus, therefore, exceedingly strong.
The best Trappist beer must be Westvleteren, even though it is difficult to find. This is due to the fact that this Trappist brewery does not distribute nor advertise its beer. Therefore, just a handful of places stock this beer.
Maredsous and Leffe Blonde are the most available Abbey beers, both being wonderfully malty and highly drinkable.
Other Famous Belgian Beers
There are multiple Belgian beers, 500 plus to be precise. The prime places are given to Duvel and Ales De Koninck. They are widely available throughout Europe and very tasty. Beer heaven is considered to be Belgian beer.