Belgian Beer has a history that dates back to the 12th century. It is believed that over 1,000 different beers are produced in Belgium today. Beer Hunter Michael Jackson referred to Belgium as “the most colorful of all brewing nations.” Many of Belgium’s artful offerings are exported for sale in the United States, but when shopping for Belgian beers, what’s what? Before using our palates to explore the vast world of Belgian beer let’s start by gaining a little knowledge about a few of the styles in the market place.
Belgian White – Also known as Witbier or Bière Blanch, these are very pale beers made from unmalted wheat and are typically hazy in appearance. They are known for their crisp wheat character and traditional notes of orange peel and coriander.
Fruit Lambic – A wheat beer made with wild yeast. The fruit is added about halfway through the fermentation process yielding a strong fruit flavor. Kriek (cherry) and Framboise (raspberry) are the most common Lambic flavors. Most fruit Lambics are sweet unless they are marked by the term “oud.” This “old style” Lambic has a profile that shows a distinct sourness.
Gueuze – Also a type of Lambic, Gueuze is a blend of young and old Lambics. Showing a sour note and funky yeast profile, these Lambics are not fruity. The blending of Gueuze is an art form and the finished product show great complexity.
Saison – Also commonly referred to as “Farmhouse” Ale, Saison beers are known for their fruity esters on the nose. Traditionally, a blend of herbs and spices are adding during brewing that results in a citrusy or fruity flavor.
Dubbel – A dark amber brown beer with a lot of rich, roasted malt flavors. They can be somewhat spicy and with fruity characteristics.
Trippel – A big beer usually golden in color with notes of spice, fruit, and honey. This style is often shows more bitterness than many others. This is necessary to balance all the strong malt presence.
Quadrupel – Also known as ABT Ales, are usually deep reddish-brown in color with a robust malty flavor profile and a high alcohol content which is often well disguised.
While there are many other styles of Belgian beers out there, these seven dominate over 90% of the marketplace in the United States. The diversity of these styles ensures that every beer lover will find a something that matches their personal tastes.
In the next few weeks our beer blog will be dedicated to tasting our way through some of the beers Belgium has to offer. Op uw gezondheid!