Belgium has an unparalleled reputation brewing, as the meeting place of wine making countries, and beer making counties. Both beer and wine are highly influential in the way Belgian ales are made, why they are so complex, and why they are hard to classify. They can vary greatly in style: Blonde, Witte/White, Flemish Sours, Lambics, Saisons, Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels/Dark Strong Ales.
To serve a Belgian beer, first consider the glassware. Nearly every Belgian beer has a branded glass – the brewery picks the perfect shape to accentuate the flavors and aromas of the beer. A goblet with a large, wide-rim allows the drinker to inhale the aromas and drink simultaneously. A tulip glass accentuates foam retention and lacing.
Second, the beer should be served at the proper temperature. Warmer temperatures, traditionally 50-55 degrees, are preferred for drinking Belgian ales. This temperature will allow the drinker to experience the maximum aromas (not unlike wine.)
Third, use the proper technique to pour a Belgian beer. Pouring a Belgian ale required one continuous, slow movement without pouring the yeast sediment. Pour at a slight angle, then slowly tilt upright. It’s popular to swirl the sediment at the bottom with the last remaining ale before pouring into the glass.
What’s the difference between a Belgian Ale and a Belgian-Style Ale?
If it isn’t brewed in Belgium, it’s a Belgium-style ale. Belgian yeasts are likely used. Many craft breweries make Belgian-style beers that are worth a taste!
Further, what’s the difference between a Trappist and Abbey Ale?
Trappist Ales must adhere to strict conditions – it must be produced within a monastery, under the supervision of Trappist monks. Profits from the sales must go to the Abbey or the communities needs. Look for “Authentic Trappist product symbol on the label. There are only 7 Trappist Breweries in the world: Achel, Chimay, Koningshoven, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle & Westvleteren.
Abbey Ales are made in the style of Trappist Ale but are produced under license to an existing or abandoned abbey by a commercial brewery, or a non-Trappist monastery.
About Belgian Varieties:
High fermenting beers with more spicy and fruity characteristics. Pale and clear in color. ABV: 6-9%
Try: Leffe Blonde
Brown to red coloring. Sweet malt flavors that become sour in the finish. ABV: 5-6% but occasionally higher.
Try: Monk’s Café
Wild fermenting ales with slight sour notes and crisp carbonation. Fruit juices added to balance flavors. ABV: 6-8%
Try: Lindeman’s Lambics – in a variety of flavors.
A French farmhouse “seasonal.” Gold, blonde color with notes of spicy, hoppy, citrus flavors. ABV: 6.5-7%
Try: Ommegang Hennepin
A Belgian wheat ale. Light-bodied, high carbonation with clean, tart tastes and citric fruit flavors. ABV 4.8-5.2%
Try: Blanche de Bruxelles or Boom Island Witness
Ale using double amounts of malts. Typically dark brown in color with dark roasted malt flavors. ABV: 6-7.5%.
Try: Chimay Red or Ommegang Abbey Ale
Ale using triple amount of malts. Gold to Amber in color. Citric, spicy notes blend with yeasty, bread-like flavors. ABV: 7-10%
Try: St. Feuillien Tripel or Victory Golden Monkey
Quadrupel (Quad) / Dark Strong Ale
Ale using quadruple amount of malts. Deep amber in color. Raisin, cocoa, and fig flavors with a full, creamy body.
Try: Rochefort 10