Belgium is a country after my own heart.
French fries (with mayonnaise nonetheless), waffles, chocolate and beer are just some of what the country is known for, and a few of the reasons I love it so.
But the beer, oh the beer – is what really stole my heart in Belgium.
The country boasts an estimated 180 breweries and has such an overwhelming selection of beer that it can make even a seasoned connoisseur feel overwhelmed, never mind a beginner beer drinker.
With that in mind, I put together a quick Beginner’s Guide to Beer so when you hit the bar rail in Belgium you can order with confidence.
Just be careful, the beer is not only delicious but often far stronger then you’re used to, which can have some adverse effects if you’re not careful… isn’t that right Mom?!
First, know the basics:
One of the most popular and basic beers are known as lagers which are bottom fermented beers. This means that the beer is fermented for a longer period of time in cooler conditions which results in the yeast sinking to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. The taste is crisp and clean and the alcohol content is usually around 5%.
Pilsner is a term that can apply to any dry pale lager. The origin of the Pilsner is from the city of Plzen in the Czech Republic and known as an easy drinking, golden beer with a nice balance of malt and bitterness.
Popular lagers: Coors Light, Budweiser, Heineken
Belgium lagers: Jupiler, Maes, Stella Artois
Also known as Witbeer, White Beer or Hefeweizens, wheat beers use 40-60% wheat instead of malted barley which results in a beer with a light, clean taste and pale, cloudy colour. Unlike lagers, wheat beers are top fermenting and are known to have distinct flavouring notes, such as coriander, orange peel or banana, depending on the type.
Popular wheats: Rickard’s Original White, Shock Top, Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc
Belgium wheats: Hoegaarden
Pale Ales/ India Pale Ales
Pale ales are known for their copper-colour and distinct hoppy notes, especially the India Pale Ales (IPAs) which are much hoppier. The history of the IPA dates back to Britain and the colonization of India when the Brits were looking for a way to ship their beer to India and found that a higher alcohol content and extra hops kept the beer from spoiling on the long journey.
Popular ales: Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale
Belgium ales: Palm Amber, Duvel, La Chouffe
The “Darks”: Porters/Stouts/Ambers/Reds/Browns
The Ambers, Reds and Browns are known for their toffee and caramel flavours and have a light to medium body, whereas the Porters and Stouts are more heavy bodied beers with chocolate and coffee in their tasting notes. All of these dark beers are top fermenting and are usually made with brown or amber malt.
Popular Darks: Rickard’s Red, Innis & Gunn Original, Guinness
Belgium Darks: Leffe Brune, Chimay Blue Cap
Second, try a distinct Belgium Beer:
Have you ever been to Belgium? What was your “beer experience” like?