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
198400
Brasserie Dupont
Avec les Bons Voeux
Golden amber color with a high white foamy head. Rich salty baguette, marmalade, and spicy apple-pear tart aromas with a vibrant, fruity-yet-dry full body and an everlasting, pepper bread, date, sour cherry, earth, and elegant spice driven finish. A incredibly complex and flavorful Belgian ale. Amazing!
Date Tasted: 5/17/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
206503
Westmalle
Trappist Dubbel
Hypnotic reddish mahogany color. Rich aromas of toasted banana-raisin muffin and spicy vanilla custard with a satiny, fruity-yet-dry medium-full body and a long, elegant finish with notes of caramelized nuts and dried fruits, peppery spice, and earth. A fantastic flavor ride and an archetype of the style.
Date Tasted: 5/7/2014 in our Chicago tasting lab
206504
Westmalle
Trappist Tripel
Cloudy sunset orange color with a fine blanket of eggshell white foam. Attractive aromas of orange marmalade on multigrain bread and peach soufflé with a supple, fruity medium-full body and a long, rich, tightly knit fabric of herbs, peppery spices, honey, fruits, minerals, and radishes on the finish. An amazing tripel that sets the benchmark for the style.
Date Tasted: 5/13/2014 in our Chicago tasting lab
203443
Lambickx
Lambickx De Troch
Slightly hazy golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of salty baguette, gruyere omelet, and lemon spritzed green apples with tart, frothy medium-full body and a long, mouthwatering apple cider vinaigrette on endive and kumquat finish. A great food beer with laser-like acidity.
Date Tasted: 9/4/2013 in our Chicago tasting lab
199666
Brouwerij Lindemans
Framboise Lambic
Opaque garnet violet color with a rosy rim of froth. Rich pure raspberry aromas and flavors with a tangy, fruity full body and a long mouthwatering citrus accented finish. A sensationally vibrant and pure fruit beer that is sure to please. Begs another sip.
Date Tasted: 8/29/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
206505
Brasserie d’Orval
Orval Trappist Ale
Rich hazy amber color with a fine blanket of bone foam. Beguiling sweet and sour aromas suggest sourdough, apple cider, leather, barnyard wood, clay, and spiced pears with a rich, frothy, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a long well meshed finish of nuts, grains, dried fruits, peppery spice and minerals. A fantastic example of a brett-influenced, but not dominated, Belgian pale ale. Relish with charcuterie.
Date Tasted: 5/13/2014 in our Chicago tasting lab
198395
Brasserie Dupont
Foret Organic Saison
Bright golden amber color. Rich, layered aromas of honeyed pineapple cake, dried fruits, and toffee with a supple, fruity-yet-dry full body and a pure, elegant fruity soufflé and delicate peppery spice finish. A beautiful saison that is a benchmark of the style.
Date Tasted: 5/9/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
198560
Brouwerij Bockor
Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge
Deep reddish brown color. Effusively dizzying aromas and flavors of dried sour cherry, Meyer lemon vinaigrette on mesclun greens, dark raisin bread and cocoa with an intensely mouthwatering dry-yet fruity full body and a long, complex, vinous finish. A sensational sour beer.
Date Tasted: 5/2/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
211729
Lambickx
2014 Lambickx Private Domain Gueuze
Brilliant clear light gold color. Bold, sour, earthy aromas of white balsamic vinaigrette, sourdough nut bread, reduced lemon, and stinky cheese rind and horse hair brush with a silky, puckering, spritzy, sour light-to-medium body and a tingling, long Swiss chard, citrus pith, and sour green apple finish. A racy, palate awakening lambic that will excel at the table.
Date Tasted: 9/10/2015 in our Chicago tasting lab
210682
Rochefort Trappist Monastery
Trappist "10"
Minutely hazy brown color. Bright, buttery aromas of fruitcake, spiced praline, creme brulee, and oak with a silky, tangy, finely carbonated, off-dry medium body and a warming, complex, medium-length caramelized citrus, chocolate mint, pepper, and watercress finish. A rich, inviting dessert in a glass.
Date Tasted: 4/29/2015 in our Chicago tasting lab