Belgium is one of the Western Europe smaller countries, famous for its fries, waffles and rich beer culture. It’s 250 times smaller than Australia, yet, it produces 2.000 beers in more than 200 active breweries. Among these beers are some of the best beers in the world.
Most Belgian beers are specially crafted and have an immediately recognisable flavour described as fruity, herbal and spicy. Whether you’re a beer lover or not, Belgium has a beer profile for everyone. If you haven’t tried a Belgian beer yet, do so and do not miss such pampering of your taste buds.
You can buy Belgian beer online and get it delivered to your door, or visit a craft beer store to get the best recommendations. Here are the top 5 reasons why everyone should try Belgian beer.
1. Rich History
Belgians have been producing beer from at least the 12th century, long before Belgium became an independent country, even before the First Crusade. The French and Flemish brewed beer to raise money.
Approximately at that time, many monks and other refugees persecuted in their countries fled to Belgium in search of religious freedom. These monks were literate and brought all their recipes with them. They began brewing beer to sustain themselves and turned beer into a monastic affair. In Belgium, there wasn’t anything like the German reinheitsgebot, a purity law that restricted brewers to brewing with nothing but barley, hops, water, and yeast. So, monk brewers were free to try any ingredient and process they wanted.
During these times, beer brewing flourished, becoming more and more popular. Belgian people used to drink beer instead of water. The available drinking water was unsafe because of its unsanitary condition, and beer seemed to be a safer and cheaper option. Even children were drinking beer, and this practice continued until the 1970s. A popular table beer called Piedboeuf with 1.1% alcohol and lots of sugar was even distributed to schools and served to the kids as a healthy beverage for their lunch breaks. Until they found out it wasn’t and cut it out.
Over time, traditional brewing methods have slowly evolved into what they are now, resulting in a wide variety of beer styles, techniques, and tastes that can’t be found anywhere else.
2. UNESCO World Heritage
UNESCO has made Belgian beer culture a part of the Representative List of Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This international recognition of Belgian beer culture combines it with Argentinian Tango, Spanish Flamenco and Brazilian Samba. These are some of the reasons why Belgian beer culture became a world heritage:
- Belgian brew a wide variety of high-quality original beers that take a permanent place in the prestigious World Beer Awards.
- The rich beer brewing history has gone strong since the Middle Ages.
- Beer is a part of Belgian social and cultural recognition.
- It’s an important export product with over 65% of the total production exported to France, the US, China, and Australia.
- Belgians organise different professional and higher education courses on beer, such as for brewers or zythologists (beer connoisseurs).
- Beer tasting events are regularly organised throughout the country. Belgians take their beer so seriously that they drink different beers from different glasses. They say it makes for a different drinking experience.
3. The Belgian Way of Brewing
- There are four original fermentation processes for brewing beer. For example, lager beers are made through cold fermentation and ales are made through warm fermentation. Only in Belgium you can find different beers with the use of all four processes:
- Warm fermented beers, such as specialty beers, doubles and triples. These are examples of high fermentation beers made by a fermentation process at higher temperatures (up to 25 degrees Celsius). During the process of making, the yeast forms a blanket over the beer.
- Cool fermented beers, such as the Lambic, are made at lower temperatures (5 to 12 degrees Celsius). During the cool fermentation, the yeast drops to the bottom of the yeast tub.
- Spontaneous, also known as wild fermentation, is when the yeast isn’t added directly to beer. The wort will automatically ferment in an open cooling tank as soon as it is infected with the surrounding microflora. The most suitable microflora for this can be found in the area around Brussels. That’s why this region is known for lambic and gueuze beers.
- Mixed fermentation is a process used only in Belgium, as nowhere do beer brewers dare to mix young and old beer. For this process, warm fermented beers are mixed with wild-fermented beers, matured in oak barrels with lactic acid.
4. Belgians brew beer in a way that matches tradition with innovation. Their creativity seems to be endless when it comes to beer brewing. This results in so many unique beer styles that inevitably taste Belgian. When a Belgian brewer’s trying to invent a new beer, he wants to create a sublime new drinking experience, not thinking about beer styles. He has a particular taste in mind, an idea of textures and aromas, and that’s what his new beer will be. He doesn’t care about beer judges and classification, and that’s the Belgian way to success. Who doesn’t want to try something new but equally good?
5. Discover the Many Flavours of Belgian Beer
What makes Belgian beer different? The fruity, spicy, floral, and herbal aroma differ from other Belgian beers. These aromas complement the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hop you can taste in every beer in a way that spoils your taste buds. Sometimes you can also feel earthiness, a savoury, mushroom taste. Other times, you can find the same toasty or caramel flavours you get from English beers, only complemented with the distinct aroma of dates and spices. When done correctly, the flavours are harmoniously balanced.
These are some of the Belgian craft beers you should most definitely try.
Made by the Trappist monks in their monasteries, these beers are among Belgian favourites. The best Trappist beers are Rochefort Trappistes, Westmalle Tripel and Dubbel, Chimay Blue and Orval.
These are the fruity beers made by spontaneous fermentations. Most famous are the gueuze beers. Some of the best Lambic beers are Oude Gueze, Bokke Framboos Noyaux and Fonteinen Framboos (Framboise).
A Whole New Beer World
Belgian beers reveal a whole new world of beer. Order your Belgian beer online for you or a gift for the beer lover in your life, and discover the many flavours that can take your beer experience to another level.