If you enjoy drinking beer, you’ve probably tried a Belgian beer at some point. If you’ve never tried a Belgian beer before, you’re missing out.
Belgium is best known for three things: chocolate, waffles, and beer. Who could ask for more?
You can find Belgium settled between France, Germany, and the Netherlands. This is probably why there is so much variety in Belgian beer.
The most distinct unifying characteristic amongst them is their lack of unity. Belgian brewers are independent. They’ll craft a beer they think tastes good without much regard for style guidelines.
Despite this, there are a few consistent characteristics we can see. These beers focus on yeast in some way, have exceptional blending of flavors, have low residual sugar, use spices, and have conditioned cans.
Best Belgian Beer
With this in mind, let’s explore 12 popular Belgian beers you should try.
The Chimay brewery has been around since 1850 when Trappist monks moved into Scoutmont Abbey and decided to support the region by brewing beer.
Chimay committed to sustainability and to using the best natural ingredients. Monks brew the beer with well-water from the abbey.
The Chimay Blue is one of only three ales made there. I consider it a “classic” darker ale because it’s a copper-brown color with a light, creamy head and a slightly bitter taste.
It has an ABV, or alcohol by volume, of 9%, which is strong for a beer. You’ll find the flavor to be fruity and a bit peppery.
Bosteel brewery produces Tripel Karmeliet. This family brewery opened in 1791, which makes it older than Belgium.
Antoine Bosteel Jr. crafted the recipe for the Tripel Karmeliet in 1996. He was working on making a Tripel brew when he found a historical 1679 beer recipe.
He finds it close to the one he’s already made and uses it to perfect his recipe. This new recipe won the gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 1998 and silver in 2002. It has an ABV of 8.4%.
You brew it with three grains: wheat, barley, and oats. The beer itself is a beautiful color that ranges from gold to blonde.
It has little head and a flavor of banana and vanilla thanks to the yeast in it. It’s light from the wheat, creamy from the oats, and a bit spicy from the barley.
Gouden Carolus Classic
The Gouden Carolus Classic, which started in 1962, is another strong, dark beer with an ABV of 8.5%.
It has a ruby-red color with a lot of froth. The classic’s aromas include raisins, plums, toffee, and caramel thanks to its ingredients of caramel and aromatic malts.
The main flavors hitting your taste buds are candy sugar, raisins, orange, and passion fruit. It’s a complex, full-mouthed beer that pairs well with stews or chocolate.
Rochefort Brewery produces Rochefort 8 at Rochefort Abbey, another Trappist monastery.
The brewery reopened in 1899 after being shut down in 1794. There are mentions of it that date back to 1595.
Like the Chimay Blue, the water for this beer draws from wells inside the monastery walls. The Rochefort 8 is a strong, dark-copper beer with an ABV of 9.2%.
The aromas of raisins, dates, and bananas give you a smooth, slightly sweet flavor. It also has a drier, herbal finish that makes it a good warming ale.
The Abbey of Trappists Westmalle brews the Westmalle Tripel.
The monks at Westmalle brewed their first batch in 1836 for personal use and didn’t start selling it until 1921.
They combine new technology with traditional brewing methods to produce the highest quality beer.
The Tripel has an ABV of 9.5%, so it’s a strong, pale ale. It has sweet banana aromas with some apple and spicy pepper.
There’s an herbal, earthy character and a sweet fruity flavor that’s complemented well by the spice.
It’s a deep golden-yellow color with a creamy froth on top. There’s a good reason the Westmalle Tripel is the “mother of all Tripels.”
Moortgat brewery produces Duvel. Jan-Léonard Moortgat and his wife founded the brewery farm in 1871.
The Duvel has an extra-long maturation process (90 days). This gives it its refined flavor and pure taste. It’s golden-colored with an enormous head and smooth mouth feel.
The aromas present include citrus, apple, hops, and yeast. Interestingly, they evolve as you drink the beer.
There’s a subtle bitterness and distinctive hop flavor throughout that’s punctuated by fruity esters. When you taste it, you’ll understand why this is the standard for Belgian beer.
Orval Abbey in Wallonia is responsible for brewing Orval beer.
The monks rebuilt their brewery in 1931 after a fire burned it down in 1793. Like the other Trappist breweries, the monks use their profits to support the monastery and the local community.
Orval isn’t as strong as the other beers on this list. This pale ale’s ABV is only 6.9%. The flavor is earthy and slightly grassy, with notes of malty sweetness.
It’s usually a slightly hazy orange color and topped with a dense ecru head. Simply seeing this beer in the glass is a treat in itself.
This beer has a different story than the ones we’ve seen so far.
Pierre Gobron and Chris Bauweraerts started brewing beer in a garage as a hobby in the late 1970s.
They eventually went all-in on the beer business in 1986 and bought a building to make Achouffe brewery. They’ve been growing bigger and better ever since.
La Chouffe has an ABV of 8%, so it’s a strong, pale ale. It’s a slightly hazy, straw yellow color with a creamy head.
The aroma includes notes of banana, peach, and a hint of white cardamom. It combines fresh cilantro, those fruity tones, and honeyed malt to give you a slightly hoppy taste.
La Chouffe is very easy to drink, so be sure to pace yourself.
Brugse Straffe Hendrik Tripel
A brewery called De Halve Maan brews the Straffe Hendrik.
The brewery has been in the same family for five generations and has been crafting beer since 1856.
This specific beer came about in 1981 as a way to honor the patron saint of brewers, Saint Arnold, thanks to Henri Maes IV and his daughter Veronique.
Straffe Hendrik is a family of four beers, which includes the golden Tripel. It’s a high fermentation beer with an ABV of 9%.
Its aroma has notes of black pepper, cilantro, ginger, and subtle orange. You’ll get tastes of caramel, citrus, and a bit of banana.
The Tripel pairs surprisingly well with pineapple, mango, and cheeses like Camembert.
St. Bernardus Prior 8
St. Bernardus brewery crafts the Prior 8. It’s a dark Dubbel that’s one of seven beers sold through St. Bernardus.
When it’s in a glass, you’ll see that it’s chestnut brown and has a nice round head. It has an ABV of 8%.
The aromas present are fruity with notes of dates and figs. The taste is an equal balance between malty and fruity.
It’ll feel full in your mouth but does have a very pleasant and long finish. Even though it’s strong, you can enjoy the Prior 8 as an apéritif any time.
Palm Brewery currently produces Rodenbach beer, but it used to be made at Rodenbach brewery.
Four Rodenbach brothers opened a brewery together in 1821, and it stayed in the family until 1998, when Palm Brewery bought it. They’re known for their sour beers.
They craft five beers, one of which is the Rodenbach original. It’s a blend of old and young beers and has an ABV of 5.2%.
Unlike the other beers, this one is a sour red ale. It has a mildly sour taste and fruitiness that’s similar to wine. You’ll find this beer to be very refreshing.
Blanche De Bruxelles
The Lefebvre brewery produces the Blanche De Bruxelles. Jules Joseph Lefebvre started the brewery in 1876, and it has been in the family ever since.
The Blanche de Bruxelles came about in 1989. The ABV of this soft wheat beer is only 4.5%, so it’s easy to drink.
It has a natural shimmering quality and a dense, white head. You can taste the wheat it’s made from along with cilantro, orange, and a bit of spice.
It’s soft, smooth, and fresh. You won’t be disappointed with this one, especially if you have it with a slice of pepperoni pizza.
Best Belgian Beer
- Chimay Blue
- Tripel Karmeliet
- Gouden Carolus Classic
- Rochefort 8
- Westmalle Tripel
- La Chouffe
- Brugse Straffe Hendrik
- St. Bernardus Prior 8
- Blanche De Bruxelles
If I’ve convinced you to try any of these 12 popular Belgian beers, but you aren’t sure where to start, try them all. It can be difficult to know if you’ll like a beer based on its description, no matter how detailed it is.
If you drink beer regularly enough, you can make an educated guess about which Belgian beer to try first. But I would still recommend trying them all if you have the chance.
Belgian brewers follow their taste buds instead of sticking to a specific style. You may be surprised which of these you like.
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