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The 15 Best Belgian Beers To Try in 2021
Belgian brewing is iconic for its tradition and style, featuring a dazzling array of quality options that are considered the ultimate in craft beer enjoyment. While you’re unlikely to find thirst-quenching, easy-drinking Belgian lager, their beer is famed for its traditional methodology. From old family recipes, sour and fruit beers, and Saison and wheat beer, through to strong ales brewed by Trappist monks and abbeys, there’s a beer for everyone.
If you are a newcomer or beer enthusiast looking to find amazing quality crafted beer, Belgian artistry will be keeping you busy for a long time (and that’s before you get to the Belgian-inspired beer being crafted in the US).
The following collection of the 15 best Belgian beers offers a great roadmap to finding your favorite tastes. There will be some you love, and others you won’t enjoy, but all offer an interesting experience.
1. Brouwerij Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet
If you’re looking to delve deeply into the world of quality Belgian beer, make sure that Brouwerij Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet is right near the top of your list. Launched in 1996 to great acclaim, Brouwerij Tripel is brewed to an authentic beer recipe dating from 1679. A “Tripel” is made with three times the malt in the wort, which results in a markedly higher ABV (8.4%).
Regarded as one of the world’s finest Belgian beer styles, Tripel Karmeliet (Dutch for “Triple Carmelite”) is a golden-colored Belgian beer brewed by the highly regarded Brouwerij Bosteels beer brand. A feature of this triple beer style is the fruity flavor, which is provided by the uniqueness of the yeast. It offers banana and vanilla flavors mixed crisply with citrus aromas.
2. Chimay Grande Reserve Ale
It seems great-tasting beer is the Lord’s work. Chimay makes a commanding argument for being “the Champagne” of Abbey beer and is arguably the most popular Trappist beer in the world. A Trappist brewery does not create a set style of beer. It denotes that the beer has been brewed at a Trappist Monastery. There are only 11 in the world that are entitled to carry the “Authentic Trappist Product” label on their beer.
All Trappist ales and beers must be brewed in strict adherence to rules established by the International Trappist Association. The beer must be brewed in a Trappist monastery and should be brewed either by Trappist monks or under monks’ supervision.
This bottle is aged for up to five years upright in a cool environment within its Trappist brewery before being bottled and shipped. Chimay Grande Reserve is the premium of Trappist ales (although all varieties are delicious examples of Belgian beer), offering an intense floral aroma, a rich body, and complex citrus notes that move forward into a long, full-bodied finish.
3. Hoegaarden White
Belgium’s most popular wheat beer, Hoegaarden White is popular for aficionados and novice European beer drinkers alike. Hoegaarden White is smooth and creamy, offering a light refreshment at odds with its cloudy appearance. Its sweet yet slightly spicy flavor profile and bubbly carbonation make Hoegaarden a great complement to seafood dishes and sharp hard cheeses.
4. Orval Trappist Ale
Orval Trappist Ale is a sensational beer that rivals the Tripel Karmeliet for overall quality but at a slightly less punchy 6.2 % ABV. Orval is a lovely amber color, with a fruity and slightly acidic aroma. The flavor strongly features the bitterness of refreshing hops contrasted by fruity flavors that yield a long, dry finish.
My advice would be that when you get the chance to try an Orval Trappist Ale, you do so knowing it won’t be your last – it’s one of the best Belgian beers on the market and one you should look at tasating at every opportunity.
5. D’Achouffe La Chouffe Belgian Blonde Ale
This Belgian ale suits many different palates yet comes in at a hefty 8% ABV. It’s similar to a Belgian IPA (India Pale Ale) but less hoppy, crafted by “mythical elves at the microbrewery Brasserie Achouffe in the Ardennes Mountains.”
La Chouffe is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and bottle conditioned. It features a pleasant, fruity flavor spiced with coriander, with only a little hoppy bitterness in the aftertaste. If that’s not enough to get you over the line, the craft beer company’s mascot is a gnome named Marcel who rides a unicycle on the bright yellow label.
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6. Delirium Tremens
Classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, this bad boy comes in at 8.5% ABV. This intricate beer is gold in color with a creamy light head featuring a tremendously complex fruity ester (the fruit flavor created in the process of fermentation).
Delirium Tremens (known as the shakes to you and I) is a light, refreshing Belgian Pale Ale for a brew with such a strong alcohol profile. It has a big body, a creamy sweet mouthfeel of caramel malt, and little bitterness in the fruit beer’s aftertaste. DT is a great option for the Belgian pale ale enthusiast seeking hefty alcohol content without the overwhelming hoppiness of an Imperial IPA.
7. Cantillon Fou Foune
This delicious sour beer is different from “normal beer” because it’s fermented through spontaneous exposure to wild yeast (Brettanomyces yeast) and bacteria native to the Zenne valley in Belgium. Cantillon Fou Foune is an apricot lambic beer brewed yearly by Cantillon (bottling usually commences in August), using approximately 300 grams per bottle of organically grown French apricots.
The unique brewing process gives the beer its distinctive flavor: dry, vinous, and cidery, with an extremely tart aftertaste underneath oaky lambic and subtle apricot. While difficult to find at times, the Fou Foune from Brasserie Cotillon is a brilliant Belgian Beer style recommended for the fully committed beer lover to indulge in the very best of sour beer brewing.
8. Duvel Belgian Ale
Duvel is bottled at an ABV of 8.5% and offers a unique take on the popular strong Belgian style ales. Duvel Belgian Ale is blonde in color and refreshes crisply like a Pilsner, yet possesses the flavor, strength, and depth of a more complex craft beer. Pilsner malt is used to create the lovely golden color it pours, while Bohemian hops and a unique yeast strain add character and intensity to the beer.
9. Blanche de Bruxelles
Traditionally, farmers brewed witbier to showcase the quality of their crops. Blanche de Bruxelles is naturally cloudy (not unlike a hazy IPA from your favorite craft brewery) thanks to the 40% wheat content that is used in its brewing. Blanche de Bruxelles possesses the aroma of coriander and bitter orange peels, which are added during the slow brewing process.
The resultant wheat beer yields an unfiltered bottle, re-fermented with yeast and brewing sugar. The orange flavor is also noticeable on the palate of this traditional witbier, which has a markedly lower ABV than some of the others on this list (4.5%).
10. Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze
Drei Fonteinen is the only remaining traditional geuze (also spelled gueuze) blend in Belgium that uses 100% spontaneously fermented lambic beer aged in oak casks with no artificial sweeteners or other additives. Because the young lambics are not fully fermented, the blended beer contains fermentable sugars, which allow a second fermentation to occur and makes for a well-balanced sour ale/farmhouse ale.
Oude Geuze is a beautiful golden beer when poured. The flavor is very sour and tart with notes of lemon, orange peel, and apple which moves into hints of spices and hops through the bubbling carbonated finish. The beer lover new to sour ale is likely to miss out on the subtle layers this Belgian brew offers, but an established sour drinker will fully appreciate the depth of character a traditional gueuze possesses.
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11. Westmalle Trappist Dubbel
Westmalle Dubbel is a classically dark, reddish-brown Trappist beer that’s had a secondary fermentation in the bottle (hence the name Dubbel). It’s attractive in the glass, with a creamy head and the fragrance of malt. It’s rich and complex on the tongue, featuring a soft mouthfeel augmented by herby spices and a fruity yet slightly bitter finish. If you are looking for a quintessentially Belgian dark beer made by Trappist monks, this quality bottle is hard to go past.
12. Saison Dupont Farmhouse Ale
Saison Dupont has been an integral seasonal beer for the famous Dupont Belgian brewery since it was first crafted in 1844. It’s a lovely coppery blond in color, strong in yeast and malt aromas, with a hint of grasses and lemon on the palate, and an ideal amount of bitterness at the tail. Considered a benchmark seasonal beer, Saison Dupont is a top-quality Farmhouse Ale made for thirst-quenching refreshment.
13. Leffe Brown Ale
Leffe Brown is an authentic dark abbey beer that rivals any of the brown ale popularized in the United Kingdom. It offers a rich, slightly sweet flavor that comes from the use of darkly roasted malt in the brewing process.
There are the enjoyable flavors of caramel, chocolate, and a hint of coffee in the lush flavor profile, and Leffe Brown Pours creamily into a traditional chalice. While it’s not a beer style where you will wish to drink 10 of them in a sitting, it’s easy to appreciate the tasty dark flavor of Leffe Brown as an after-dinner sampler.
14. Gouden Carolus Classic
Named after King Charles V, this unique dark beer could almost be classed as a stout, yet is categorized as a Belgian Strong Ale bottled at 8.5% ABV. Gouden Carolus Classic is fresh and enjoyable, particularly when paired with a variety of strongly flavored dishes, cheeses, and pate.
Its richness is contrasted nicely by the bitterness of hops that helps augment a slightly sour profile. While not my style beer of choice, Gouden Carolus Classic can certainly be a great companion for feasting or enjoyed after dinner with a nice cigar.
15. Pauwel Kwak Belgian Ale
Pauwel Kwak Belgian Ale gets its name from a famed 18th-century innkeeper and brewer who crafted a beer for carriage drivers. These days the beer is brewed by the Bosteels brewery in Buggenhout.
This complex Belgian strong ale is amber in color with beautiful foam and a slightly sweet malt character. The sweet yeasty aromas are enlivened by the taste of coriander and a glimmer of licorice flavor on the palate. You’ll often find this Belgian beer served in the tremendous hourglass style glass and wooden frame first created by Pauwel Kwak, so it makes for an impressive experience at a bar or restaurant (or if you are a devotee enjoying the beer at home).
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