As we told you in the previous post, Belgium is a country with a long and rich history in beers and with a great variety of styles, which have in common a high alcoholic content and fermentation as central axis of the elaboration. All the yeast strains used provide, in different measures, intense fruity and spicy aromas and flavours, and are accompanied by fermentation temperatures that range between 18º and 25º. The use of caramelized sugars (Candy) is very common, and malts and hops only play a supporting role.
Another characteristic fact is that it is difficult to find Belgian-style beers that are served from the barrel, in general, they are re-fermented and conditioned in bottles, and each style has a special glass for its beer (o
Abbey and Trappist beers
They are the most representative and widespread of the Belgian school. Formerly they were (and some still are) made by monks in abbeys, with Dubbel and Tripel being the most produced styles, with alcoholic strengths of around 7% and 9% respectively, and colors ranging from gold to copper.
Within this style you can find the subcategories of:
- Blonde : they are Belgian blonde beers, of relatively recent development, they appeal more to European Pils drinkers. Moderately alcoholic, between 4% and 6%, it has a subtle fruity-spicy Belgian yeast complexity, some sweet malt flavor and a dry finish.
- Dubbel: (also known as enkel or patersbier) deep copper-red, high-proof, roasted beers between 6, 5% and 8.5%, that is, moderately strong, malty, complex, with rich malt flavors, dark or dried fruit esters, and light alcohol blended together in a presentation that although malty ends up quite dry.
- Tripel: high-proof lagers, between 7% and 9.5%, slightly spicy flavor, dry and strong with a nice rounded malt flavor and a firm bitterness. Very aromatic, with spicy, fruity and light alcohol notes that combine with the clean sustaining character of the malt to produce a drink that is surprisingly drinkable considering the high alcohol level.
- Quadrupel: Its colors range from dark amber to deep mahogany. It is the beer with the most degrees in the Belgian catalogue, between 9% and 12%. They are liqueur, with notes of prune, caramel and some roasted touch. Intense, complex and not too dense for its potency.
Originally created as refreshing summer beers, today they are produced on a larger scale, year-round and with broader recipes. In general, they present rustic qualities, spicy and citrus aromas, and the addition of adjuncts such as wheat and spices is very common.
Within this broad category we can distinguish:
- Belgian Pale Ale: actually a Belgian would always call them blonde or dorée, but it is a British terminology that has gradually been been accepting and that describes those blonde beers with different intensities, of modern creation.They have those fruity and spicy notes typical of Belgian yeast and a denser body than a lager
- Belgian Dark Ale: again a British term, coined by beer historian Michael Jackson in the 1960s, but which includes beers named on their label as ambrée, rouge or donker. They are beers that range from coppery to mahogany in color with variable alcoholic volumes ranging from 6% to 12%.
- Witbier or blanche: Belgian wheat beers, also known as white beer, have a fairly ancient history, originating in monastic settings of the 14th century, although Its commercial development has taken place in urban areas of Lovaiana and more specifically in the town of Hoegaarden. They are low in alcohol content, light, fresh and citrusy, thanks to the use of orange peel from Curaçao and coriander seed in their recipe.
- Saison: is a type of Belgian beer that originates from Leuven farms and was brewed for spring and summer seasonal workers, since there was no drinking water abundant in the region. They are blond, sparkling, dry Belgian beers with aromas of the terroir, given that local cereals, herbs, spices, and even fruits are used in their craft production.
They are refreshing beers where the acidity replaces the bitterness of the hops. They are fermented with yeasts in combination with bacteria that provide acidity, and are generally aged in oak barrels where the flavors are rounded off. The use of wheat in milling, and co-fermentation with fruit, are common. Among the styles produced we find Lambic and Flanders Red.
On the one hand, we would have the Lambics, which ferment spontaneously, exposing the must to wild yeasts and bacteria present in the environment. Specifically in the environment of a very specific area: the Senne river valley, south of Brussels and at a time of year that goes from October to May. They get their name from the town of Lembeek situated in an area of Flanders known as Pajottenland.
Lambic beers are the heritage of an era, which corresponds to the period before Louis Pasteur discovered yeast, in which all beer was fermented from microorganisms found in the air and in beer containers. fermentation.
All lambics are based on a sour Belgian blonde beer base, sometimes with a portion of wheat malt and rancid hops used. Then there are different mixtures and maturations. The most common substyles would be:
- Faro: Young low-proof lambic sweetened with sugar syrup. Lindemans is the most common although there are finer ones. A diluted version of lambic sweetened and sometimes spiced.
- Gueuze: a blend of lambics from different vintages with great complexity and balance. This style is bottled and the beer is usually heavily carbonated, hence its name, although non-carbonated versions have existed in the past. Those that are aged longer or have older vintages are called Oude Gueuze.
- Pure Lambic: sour beer par excellence, ranging from mild to very sour. It has no mixture and is usually served with little carbonation and sugar cubes to reduce the acid sensation according to the taste of each one.
- Fruit Lambic: is a sweet style that was created in the 1930s by mixing lambic beer with fruit syrups or adding fruit during the maturation of the beer.
The other category of sour beers is the Rojas de Flanders, roasted and sour beers that are obtained by mixing a spontaneously fermented beer, mainly with lactobacilli, with a roasted ale of different darkness and intensity There has been a fixation for trying to divide them into two sub-styles, Oud Rood and Oud Bruin, which comes again from the expert Michael Jackson. However, the most accepted opinion today is that the Flemish have rather referred to these beers as Oud Bruin or Vlaamse Bruin. The style seems to have taken shape in the mid-19th century, went into decline in the mid-1930s, and recovered strongly from 1980 to the present day. Anyway, we tell you much more about sour beers in this post from a few months ago
As you can see, there are many styles within the Belgian school, and in many of them the differences are small. We particularly love Belgian beers, and we invite you to try all the nuances of this brewing school. To do this, in the next post we will tell you what Belgian-style beers you can find in our store, and some of our recommendations. As they say in the area: Santé!