Perhaps one of the things that Belgium is most famous for is its wide selection of tasty beers. In fact, there are so many to choose from that you could find yourself a little bedazzled by the variety offered and find yourself asking, “Which should I try first?” This introductory guide to Belgian beer is designed to ensure that you do not miss some of the more popular and better Belgian beers, especially useful if you find yourself only on a short visit there.
The first traditional beer many travellers to Belgium enjoy is the easy to drink, and tasty, Leffe beer. It can usually be found either in a sweet-tasting, yellow (“Blonde”) variety, or in a dark brown (“Brune”) ale form. Both are fairly strong beers with approximately 6.5% in terms of alcohol content. They are normally served in attractive round Leffe glasses. Indeed you will find that most Belgian beers are served in their own branded glass which can be fun to compare.
You may already be aware that Belgium is also famous for making excellent fruit-flavored beers, and a particularly enticing variety is the Kriek (pronounced “Creek”) which is a sweet cherry beer. There are several brands of this type of beer with the most popular being Lindemans and Belle Vue. The Lindemans variety (about 4%) is not as strong as the Belle Vue (about 5%) and is a little sweeter too, but both are very good examples of a Belgian Kriek beer.
If you prefer a more standard beer then Belgium offers two popular choices, Jupiler and Maes. Most bars and taverns will offer one or the other. Both are easy to drink, basic lagers, but still containing a fairly strong alcohol content of around 5%. These are good beers to start an evening with or to stick to if you would prefer a clearer head in the morning! You will find there are few beers in Belgium that have alcohol contents lower than these, so it is wise to take it easy when sampling the various beers available to you.
Belgium is famous for producing white, cloudy wheat beers of which Hoegaarden is a good example. For some it is an acquired taste, but certainly one to try, which can be surprisingly refreshing with a slice of lemon on top! At 5% it is not one of the stronger beers and it is usually obtainable in most Belgian bars. If not, there are frequently alternative wheat beers which are just as nice.
The next suggestion is the delicious “Trappist” beer called Westmalle. There are two main varieties, the Westmalle Trappist Dubbel (about 7% alcohol content), which is a flavorsome, dark colored ale; and the Westmalle Tripel (stronger at 9.5%) which is an amber beer with a kick in terms of its strength. Both certainly merit sampling.
Rochefort 8° is a traditional “Trappist” beer with a fine flavor to be savored. It is quite a strong, brown ale served in its own glass and is arguably one of the best Belgian beers of its type. At just over 9.2% it is certainly one of the stronger beers listed here worth trying. There are two other varieties, the Rochefort 6° and the Rochefort 10°, both of which are enjoyable beers in their own right and, if available, an opportunity not to be missed.
The Chimay range of “Trappist” beers are all likeable and delicious. There is a Blonde variety, a Brune, and a Tripel, but perhaps the best of the bunch is the Chimay Bleue, which at around 9% is a powerful and intense beer and one that stands out amongst its peers.
Duvel is a popular and very pleasing blonde ale which is commonly available in many Belgian bars, cafes and taverns. It is a potently strong beer (about 8.5%), but is surprisingly easy to drink and one that is memorably good.
Finally, perhaps one of the most intriguing beers that Belgium has to offer is Kwak. It is a pleasant dark amber-colored beer, with a very original glass from which to drink it. This drinking vessel itself makes the beer worth ordering…and that’s all we can say as we do not want to spoil the surprise!
Belgium does have a fabulous range of beer for the visitor to enjoy and, although listed here are some of the more popular and interesting brews available, you will certainly not find yourself short of options in a country that prides itself on producing some of the best beer in the world.