Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Types of Belgian Beer

Trappist Beer
   In the past, some of Belgium’s finest beers were made by the Trappists, a silent order of Cistercian monks. Now it’s produced commercially by five breweries with close ties to the monasteries (Chimay, Westmalle, Orval, Rochefort and Westvleteren). Yeast is added at bottling to induce a second fermentation, so pour off carefully in one go to avoid disturbing the sediment.

Abbey Beer
   Other abbeys also produced beer, but unlike the Trappist monasteries, many have licensed them to commercial breweries. Leffe, for example, is now closely connected with InBev. That said, many of the abbey beers are excellent. In addition, there are good “abbey-style” beers, such as Ename, Floreffe and St.Feuillien.

Witbier/Biere Blanche
   Most beer is made from barley, but it can also be made from wheat to produce a distinctive “white beer” to which flavourings such as coriander and orange peel may be added. The result is a light, sparkling and refreshing beer, often served cloudy with sediment. Examples: Hoegaarden, Brugs Tarwebier.

   In the valley of the Senne, the river that flows through Brussels, there is a natural airborne yeast called Brettanomyces. For centuries, brewers have simply left their warm wheat-beer wort uncovered during the winter months, and allowed air to deliver the yeast into it. The fermenting beer is then left to mature in wooden casks for a year or more. This creates a very distinctive beer, with a slightly winey edge, called lambic – the quintessential beer of Brussels.

Chez Moeder Lambic - Brussels

- a justly revered beer-shrine serves 450 kinds of beer

   Lambic of various ages can be blended, and then fermented a second time in the bottle. This produces a beer called queuze, fizzy like champagne and matured a further year or two to accentuate the winey qualities of the original product.

   Lambic can be flavoured with cherries (formerly the cherries of the north Brussels orchards of Schaerbeek), added during fermentation to create a highly distinctive drink called kriek; with raspberries, to make framboise; or with candy sugar, to make faro. Of the three, newcomers may find faro the easiest to begin with.

   Traditionally, breweries graded their beers by strength: apparently single was around 3%, double 6% and treble 9%. Some breweries – notably the Abbeys – still label their beers double (dubbel) and triple (tripel). Double is usually a dark and sweetish brew, triple often golden – blond.

Lager – style Beers
   Lager, or pils, is a bottom-fermented beer: the yeast remains at the bottom of the brew (stronger, heavier ales tend to be top –fermented, which seals in more flavour). Although such light beers may be sniffed at by connoisseurs abroad, in Belgium they are brewed to a high standard. Despite its ubiquity, InBev’s famous Stella Artois, brewed at Leuven, is a good – quality lager.

Pub De Dulle Griet - Ghent

- a celebrated pub serving 250 brands of beer.

Strong Ales
   Some breweries pride themselves on the sheer power of their product. Duvel (“Devil’s”), at 8,5%, is a famous example. Several lay claim to being the strongest beer in Belgium; at 12%, Bush beer is up there, and to be treated with respect.

Christmas Beers

   Many of the breweries produce Christmas ales for the festive season. These may just be prettily labelled versions of their usual brew, but may also be enriched ales of high strength.

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