Beer - The drink that Belgium is known for. Well, do not forget delicious Belgian chocolate and french fries. But since we are beer lovers, we focused our discussion on beers while snacking on some Belgian treats on the side.
The answer to the question of which is the best Belgian beer is debatable. People have different tastes and have developed their favourites. However, some Belgian beers have stood out from the crowd and made their name outside the country. There is a reason for that. Some Belgian brewers have stepped out of their comfort zone and created something extraordinary. Others have focused on tradition and authenticity. These beers have gained a good reputation and stand out by special taste and quality. Thus, we can call them the best Belgian beers.
History and overview of Belgian beer
Before we can get to the best Belgian beers, let’s have a look at the background of Belgian beer.
The journey of Belgian beer started already before Belgium was an independent country. The brewers brewed beer to raise money, and beer was a more sanitary drink than water. It was the start of a long-brewing tradition.
First, beer was brewed with gruit until the 14th century, when hops were introduced. That is when Belgium regions started developing their own styles of beers.
Belgium is also known for monastic brewing and Trappist beer brewed by monks. In the beginning, the monasteries played a small role in Belgium's beer culture because monasteries were brewing mostly for themselves and their guests. Only in the 19th century, when Chimay produced Trappist beer for commercial use, did the monastic beers become renowned. Now they are very valuable, as there are only thirteen monasteries in the world that produce beer, and six of them are in Belgium.
Large industrial-scale brewing started in 1885 due to a change in legislation. That was also the beginning of a decline in breweries. Belgium had over 3000 breweries in the 20th century, which declined to 106 breweries in 1993. Nevertheless, the past years have seen a major increase in small and craft beer breweries. Consumers started to appreciate the artisanal methods and support small businesses.
Now, without further ado, here are some of the most iconic Belgian beers. These Belgian beers have made their name throughout Belgian beer history for various reasons.
Here are the top 10 best Belgian beers:
- Tripel Karmeliet
- Chimay Bleue
- Delirium Tremens
- Boon Kriek
- Westmalle Tripel
- Cantillon Gueuze
- XX Bitter
- Paix Dieu
Many beer geeks stay away from Belgian beers that have become too famous internationally. That is because their craft beer image is losing or lost its meaning. Orval beer is one of the few that no one can say anything bad about. Orval beer is a Brett style beer with a unique taste. It is considered the queen of Trappist beers. On top of that, it is also a rare find. It is among twelve Trappist beers in the world that are still brewed today and respect the monastic tradition.
Tripel Karmeliet deserves the title of one of the best Belgian beers because of its unique and authentic beer recipe. It uses three different types of cereals. The brewer was inspired by an authentic beer recipe that dates back to 1679. It is a refreshing beer with a creamy mouthfeel and a smooth finish.
Chimay Bleue beer has made its mark by being the first Christmas beer brewed by Trappist monks. The recipe dates back to 1956 and has not been changed since. The beer is sweet with chocolate notes, and because it is brewed with an orange peel, it has some fruity flavours.
The beer mark is recognized around the world thanks to its beer label with a pink elephant. Moreover, the beer bottle is special as the beer comes in a ceramic bottle. Delirium Tremens blonde style beer has won many awards, and the beer recipe includes three different Belgian yeasts.
The list would not be complete without a good cherry beer. This Oude Kriek by Boon is a true classic. It is brewed traditionally with spontaneous fermentation and adding 400 grams of fresh cherries. These cherries give it a very intense taste but a mild cherry flavour. The beer has a beautiful deep red colour.
The Westmalle Tripel beer is the mother of all Tripel beers as it was already brewed in 1934. Since then, it has become a reference to the style worldwide. It is a complex beer with a soft and creamy mouthfeel, a bitter touch and carried out by a fruity aroma. The complex character comes from slow brewing and re-fermentation in the bottle.
Cantillon's Gueuze is a beer that has not only become popular among beer drinkers but collectors. Cantillon brewery is one of the oldest craft beer breweries in Brussels that brews exclusively lambic beers. Thus, you can trust they are experts in the style. The Cantillon Gueuze, by some, is called the champagne of Belgium and is a mix of several lambics. The acidity of the beer is perfectly balanced.
XX Bitter by De Ranke brewery has earned their spot on the list by being one of the bitterest beers in Belgium. When the beer came out, it was the most bitter beer in Belgium. The only other reference for bitterness was Orval beer. To other brewers' surprise, the beer became an instant success. Thus, XX Bitter was the icon for hoppiness and became the inspiration for other breweries to develop bitter beers.
Duvel beer is another iconic Belgian beer appreciated all over the world. Duvel is a speciality blonde beer that has been refermented in the bottle. The brewery did not only create a legendary beer, but also a beer glass. They were the pioneers of tulip-shaped beer glass and made the shape known with their special Duvel beer glass.
What is so special about Paix Dieu? Because it is a beer that is brewed during the full moon! The lunar calendar was very important for the abbey of Paix Dieu. Thus, the tradition has remained, and the beer is only brewed during the full moon. It is a strong triple beer with an alcohol content of 10%. It is among the strongest Belgian beers.
Bonus: Taras Boulba
Although Taras Boulba is mostly known by the locals in Brussels, we wanted to add the beer to the list. Why? Because it is the favourite beer of Florian, the owner of Beercrush! It is a craft beer made by de la Senne craft beer brewery. Try it out yourself, and see if it should become as famous as the rest!
Do you have a favourite Belgian beer? Tell us in the comments!