Belgian beers are well known around the World. Especially their Trappist beers (the ones marked with [T] below), which are brewed in monasteries following certain rules and standards. There are only 11 in the World (six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands and one each in Austria, Italy, and the United States), so their products are very authentic.
So these are our favourites Belgian beers.
Tripel de Garre
Tripel, 11.5%, Brouwerij Van Steenberge
This is our favourite beer. This magical, delightful and delicious beverage is called Tripel De Garre and it is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge. It is really outstanding.
It is blond and very foamy. Even that is actually strong (11.5% alcohol), it tastes so good and light that even people who are not heavy beer drinkers love it.
There is another particularity: you can only get it in one place in the entire world, a small pub in Bruges called Staminee de Garre. The place is also interesting, the building is quite old and the decoration very modest and traditional. It’s a hidden place located on the small street that joins the two main squares. You need to pay attention and find a tiny hallway/aisle between the shops which ends at its entrance. And one more detail: the beer comes with a free tiny cheese platter, as shown in the picture above, an excellent matching.
Rochefort Trappistes 10
Quadrupel, 11.3%, Trappist Abbey of Rochefort. [T]
Our second favourite beer. A very strong dark beer, complex and rich. Aromas of raisins, dried fruits, liquorish sweetness, alcoholic spiciness and hints of red wine and malts. It’s a regular contender for World’s best beer and can substitute some red wines as a food companion. Fruits and chocolate are also a good match.
Trappist Westvleteren 12 (XII)
Quadrupel, 10.2%, Brouwerij Westvleteren. [T]
Another regular contender for World’s best beer. Besides its taste, it is also known for having no label (only coloured caps) and for being produced in small batches, and therefore hard to find, especially outside Belgium.
In terms of taste, it’s creamy and smooth, with aromas “of dark fruit, raisins, caramel sweetness, warming alcohol, tobacco and leather”. Complex and with a dry finish.
Belgian Pale Ale, 8%, Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
Another exquisite beer. We first tried it out in Staminee de Garre. It’s a reach and creamy blond, full-bodied, with aromas of vanilla and apple, and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Excellent to match with not too salty cheese, such as Gouda or Comte.
St. Bernardus Abt 12
Quadrupel, 10%, Brouwerij St. Bernardus.
Another complex and rich dark beer with a very intense flavour. It’s easier to find, at least in comparison with the ones above. It’s a good match for meat dishes, especially beef, and also strong cheese as Roquefort.
Brugse Zot Blond
Belgian Blonde, 6%, Brouwerij de Halve Maan.
“Brugse Zot Blond is a golden blond beer with a rich foam collar and a fruity yet spicy bouquet. The beer is brewed with four different kinds of malt and two aromatic varieties of hop which give the beer its inimitable taste. When it comes to food pairing, the beer is at its best when combined with fish and crustaceans, beef or desserts with red fruits. “
It has that classic Belgian flavour with a certain bitterness and hints of citrus. It’s lighter than other blonds in this list and it has become popular in Europe, and it is now available on draught in many countries.
It is made by the only brewery in Brugge, and it has been in the news lately because they are planning (or maybe they has started already) to build an underground pipeline to carry its production of beer. Enough beer to fill 12000 bottles an hour will flow in this pipeline from the brewery to the bottling plant, which is outside the old town. The authorities hope this pipeline will preserve Bruges both medieval streets and beer tradition [Read more].
Westmalle Trappist Dubbel
Dubbel, 7%, Brouwerij Westmalle. [T]
Westmalle is a dark red-brown beer with a rich, complex taste and touches of caramel and banana. It produces a soft and cream-coloured foam. It is probably the lightest Trappist beer, and the easiest to find (in the UK, you can buy it at Tesco!).
Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue)
Belgian String Dark Ale, 9%, Trappist Abbey of Chimay. [T]
Chimay is arguably the most popular Trappist brand. Each type has its own label colour, and the blue one if our favourite. It is a dark ale with a powerful aroma and a complex flavour. A good match for red meat and chocolate. There is a great barrel-aged version as well.
Belgian Pale Ale, 6.2%, Brasserie D’Orval. [T]
Orval is a light but tasteful Trappist pale ale, complex in taste with aromas of fruits and herbs. It also has hints of citrus and a dry aftertaste.
Orval’s Trappist community decided to produce and focus only on this beer, and the result proved its worth. It makes a great pairing with walnuts, not too salty cheese and Iberico ham.
Belgian Strong Pale Ale, 7%, Demarche Brewery.
Another great blond, lighter than most beer in the list, with sweet malty flavours and hints of banana and pear. Well balanced and hoppy.
We tried on our first trip to Bruge and we liked ever since. We found it on draught in Cafe On The Rocks, a very peculiar and original pub which I recommend. It used to be a strip club, so you can still see its old decoration, including the poles for dancing and a lot of mirrors on the walls. Besides all that, once you step in you can feel a very familiar and good atmosphere. Most of its visitors are locals, and you can always find its owner “Tony” serving at the bar but also playing the music from his laptop.
Chouffe Dobbelen IPA
IPA Tripel, 9%, Brasserie D’Achouffe / Moortgat.
Another blond that has became popular along Europe, in particular in the countries around Belgium and France. Nowadays it’s not hard to find in the UK at all. It’s slightly stronger that the other blonds in the list. It’s fruity on taste, in particular of apricot and grapefruit. Floral and hoppy aroma and a dry and bitter aftertaste.
Where can you get these beers?
In some countries such as the UK, you can easily buy a Trappist Pack online, as the picture below. Another recommended website to buy online is Beer Hawk. And finally, a specialised online shop, directly from Belgium with worldwide delivery, is Beer Of Belgium.
Last but not least, if you are planning a trip to Belgium, I strongly recommend Bruges. You can find a list of the best pubs here.