You could say that drinking Belgian brews is almost a spiritual experience—and you wouldn’t be the first to do so. Belgian monks began crafting hearty ales in the Middle Ages and today the country produces a variety of styles that range from strong golden ales to dark abbey ales. While some sippers find they take a bit of getting used to, many noted beer experts rank Belgian brews as some of the best in the world.
Belgian pale or golden ale is amber to copper in color and has more malt and yeast character than an English pale ale—some brands, like Delirium Tremens and Duvel Single, may have an orange or pear-like fruitiness. Brown ales possess a sweet/sour complex taste with a hint of caramelization. Belgian red ales are made with a specially roasted malt and fermented by a mixture of several yeasts and the same type of culture found in yogurt. They are then aged in oak, resulting in a reddish-brown brew with a distinctive tart, fruity flavor.
Held in especially high regard are the Trappist or abbey ales, which are strong ales with alcohol content as high as 10 percent by volume. Style categories still bear names from brewing practices that were used for centuries, even after modern techniques have been implemented. Those labeled “dubbel” are dark and medium strength and have a rich maltiness with clove spice flavors. “Tripel” ales are crisp and fruity brews. Sugar is added to the mix, which helps them maintain a light flavor and aroma. Trappist ales are among the most complex and old fashioned of beers. Delirium, Duvel and St. Bernardus all carry a variety of Belgian beer, so you can taste your way to the heavens. .