Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Belgium, Belgium, Belgium! A country you fall in love with the moment you step in. There’s something about the culture, the people and the architecture that makes you never want to leave! One of the largest contributors to the culture has been the history of brewing in this country. Modern craft beer would not be the same without this tiny country where the beer culture is so vital that the UN decided to officially protect it. Yes, UNESCO listed Belgian brewing art as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016.
While planning my trip around Europe, the thought of trying different kinds of Belgian beer was one of the driving factors in picking 2 cities to visit in Belgium. Well, the time comes around and I find myself in Brussels with no knowledge of Belgian brewing. Luckily for me, my childhood friend Juhi lives in Brussels and my first night there she took me to the most happening cafe of all time! I have never been to any bar which is swamped with spirited beer lovers on a Monday night like Delirium Cafe was.
First Night in Brussels at Delirium Cafe
Delirium Cafe holds the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of commercially available beer at a single bar. 2004 types of beer. Yup, you read it right - two thousand and four varieties of beer available! Can you imagine how ecstatic I must’ve been? Beers I had never heard of, beers I couldn’t imagine existed and beers I was totally thrilled to try out. I could go on about this beer paradise but let’s get to the point.
Guinness World Record - 2004 Varieties of Beer
Delirium Cafe Beer Menu
Throughout my trip, I tried a large variety of beer but the best had to be my first day at Brugge. I stayed at this fantastic hostel called St. Christopher’s Inn at Bahaus in Brugge and while checking in the host tells me that there’s a beer tasting event the same evening which costs only 12 Euros! How could I say no to that? That was the evening I had the best of the best beer from Belgium with brewing history going back centuries.
So, sit back and pop open a chilled one while you read through the Top 6 Beers you shouldn’t miss out on while in Belgium:
Beer Tasting at St. Christopher's Inn Brugge
1. St. Bernardus Abt 12
St. Bernardus Abt 12
An authentic 1946 recipe brewed by the Trappist monks who fled the Mont des Cats and escaped to Watou, Belgium in early 1900s, St. Bernardus Abt 12 is regarded as one of the best beers around the world. But why did the monks settle in flee France in the first place? In France, the Trappists had to pay taxes on their revenue which was not yet the case in Belgium. Safe in their new homes, the monks took up Cheese Making. Not long after the second World War, the Trappists monks decided to brew and market beer under licence.
St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a dark beer with a robust head which is ivory in colour. Brewed in the classic quadrupel style, this beer has a mild, rounded taste and a perfect balance between bitter and sweet, making it easy to drink. The Abt 12 packs a formidable taste punch which makes it the ideal partner for rich beef dishes. Blue Cheese & Chocolate form an unexpected but wonderful pairing with this beer. Alcohol Degree: 10%
2. Westmalle Tripel
The ‘mother of all tripels’, the Westmalle Tripel was first brewed in 1934. ‘Tripel’ refers to the fact that the ingredients are added in much larger quantities while brewing than usual. Westmalle brewery was formed by the Trappist monks who fled from La Trappe during French revolution and settled in Antwerp. Westmalle Tripel is a clear, golden-yellow beer with unmatched fruity aromas of ripes bananas and a subtle hint of hops. A full mouthed beer, the Tripel offers a finesse with mild taste and creamy mouth feel. You can feel the bitter notes supported by the fruity aromas in each sip. This complex character of the Tripel is derived from the slow brewing process and the re-fermentation in bottles. It makes an excellent fit with strawberries and dry-aged beef and an ideal pairing with fish. Alcohol Degree: 9.5%
Up until my visit to Belgium, I had no idea that my favourite beer in the whole wide world was actually the first wheat beer ever to be discovered! Hoegaarden monks were the first to create the unique recipe for wheat beer around 1445. Today, 9 out of 10 wheat beers sold in Belgium are from Hoegaarden.
With a refreshing citrus and earthly coriander aroma, Hoegarden whisks you away from your worldly stresses. The beer is fermented twice but isn’t filtered, hence its cloudy appearance and smooth texture. This process of brewing renders Hoegaarden Wit Blanche with a complex yet accessible flavor profile which complements a variety of foods. The beer pairs perfectly with citrusy salads, grilled fish, ginger tofu and guacamole! Well, you know what to order when you’re out drinking Hoegaarden next.
PS: It's pronounced as 'WHOgaarden'. Alcohol Degree: 4.9%
4. Troubadour Magma
A relatively new beer by The Musketeers brewery, the Troubadour Magma is a Belgian Tripel IPA. The orange and copper colored beer was created by the modern brewery The Musketeers founded in 1999. The specialty beer Troubadour Magma has the aromatic and hoppy-bitter character of an American Indian Pale Ale, but is softened by the fruitiness of a Belgian Tripel. Perfect to enjoy on a night out during a sunny spring or autumn day.
This glorious craft beer with a wonderful body and aroma pairs excellently with pork dishes like pork chops and brie! Alcohol Degree: 9%
5. Barbãr Blonde
Deep blonde in color, the Barbãr Blonde beer is brewed by the Lefebvre brewery established in 1876 by Joseph Lefebvre to service the local pubs. Barbãr’s creamy head gives off a powerful aroma, unobtrusively scented with honey and accompanied by a bouquet of floral, spicy and citrus notes. Brewed using soft wheat the Barbãr Blonde beer gives a rounded attack without any heaviness. The sugar from honey is fermented to produce alcohol, consequently making it a soft but not sweet beer with a hint of acidity. I enjoyed the freshness in taste without a bitter aftermath. This beer pairs perfectly with goat cheese, chicken and candied fruits. Alcohol Degree: 8%
6. Godendag Strong Blond
Goedendag Sterk Blond
One of the newest additions to the Belgian brewing culture, Godendag strong blond is a bitter yet refreshing beet created by Toye brewery. Toye brewery is a small brewery located in Marke, near Kortrijk. In the modern self-built plant, the Goedendag is brewed with the greatest care since 2012. This was 700 years after the battle of the Golden Spurs, fought in Kortrijk. For this reason, this beer was named after the powerful weapon used during this battle: The ‘Goedendag’. Just like the name suggests, the beer offers a noble bitterness with a dry finish. Fruity and ester like flavours combined with subtle floral and citrus hint make this a refreshing addition to the long list of marvelous Belgian brews! Alcohol Degree: 8%
Beer Tasting at St. Christopher's Inn at Bahaus, Brugge
Beer Tasting at St. Christopher's Inn at Bahaus, Brugge
Belgium has thousands of beer varieties to offer! These were a few that left an impression on me. Have you tried any of these? What kind of beer do you like? Let me know in the comments!