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Specialty Belgian Beer

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Brewers are creative around the world, and every country has beers that don't quite fit into any category. But Belgium in particular has a longstanding tradition of brewing diversity, including the use of spices and of wild yeast and bacteria for fermentation. The result are unique beers, such as Orval, that do not fit neatly into any of the already broadly defined Belgian beer styles.

To the drinker and the brewer, this generally presents an adventure rather than a problem. However, brewing competition organizers often avoid the headaches of judging "out of style" Belgians by providing one or more specialty categories just for Belgian beers.

Contents

[edit] Competition Styles

The BJCP provides a single specialty category, which also includes most examples of Belgian Christmas Beer, for which the BJCP has no defined style. The GABF provides one "catch-all" category and a number of subcategories for Belgian specialties.

[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Belgian Specialty Ale

16E. Belgian Specialty Ale Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: varies SRM: varies OG: varies FG: varies ABV: varies
Aroma: Variable. Most exhibit varying amounts of fruity esters, spicy phenols and/or yeast-borne aromatics. Aromas from actual spice additions may be present. Hop aroma may be none to high, and may include a dry-hopped character. Malt aroma may be low to high, and may include character of non-barley grains such as wheat or rye. Some may include aromas of Belgian microbiota, most commonly Brettanomyces and/or Lactobacillus. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Variable. Color varies considerably from pale gold to very dark. Clarity may be hazy to clear. Head retention is usually good. Generally moderate to high carbonation.
Flavor: Variable. Most exhibit varying amounts of fruity esters, spicy phenols and/or yeast-borne aromatics. Aromas from actual spice additions may be present. Hop aroma may be none to high, and may include a dry-hopped character. Malt aroma may be low to high, and may include character of non-barley grains such as wheat or rye. Some may include aromas of Belgian microbiota, most commonly Brettanomyces and/or Lactobacillus. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Variable. Some are well-attenuated, thus fairly light-bodied for their original gravity, while others are thick and rich. Most are moderately to highly carbonated. A warming sensation from alcohol may be present in stronger examples. A "mouth puckering" sensation may be present from acidity.
Overall Impression: Variable. Most exhibit varying amounts of fruity esters, spicy phenols and/or yeast-borne aromatics. Aromas from actual spice additions may be present. Hop aroma may be none to high, and may include a dry-hopped character. Malt aroma may be low to high, and may include character of non-barley grains such as wheat or rye. Some may include aromas of Belgian microbiota, most commonly Brettanomyces and/or Lactobacillus. No diacetyl.
History: Unique beers of small, independent Belgian breweries that have come to enjoy local popularity but may be far less well-known outside of their own regions. Many have attained "cult status" in the U.S. (and other parts of the world) and now owe a significant portion of their sales to export.
Comments: This is a catch-all category for any Belgian-style beer not fitting any other Belgian style category. The category can be used for clones of specific beers (e.g., Orval, La Chouffe); to produce a beer fitting a broader style that doesn't have its own category (e.g., Belgian-style barleywines, Trappist Enkels and Quadrupels, Belgian spiced Christmas-type beers, etc.); or to create an artisanal or experimental beer of the brewer's own choosing (e.g., strong Belgian golden ale with spices, something unique). Creativity is the only limit in brewing but the entrants must identify what is special about their entry. The judges must understand the brewer's intent in order to properly judge an entry in this category. THE BREWER MUST SPECIFY EITHER THE BEER BEING CLONED, THE NEW STYLE BEING PRODUCED OR THE SPECIAL INGREDIENTS OR PROCESSES USED. Additional background information on the style and/or beer may be provided to judges to assist in the judging, including style parameters or detailed descriptions of the beer. Beers fitting other Belgian categories should not be entered in this category.
Ingredients: May include herbs and/or spices. May include unusual grains and malts, though the grain character should be apparent if it is a key ingredient. May include adjuncts such as candi sugar and honey. May include Belgian microbiota such as Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus. Unusual techniques, such as blending, may be used through primarily to arrive at a particular result. The process alone does not make a beer unique to a blind judging panel if the final product does not taste different.
Commercial Examples: Orval; De Dolle's Arabier, Oerbier, Boskeun and Still Nacht; La Chouffe, McChouffe, Chouffe Bok and N'ice Chouffe; Ellezelloise Hercule Stout and Quintine Amber; Unibroue Ephemere, Maudite, Don de Dieu, etc.; Minty; Zatte Bie; Caracole Amber, Saxo and Nostradomus; Silenrieu Sara and Joseph; Fantôme Black Ghost and Speciale Noël; St. Fullien Noël; Gouden Carolus Noël; Affligem Noel; Guldenburg and Pere Noël; De Ranke XX Bitter; Bush (Scaldis); Grottenbier; La Trappe Quadrupel; Weyerbacher QUAD; Bi̬re de Miel; Verboden Vrucht; New Belgium 1554 Black Ale; Cantillon Iris; and many more

[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] Other Belgian and French-Style Ale

59D. Other Belgian and French-Style Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Recognizing the uniqueness, variety and traditions of several other styles of French- and Belgian-Style Ale and beers based on them, the beers entered in this category do not fit other existing competition style guidelines. The brewer should provide the historical or regional tradition of the style, or his interpretation of the style, in order to be assessed properly by the judges. Beer entries not accompanied by this information may be at a disadvantage during judging.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): -
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): -
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): -
Bitterness (IBU): -
Color SRM (EBC): -


[edit] Other Belgian Style Sour Ale

60E. Other Belgian Style Sour Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Recognizing the uniqueness, variety and traditions of several other styles of Belgian-style sour ale and beers based on them, the beers entered in this category do not fit other existing competition style guidelines. While most entries that exhibit characters resulting from wood-aging might be appropriately entered elsewhere (for example, in the wood-aged sour beer category above), some barrel-aged or other Belgian-style sour ales or Belgian inspired sour ales that defy categorization would be appropriately entered in this category. The brewer should provide the historical or regional tradition of the style, or his interpretation of the style, in order to be assessed properly by the judges. Beer entries not accompanied by this information may be at a disadvantage during judging.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): -
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): -
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): -
Bitterness (IBU): -
Color SRM (EBC): -


[edit] Other Belgian-Style Abbey Ale

61C. Other Belgian-Style Abbey Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Recognizing the uniqueness, variety and traditions of several other styles of Belgian-style abbey ale and beers based on them, the beers entered in this category do not fit existing competition style guidelines for categories 61a or 61b above. Strong or weaker versions of traditional Abbey Ale styles, such as Quadruple or Single, would also be appropriately entered in this category. The brewer should provide the historical or regional tradition of the style, or his interpretation of the style, in order to be assessed properly by the judges. Beer entries not accompanied by this information may be at a disadvantage during judging.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): -
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): -
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): -
Bitterness (IBU): -
Color SRM (EBC): -


[edit] Other Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale

62C. Other Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Recognizing the uniqueness, variety and traditions of several other styles of Belgian-style strong specialty ale and beers based on them, the beers entered in this category do not fit existing competition style guidelines for categories 62a or 62b above. While many or most barrel or wood-aged entries might be appropriately entered elsewhere, some barrel-aged or other strong Belgian-style or Belgian inspired ales that defy categorization would be appropriately entered in this category. The brewer should provide the historical or regional tradition of the style, or his interpretation of the style, in order to be assessed properly by the judges. Beer entries not accompanied by this information may be at a disadvantage during judging.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): -
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): -
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): -
Bitterness (IBU): -
Color SRM (EBC): -