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Belgian Beers - What is all the hype?

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Jayfro21

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I know that many brewers on this site love belgian beers, and pretty much brew only those. I have had a few belgians, but no Chimay or anything like that. The yeast gives it a real funky taste to me, but I was wondering if that is the "thing" that people love about them? Any opinions and/or thoughts would be great. Thanks!

Jason
 

PseudoChef

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Well, what beers have you had? There's so much variety within the Belgian sub-genre alone, that it's hard to place a defining characteristic of a Belgian beer.

But to try to answer your question, somewhat. Yeast definitely plays a large role in the overall belgian taste. But again, in reference to my above comment, not all yeast is the same. Belgian Wit, Saison, Trappist, are all going to give different sensory experiences.
 

artfldodger

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I find they have a lot of layers to them with the yeast/hops/ and occasional spices.
And the more carefree/experimental nature of "what could I spice this with" and "what will a higher fermentation add to it." I find it facinating you can put so little in them but end up with these great flavors & nosed created just by the yeast.

Not sure what you've had, but try Fin Du Monde, Chimay, and Delerium. They are kind of the "gateway" Belgians. but If you tend to like darker beers, try a dubbel.
 

GilaMinumBeer

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The appeal of the Belgian Style is that it doesn't fit a style at all. Belgian influenced beer is all over the ingredient map, yeast charts, and fermentation techniques.

It's beer beyond borders man.
 

sirsloop

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There are few belgian beers I don't REALLY like. I enjoy the different flavors they have. Most other beers contain just grain, malt, or hop characters. Belgians have a HUGE amount of flavor varieties! If you enjoy something different then there's A LOT to explore with belgian beers.
 

john from dc

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the yeast flavors are a big part of it. i've only been brewing belgians for a short time, but i've loved them for many years.

the complex flavor, high gravities and high alcohol content make them very satisfying beers (if you enjoy the flavor). also, belgian beers are available in a wide variety of colors and flavors, and seem to be less encumbered by style guidleines than typical beers from elsewhere. not to say that this type of variety is exclusive to belgians, of course. the temptation to try new ones and figure out what you're tasting and why you enjoy or don't enjoy it can be a lot of fun.

then of course there's the idea of tradition. some of the oldest continuously operating breweries are belgian monasteries and they produce some absolutely fantastic beers. some are so funky that they can be offputting, but many are very approachable. they're also pretty straightforward to make at home, and often don't require any special techniques or equipment, but a belgian yeast is a must!

for resources i'd suggest:
brewing belgian beer at home
radical brewing
brew like a monk

and for beers to try, the sky's the limit. of course chimay and westmalle are textbook examples of trappist (monastery) style beers. there's wit beers like hoegaarden (not my cup of beer, but lots of people love it). there's lambics (also not my cup, but definitely not lacking in complexity). but those are just some of the silos that we use to describe belgians, any one could be considered its own style.
 
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<sarchasm>
Don't get me started on those trendy German beers...
</sarchasm>


Hype?

Overhopped American beers are hype.

This is a repost of a response to someone that said they did not care for Belgian beers. The information is good for this question as well.

https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showpost...4&postcount=76


<stumpspeech>
To those of you that say that you do not like Belgians you are painting with a pretty large brush.

What you might be saying is that you do not like the Abbey/Trappist styles or the Lambic or Sour styles. Or maybe the Golden Ales.

Perhaps you've had all four of these predominant styles and do not prefer them. Belgium, however supports many styles and there is a wide variation of beeery goodness within each style.

Here is a partial list od examples.

LAMBIC ALE
Gueuze DeNeve
Timmermans Lambic Doux
Faro Vieux Foudre
Lindemans Gueuze
Boon Faro
Mort Subite
Oud Beersel
Gueuze Vigneronne Cantillon
Jacobins Framboise
Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus
Boon Marriage Parfait
Hanssens Gueuze
Vander Linden Frambozenbier

ABBEY/TRAPPIST ALE
Urthel Hibernus Quentum Tripel
Rochefort 10
Westvleteren 12
Val-Dieu Triple
Pater Lieven
Abbeye de Aulne
Witkap Pater Single
Affligem Dobbel
Westmalle Triple
St. Sixtus Abt 12
Ename Tripel
Chimay Grande Reserve
Rochefort 8
Leffe Blonde
Bornem
Augustijn
Orval
Grimbergen Triple

WITBIER
Sara
Troublette
Hoegaarden
Timmermanns Blanche Wit
Blanche de Neiges
Blanche de Bruges
Steendonk
Joseph Spelt Ale
Dentergem
Blanche de Bruxelles
Blanche de Charleroi
Titje

SOUR ALE
Rodenbach Red
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Rodenbach Alexander
Bellegems Bruin
Bacchus
Duchesse de Bourgogne
Goudenband
Petrus
Felix
Oud Zottegems
Vichtenaar
Ichtegem's Old Brown

BROWN ALE
Touffe Brune
Zatte Bie
Caracole
Leffe Brune
Gouden Carolus
Gildenbier
Scotch Silly
Kasteel
Verboden Vrucht
Vondel
Cuvee de Ermitage
Ciney Bruin
La Gauloise
Grottenbier

AMBER ALE
Urthel Tonicum Finiboldhus
Helleketelbier
Vervifontaine Red
Vieux Temps
Artevelde Grand Cru
Pauwel Kwak
Speciale Palm
Houten Kop
De Koninck
Bruegel
Satan Red
Brunehaut Amber

GOLDEN ALE
Hellekapelle
Saxo
Den Ostensche
Duvel
Deugniet
Lucifer
Delirium Tremens
Hoegaarden Grand Cru
Julius
Straffe Hendrick
Brigand
La Guillotine

SAISON
Saison d'Erezee
Black Ghost
Blonde de la pralie
Dupont Vieille Biere
Saison de Pipaix
Vapeur en Folie
Saison 1900
Saison Regal
Silly Saison
Saison d' Epeautre
Fantome

SPECIALTY BEER
Stille Nacht
Bush
Oerbier
Gulden Draak
La Chouffe
Piraat
Cochonette
Biere de Miel

BELGIAN PILS
Maes Pils
Stella Artois
Karibik
Bel Pils


There are some beers that I do not like and I challenge myself to identify precisely why I like or do not like it. We are homebrewers and we should take pride in being knowledgeable about beer and more importantly to be able to communicate to others what they should expect when they taste a particular beer that you have had. Believe me. I am not quite there yet, but I pledge to continue drinking until I am!

I read something in Beer Advocate that I took to heart. Essentially the sentiment was that we as homebrewers should be beer advocates for all beer, not just the ones we like.
</stumpspeech>
More info on Belgian Beers here.
http://www.belgianstyle.com/mmguide/index.html
 

zoebisch01

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To me, many Belgian beers tend to lean either towards balanced or the malty regime. I imagine there could be a hop-centric type out there *shrug*. At any rate, you have to keep diggin in and see what you like. I liken the 'beer' experience to be a personal journey to finding what suits your desires. Sometimes that could mean you'll dig a really malty DoppelBock, or at other times it might be a clean straightforward APA. What I am getting at is labels don't necessarily always mean everything, and as jeep points out, the term 'Belgian Beer' is like saying that five pebbles in the bottom of a rock quarry is the quarry :D
 

zoebisch01

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To add a bit more to this, the town of Hoegaarden where the now popular Witbier has been revived once had over 30 breweries alone! (And it's NOT a big municipality ~13 sq mi.). What I am getting at is that in Belgium, beer is very much integrated to the lifestyle and with so many individual expressions of beer coming from the country, I'd imagine one would be hard pressed not to find something suitable.

I guess part of the problem is that people (in general) automatically associate Belgian beer with over-the-top fruity esters and flavors. Now I'm not saying this isn't the case with many offerings, but I think you could easily find many subdued brews...that is if you can get your hands on them.
 

DeathBrewer

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i love me a full flavored fruity, spicey, malty belgian beer. prefer the trappist/abbeys but drink a wide range of styles.

i would recommend Unibroue for some easy to find belgian style brews (canadian company.)

i have yet to find a US belgian beer that can really stand with the true belgians. Some of them are tasty, but the complexity just isn't there...i think most of them lack aging.

(and New Belgium just sucks. sorry, all you fat tire lovers)
 
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Jayfro21

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Thanks for all thes responses. I didn't mean to insinuate that belgian beers are a hype, I just have been hearing a lot about them on this forum and haven't tried many, so I thought I'd ask. I also believe that APA's are hyped a little too much, and am looking for something else to experiment with. The types I have had are Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic (which I despised, but have been told that it was absolutely not a good example of a traditional Lambic), New Belgium's Trippel, and a Saison with a buffalo on the front of the bottle (can't remember the name but I know I have the bottle around here with a home brew in it somewhere!). I guess it was the funky tastes that I got from the yeast that were a little off-putting, but I can also remember a time when Corona was my favorite brew and SNPA was too bitter (man times have changed!!) Lately I have been into the more malty brews, and would really love to brew something like a doppelbock , but I can't lager. I also want to brew a Scotch Ale, which I could do if I supplemented a large amount of the fermentables with DME. But I guess I could do some more belgian experimenting and see if one of those fits my fancy! Thanks for all the responses!

Jason
 

DeathBrewer

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if that last one was bison, then you just named three of the worst renditions of those styles ever ;)

take a look at the list olllllo posted and see if you can't find some of them around. chimay is almost everywhere.
:mug:
 
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Jayfro21

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Yeah I think it was...so next trip to BevMo I am definitely looking for some belgians to try.

Deathbrewer, do you know of any good pubs that serve a good variety of belgians? Actually, now that I think of it, there is one right in the Haight called Toronado or something like that. I need to go there!

Jason
 

PseudoChef

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Jayfro21 said:
Yeah I think it was...so next trip to BevMo I am definitely looking for some belgians to try.

Deathbrewer, do you know of any good pubs that serve a good variety of belgians? Actually, now that I think of it, there is one right in the Haight called Toronado or something like that. I need to go there!

Jason
You are also in close proximity to PizzaPort/Lost Abbey and Russian River. Those two American breweries are probably the best Belgian-style brewers in this country.
 

GilaMinumBeer

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I love the character of some of the belgian offerings. I don't care for the Brett character at all and I can't stand the high level of carbonation most have.
 
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Jayfro21

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It just so happens that my fiancee bought me a bunch of singles for V Day, and one was a belgian. It was Blanche Des Moines, which was a wit w/ the coriander and orange spice (like Blue Moon, I think). It actually was really good. It was more refreshing, and at 4.5 %ABV, I could drink all 750 mL and not be wasted! Anyways, just an update. Thanks!

Jason
 

adx

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For good Belgian ales from American breweries look for beers from Allagash and Ommegang. I really enjoy Allahash's White which is an American style Wit and Ommegang Hannepin which is a Saison.

The main thing missing from the American breweries is a Belgian style blonde or golden strong ale.
 

missing link

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I bought a mixed 6 pack of belgian beers the other day and most of them are in the 8 or 9% Alcohol range making them a little to hot for me. Maybe I just drink to fast. The alcohol taste seems to overpower the beers
 

DeathBrewer

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what beers were they? good belgians balance out the alcohol (but there's always going to be some there with a 9% brew ;)) with carbonation and flavor.

i like 'em, but after going on about a four-month binge, i've found that they are better as sipping beer :D
 

DeathBrewer

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Jayfro21 said:
Yeah I think it was...so next trip to BevMo I am definitely looking for some belgians to try.

Deathbrewer, do you know of any good pubs that serve a good variety of belgians? Actually, now that I think of it, there is one right in the Haight called Toronado or something like that. I need to go there!

Jason
sorry, missed this. if you can get a table (or even a seat) go to the Monk's Kettle in the mission. best bar on the planet for a wide variety of beers. i went there last weekend. It's always packed, tho...tiny little place. try the buffalo belgian stout on tap. also, not belgian, but try the toast. awesome stuff.

Toronado is good, i've only been there once and i don't make it to the city as often as i'd like.

there are a few in oakland, too. can't remember off the top of my head.

pm me. we'll hit up some bars and trade some hombrew! :rockin:
 
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Jayfro21

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DeathBrewer said:
sorry, missed this. if you can get a table (or even a seat) go to the Monk's Kettle in the mission. best bar on the planet for a wide variety of beers. i went there last weekend. It's always packed, tho...tiny little place. try the buffalo belgian stout on tap. also, not belgian, but try the toast. awesome stuff.

Toronado is good, i've only been there once and i don't make it to the city as often as i'd like.

there are a few in oakland, too. can't remember off the top of my head.

pm me. we'll hit up some bars and trade some hombrew! :rockin:
Definitely have to do that sometime! One of my friends is actually going to a bar that specializes in belgian beers tomorrow in Oakland...I'll have him give me the name and see if you've been there!

Jason
 

fbi365

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The flavors that people tend to associate with belgian beer, the esters and fruity flavors, are to me what beer should taste like. I first fell in love with the belgian beers at a brewfest last year. Since I started making my own, belgian's are what i have been making exculsively. Last two: Trippel, Hoegaarden Witbeir clone, next up is Belgian Blonde Ale. I love Belgian beer!
 

Homercidal

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Jim Karr said:
Celis Grand Cru from Michigan Brewing Company, Webberville, Michigan......just won an award in '07..........Try it!
I had to go downstate for business, and a friend and I went to the Michigan Brewing Company afterwards. I had the Celis.... OMG! I loved it. I tried to find it near my hometown, but to no avail.

They also had a "Winter Warmer" there that blew my mind. Icame home with a growler of that stuff. I think it might have been like an IIPA.

They also have brewing supplies there, and the guy who was there that evening gave my friend and I a complete tour. Awesum!
 

EinGutesBier

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Wow, I can't believe I didn't get in on this thread yet! As one of the resident Belgian beer nuts, I feel obligated to post. First, let me point you to this thread.

That said, in some ways I'm very surprised that I'm into Belgians, because I'm a huge hop head. Now I know there are some Belgians out there with a lot of hops, but I honestly believe that hoppy Belgians, for the most part, just don't work. I know, because I've tried crafting a couple. Unless you use hops to balance the nuances of the rest of the beer, you're just overpowering some of the greatest qualities of the Belgian style. Just about anyone can throw hops in a beer and call it good, but it takes real skill to make a good Belgian, I believe.

Anyway, all of the things the other guys said are exactly true. The most appealing thing about Belgians is that they are as much, or more, of an art than most other beers. They allow for a great deal of latitude in expression and creation and tailoring to your preferences. In fact, Belgians are the only ones I know of besides homebrewers that make more beers that are "homeless" (without a category). How cool is that? For sake of comparison, you'll note that German styles are usually stiff and staid in their guidelines for making a certain style; the classic German psychological type - black and white classification within categories, etc. In that way, Belgians are the best for homebrewers just because they fit so well into the mentality of the average homebrewer to be creative.

Anyway, there's no hype to these beers. They stand and stand tall on their own delicious merits.
 

z987k

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I've been brewing Belgian pretty exclusively since the beginning of the year as well. Dubbel has got to be my favorite style of beer I've ever tried.
Allagash has a really good one that I tried a week or so ago. It's from Maine, so it might be easier to find.

Ice9, the Delerium Norturnum, have you tried it yet? The bottle has always intrigued me, but I've never picked one up. What style is it?
 

polemera

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My favorite all time Belgian beer is St Bernardus 12. It's a quadrupel and hits all the spots. The only bad thing about it is that it's about $11 or $12 a bottle.
It's so worth it though...
 

EinGutesBier

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polemera said:
My favorite all time Belgian beer is St Bernardus 12. It's a quadrupel and hits all the spots. The only bad thing about it is that it's about $11 or $12 a bottle.
It's so worth it though...
Those Belgians are good, but like you said they're costly. I try to make a habit of buying each kind once to give me inspiration on how I want to brew it at home. Way cheaper and a lot more rewarding...IMO the best Belgian out there is the one I haven't made yet.
 

Will b

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belgian beers and their price is one of the main reasons I've started Homebrewing. I love them but it is hard to drop that kind of cash on them when there are many other good beers brewed right here in the US. Weyerbacher in PA has one called Merry Monks which is pretty good, and of course Unibrou in Canada has some great beers. Omegang has some good beers but I feel what I've had from them lacks that unique Belgium yeast flavor, even though their owned by Duvel. Also in that sample pack pic posted there was a bottle of Rochefort with an upside down label. I've only seen them with labels the right way, could that be some kind of collectors item?
 

GilaMinumBeer

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Esters and Phenols and alcohol, oh my.

I adore the flavor of the Belgian styles but, I have to let them bubble out before I can tolerate them. I just can't stand the 32.6 volumes of carbonation most of them have.

Beyond that I think most of them are great, cept' Orval. Why on earth does anyone want to drink a liquid horseblanket, blech.

The oether side to the appealk is the "No limits" mentality of most of the Belgian brewers and their products. Anything goes, and usually it's guuuud.
 

DeathBrewer

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i've never had a good bottle of Duvel. I don't know what it is. It tastes bland and kind of hot to me. maybe i've just had nothing but bad ones, but i've tried it several times with the same results.

i'll take Piraat over Duvel any day.
 

Will b

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Yeah, Duvel's a little over hyped. Piraat is good, so is Gulden Draak.
 

Beerthoven

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Belgians take what would normally be considered flaws in other beers and turn them into an art form. I mean this in a good way. There are very few Belgian beers I've had that I don't like.
 

brewmeone

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To be honest with you... I was a huge fan of german brews... I still am. But... in recent trips to Europe... I've had the opportunity to explore some of Belgium.

It's pretty easy to appreciate belgian beer... and it's diversity of styles by visiting Belgium. I found that while I love German brews... they're limited in their creativity. They brew precision beers.

In Belgium... the brewers have experimented and created a vast range of styles and flavors. You have beers that are intentionally brewed at warmer temperatures, to yield certain flavors from their yeast. They add spices (clear violation of the Reinheitsgebot!!!), fruit, and generally don't seem to be constrained with their creations. To go to a belgian beer bar and explore the menu is a true experience.

Oh... and here's a video of me and some friends enjoying a decent little Belgian beer called Westvleteren 12:
[YOUTUBE]DGiaxx85bHM[/YOUTUBE]

This beer was bottled in 1999... and opened just a few weeks ago. That's a 9 year old bottle of beer.
 

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z987k said:
Ice9, the Delerium Norturnum, have you tried it yet? The bottle has always intrigued me, but I've never picked one up. What style is it?
the Delerium Nocturnum and the tremens are very good . My wife tried them because she collects Elephants and wanted the bottle now there is always one or the other the frige.
 
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