Wait! Before reading, why don’t you take a bottle of beer from your fridge? experiencing the smooth taste of beer and absorbing the knowledge about it, why not it is a good choice for you?
Of course, most people like to drink beer. Some people start drinking at a young age. How about you? Have you ever tried Belgian beer? Don’t say that you had come to Belgium if you have never tasted Belgian beer. However, how much do you really know about Belgian beer? If you don’t know much, don’t worry, there are 5 things about Belgian beer.
1. History of Belgian beer – tasting the historical essence
Everybody knows that Belgium is known for its different types of the beer in the world. But in fact, Belgian beer has not only developed for this recent 100 years. Brewing in Belgium has a really long history.
Belgian brewery can be recorded back at least in the 12th century when the first crusades started. In the beginning, Belgian monks brewed beer only for drinking. And later, the monks started to sell, even promoted the beer to the country, to made beer become the Belgian national drink. In the Middle Ages, abbeys developed agriculture, livestock and certain crafts, including brewing beer. They became centers of knowledge in many local regions. As a sanitary option, the monks at that time were allowed to drink the relatively low-alcohol beer. It served as a substitute for the regional unclean water. During the period, the amounts of breweries had also increased gradually.
Nevertheless, the French Revolution destroyed many abbeys, including Orval. According to CheeseWeb news, fortunately, Belgian beer industry had mushroomed growth after the war. During the heyday period of 1900s, there were as many as three thousand breweries in Belgium.
However, Belgian beer industry crashed again, due to World War 1 and 2 and also the development of other alcohol. By the 20th century, there were only a hundred breweries in Belgium. Moreover, international competition was becoming increasingly fierce. As a result, many Belgian breweries in order to survive, forced to merge, so such as Budweiser InBev (AB InBev) a super company appeared. But, in the 21h century, Belgian breweries have started developing again. Nowadays,approximately 180 breweries are in the country.
2. Types of Belgian beer – tasting the various flavours
Talking about beer in Belgium, a lot of people don’t understand how to differentiate such many categories of Belgian beer. Maybe you consider yourself an expert of beer here, but take your few minutes to check out if you really understand the difference of it.
First of all, people must first try Trappists beer, which can hardly be tasted in other places. Trappists privately brewed beer has a unique secret formula. After drinking a mouthful, you can experience that those monks have practiced painstaking efforts for hundreds of years.
To be labeled Trappists label, conditions are: 1. Must be made by the Cistercian monks. 2. Brewed in the monastery. 3. The profits must be used to benefit the neighborhood. There are only seven types of Trappists and Belgium has six types of them: Orval, Chimay, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle and Achel.
Abbey beer is also made by many secret recipes from different monasteries. Although both of Trappists and Abbey mean monasteries, only Trappists is identified by monasteries. In fact, monasteries do not brew Abbey beer. However, it doesn’t mean Abbey is not good. Many brands of Abbey beer, such as Leffe, Duvel and Grimbergen, are typical Belgian national monastery beer.
White beer is a unique beer here. It is a type of beer fermented by upper fermentation. People who prefer tasting sweater and refreshing beer must try this one in Belgium. Although named Whiter beer, the beer is not white color at all. Also, it looks like the white clouds floating in the liquid. The most common white beer is Hoegaarden. Must Belgian people have heard the brand.
Lambic, this kind of natural fermented beer is rare in the world, made of non-malted wheat, and the color is relatively turbid. Lambic tastes honey fragrance, with sweet and refreshing taste. When going the Belgian beer bar, this beer can be the first cup of choice, and then you can try the other fragrant, higher alcohol composition beer.
Kriek-Framboise, a kind of Lambic brewing, is the females’ favorite, which adds cherry, cranberry or strawberry and many other fruits. The floating white foam on the crimson liquid make people want to taste a sip up, and the sweet fruit fragrance is very attractive.. Usually the alcohol concentration does not exceed 4 %.
Faro, one of Belgium’s oldest beer species, it also mixes Lambic, then adds sugar or brown sugar, forming a sweet with a sour taste of beer. Such as Cantillon, Lindemans.
Gueuze, using Lambic to make changes in, is mixed with several Lambic. Trough second fermentation, the bubble in beer looks like champagne, so it is also known as champagne beer. Such as Cantillon, De Neve, Timmerman and Mort-Subite. And other brands also have This kind of beer.
Red beer, from the western Dutch area, is made of red malt, so it is red. It not only uses of very special methods and techniques to brew, but also in order to maturing, need to be put in the forests for 18 to 24 months. Written down “Grand Cru” on the bottles, it doesn’t need to be placed in the cellars, so you can taste it directly. Rodenbach is a brand of red beer.
Dark beer. The water in the Flemmish(Dutch) area of Belgium is rich in bicarbonate, which is suitable for brewing black beer. This kind of black beer is made of mixed new and old alcohol. The manufacturing process warm up in the bucket for six months to one Year. After bottling, the beer has to place two years. Taste is like drinking coffee, Liefmans is the most common brand of dark beer. The others are like Vanden Stock and Gildenbier.
There are still a lot of special types you can find out here, and Belgian beer always opens the door for you! Moreover, reading here so far, maybe it is the time to get another beer!
3. Pinkie – ordering beer in the easiest way
Do you know how to get beer in Belgaum! There is one interesting custom in Belgium, which lets you order a glass of beer easily in bar. And you don’t even need to say any words to bartenders to get a beer. What is that? That is your pinkie! It doesn’t mean you need to cut off your finger. The only thing you have to do is show your pinkie to the bartender. In Belgium, everybody knows the meaning of pinkie, so next time when you want to get a beer, but the music is too loud, maybe you should not speak louder, but show your pinkie instead!
4. Beer consumption– tasting amount in Belgium
Having many breweries in the world, Belgians might drink a lot of beer. According to an investigation, Belgians drink 72.4 liters of beer per capita each year (source in 2015). This amounts is a huge number, but after compared with other countries, Belgian people do not drink much. Actually, There are a lot of countries where people drink much more beer than in Belgium. Compared with Czech Republic, Belgians drink only half of it. But Belgians focus on the tasty quality of beer, not the quantity of beer. They enjoy every sip of beer.
5. AB InBeV – tasting beer by one the of the biggest company around the world
AB InBev (Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV) is an international brewing and beverage company, formed by a series of merger of Interbrew from Belgium, AmBev from Brazil and Anheuser-Busch from the USA. The global headquarters is located in Leuven, Belgium. The annual sale is estimated at US$55 billion in 2017.
In the beginning, Interbrew was established by 1987 from merging of Artois and Piedboeuf which were the two largest breweries in Belgium. Everybody knows Artois brews the world well-known beer – stella Artois. In fact, Artois purchased the brewery in Leuven called Den Hoorn, which was formed in 1366. 1366’s brewery is really ancient! On the other hand, Piedboeuf brews Jupiler which is the best selling beer in Belgium. You can find their bottles on every corner. By the way, Anheuser-Busch also sells a lot of famous beer such as Budweiser and Hoegaarden.
After reading the article, do you know more about Belgian beer? No matter the history, the beer or the famous company, now you already understand about those knowledge. So, next time it’s your turn to introduce your knowledge of Belgian beer. See you next time. Enjoy your beer.
Text: Stanley Chen
Map and images: ©Stanley Chen, OpenStreetMap, CARTO and Telegraph