Is Belgium truly the home of the best beer on the planet? Or is it Germany, home of tall steins and Theresienwiese (better known as Oktoberfest)? Some argue that Czech lager is the winner or that Irish stout takes the cake. British and American ale should not be forgotten either.
However, there is no denying the excellence of Belgian beer. But why is Belgian beer so good? After some investigation, it seems that everyone loves Belgian beer for various reasons.
Belgian beer is exceptional due to its taste, the expertise behind the brewing process (combining centuries of Trappist monk knowledge with modern technology), and the fact that most Belgian beers undergo double fermentation. Therefore, Belgian beer carries centuries of wisdom and flavor! Moreover, since most strong Belgian beers go through double fermentation, they contain more probiotic yeast that helps kill gut bacteria. Many describe Belgian beer as floral, sweeter, and less bitter compared to other traditional beers.
So, pull up a barstool and treat yourself to a Belgian beer. They taste amazing!
What Makes a Belgian Beer?
Belgian beers are ales, which ferment differently than lagers. Lagers are fermented at lower temperatures using bottom-fermenting yeast, whereas ales are fermented at around 60-70°F with top-fermenting yeast. Belgian beer tends to be malty, fruity, and has a stronger yeast flavor compared to lagers.
Belgian breweries take their beer very seriously, understanding the importance of spontaneous fermentation. During this process, the wort is exposed to fresh air, allowing bacteria and yeast to thrive within the beer. However, these bacteria and living cultures die off long before the beer is bottled and reaches taverns or homes. This is achieved through the action of acids produced during the brewing process.
When it comes to Belgian beer, this process is not followed. Belgian beer does contain live probiotics. Since Belgian beer undergoes double fermentation, the process can be a bit trickier. Traditional Belgian beers like Echt Kriekenbier, Westmalle Tripel, and Hoegaarden are perfect examples of beers with live cultures and probiotics.
What is Belgian Trappist Ale?
Before Belgium became an independent country, it was influenced by both Germany and France as part of the Holy Roman Empire. Monks played a significant role in this history.
Around 1100 BCE, monks and members of the Roman Empire used local abbeys in Belgium to brew beer. They sold the beer and used the profits to support the church. Through this process, they became known as brewmasters.
700 years later, during the French Revolution, monks from Normandy fled and sought sanctuary in Belgium. The monastery they came from was called La Grande Trappe, or La Trappe Abbey, where the Trappist monks originally resided. Despite the revolution, the Trappists continued brewing their abbey beers out of tradition.
What is the Best Belgian Beer Ever?
When thinking of Belgian beer, Stella Artois may come to mind. Despite some believing it is from France, it is actually from Belgium. Stella Artois was first brewed in Leuven, Belgium, just east of Brussels. While researching Belgian beer, I couldn’t help but wonder what the best Belgian beer ever is! Watch out, Stella! Westvleteren is making its way to the top. If you visit Belgium, the number one beer you must try is Westvleteren 12.
According to beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com, Westvleteren 12 is the ultimate, true Belgian beer. However, the distribution of this beer is not mainstream. It is quite challenging to get your hands on it! You can only obtain it by going directly to the monastery that brews this special beverage. Alternatively, you can visit a local tavern or gastropub near the Westvleteren Trappist monastery. If you’re up for a trip to Belgium to taste its famous Trappist beers, this is a place you must visit to try Westvleteren 12.