Beer in Belgium

Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to amber ales, lambic beers, Flemish red ales, sour brown ales, strong ales and stouts. In 2016, there were approximately 224 active breweries in Belgium,[1][2] including international companies, such as AB InBev, and traditional breweries including Trappist monasteries.[3] On average, Belgians drink 84 liters of beer each year, down from around 200 each year in 1900.[4] Most beers are bought or served in bottles, rather than cans, and almost every beer has its own branded, sometimes uniquely shaped, glass.[5] In 2016, UNESCO inscribed Belgian beer culture on their list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.[6][7]

Chimay triple
A Chimay tripel beer with its branded glass


Brewing in Belgium dates back to at least the 12th century. Under the Catholic Church's permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method. The relatively low-alcohol beer of that time was preferred as a sanitary option to available drinking water. What are now traditional, artisanal brewing methods evolved, under abbey supervision, over the next seven centuries.

The Trappist monasteries that now brew beer in Belgium were occupied in the late 18th century primarily by monks fleeing the French Revolution. However, the first Trappist brewery in Belgium (Westmalle) did not start operation until 10 December 1836, almost fifty years after the Revolution. That beer was exclusively for the monks and is described as "dark and sweet." The first recorded sale of beer (a brown beer) was on 1 June 1861.[8]

In the 16th and 17th centuries, a beer termed crabbelaer was the most popular beer in Ghent;[9] at the peak of its popularity, more than 50 different breweries produced more than 6 million liters a year. Other kinds of beer brewed in Ghent were klein bier, dubbel bier, clauwaert, dubbele clauwaert and dusselaer.[10]


In Belgium, four types of fermentation methods are used[11] for the brewing of beer, which is unique in the world. However, for good understanding of labels of Belgian beer and reference works about Belgian beer often use different terms for the fermentation methods based on archaic or traditional jargon:

  • (1) Spontaneous fermentation with beers that are unique in Europe, "lambic" and the derived faro, gueuze and kriek beers
  • (2) Warm fermentation is referred to as top or high fermentation for Trappist beers, white beers, ale, most other special beers
  • (3) mixed fermentation for the type 'old-brown' beers
  • (4) Cool fermentation is referred to as low fermentation for lager or pilsner

Belgian beer types

Belgian beers have a range of colours, brewing methods, and alcohol levels.

Trappist beers

Trappist Beer 2015-08-15
Beers from recognised Trappist breweries: Achel, Chimay, Engelszell, La Trappe, Orval, Spencer, Rochefort, Tre Fontane, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and Zundert

Beers brewed in Trappist monasteries are termed Trappist beers. For a beer to qualify for Trappist certification, the brewery must be in a monastery, the monks must play a role in its production and the policies and the profits from the sale must be used to support the monastery or social programs outside. Only twelve monasteries currently meet these qualifications, six of which are in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, one in Austria, one in the United States, one in Italy and one in England. Trappist beer is a controlled term of origin: it tells where the beers come from, it is not the name of a beer style. Beyond saying they are mostly warm fermented, Trappist beers have very little in common stylistically.

The current Belgian Trappist producers are:

  • Achel sells Achel 5 Blonde (5% ABV, draught only), Achel 5 Brune (5% ABV, draught only), Achel 8 Blonde (8% ABV, tripel), Achel 8 Brune (8% ABV, dubbel), Extra Blonde (9.5% ABV.tripel), Extra Brune (9.5% ABV, dubbel).
  • Chimay sells Red Label (dark, 7% ABV dubbel), White Label (Blonde, ABV 8%, tripel) and Blue Label (dark, 9% ABV, Christmas), Chimay dorée Gold cap (blonde, 4.8% ABV, enkel).
  • Orval sells a "unique"[12] dry-hopped 6.2% amber beer.
  • Rochefort sells three dark beers, "6" (7.5% ABV). "8" (9.2% ABV) and "10" (11.3% ABV).
  • Westmalle sells Dubbel (7% ABV) and Tripel (9.5% ABV),
  • Westvleteren sells Green Cap or Blonde, (5.8% ABV), Blue Cap (dark, 8% ABV) and Yellow Cap (dark, 10.2% ABV).

In addition to the above, a lower-strength beer is sometimes brewed for consumption by the brothers (patersbier) or sold on site.

Abbey beers

Augustijn and Augustijn Grand Cru, brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge

The designation "abbey beers" (Bières d'Abbaye or Abdijbier) originally applied to any monastic or monastic-style beer. After introduction of an official Trappist beer designation by the International Trappist Association in 1997, it came to mean products similar in style or presentation to monastic beers.[13] In other words, an Abbey beer may be:

  • produced by a non-Trappist monastery—e.g. Benedictine; or
  • produced by a commercial brewery under commercial arrangement with an extant monastery; or
  • branded with the name of a defunct abbey by a commercial brewer;

In 1999, the Union of Belgian Brewers introduced a "Certified Belgian Abbey Beer" (Erkend Belgisch Abdijbier) logo[14] to indicate beers brewed under license to an existing or abandoned abbey,[15] as opposed to other abbey-branded beers which the trade markets using other implied religious connections, such as a local saint.[16][17] The requirements for registration under the logo include the monastery having control over certain aspects of the commercial operation, and a proportion of profits going to the abbey or to its designated charities. Monastic orders other than the Trappists can be and are included in this arrangement. The "Abbey beer" logo and quality label is no longer used for beers given the name of a fictitious abbey, a vaguely monastic branding or a saint name without mentioning a specific monastery. Some brewers may produce abbey-style beers such as dubbel or tripel, using such names but will refrain from using the term Abbey beer in their branding.

What connoisseurs now recognize as Trappist breweries began operations in 1838. Several monasteries, however, maintained "working" breweries for 500+ years before the French regime disrupted religious life (1795–1799). Even then, some Abbey beers such as Affligem Abbey,[17] whose name now appears on beers made by the Heineken-owned Affligem Brewery,[18] resumed brewing from "working" monasteries until the occupation of most of Belgium in World War I. Commercial Abbey beers first appeared during Belgium's World War I recovery.

Although Abbey beers do not conform to rigid brewing styles, most tend to include the most recognizable and distinctive Trappist styles of brune (Belgian brown ale, aka dubbel), strong pale ale or tripel, and blonde ale or blond.[13][17] Modern abbey breweries range from microbreweries to international giants, but at least one beer writer warns against assuming that closeness of connection with a real monastery confirms a product's quality.[19]

As of 2011, 18 certified Abbey beers[20] existed:

  1. Abbaye de Cambron, brewed in Silly by Brasserie de Silly.
  2. Abbaye de Bonne Espérance, previously brewed by Lefebvre Brewery, since 2015 more locally by La Binchoise.[21]
  3. Abdij Dendermonde, brewed in Merchtem by Brouwerij De Block
  4. Abbaye de Saint-Martin, historically referenced to 1096, is brewed near Tournai by Brasserie Brunehaut.
  5. Affligem, produced for Affligem Abbey by a Heineken-owned brewery.
  6. Brasserie de l'Abbaye du Val-Dieu is located on the grounds of a former abbey.
  7. Bornem is brewed in Oost-Vlaanderen by Brouwerij Van Steenberge
  8. Ename is brewed in Oost-Vlaanderen by Brouwerij Roman.
  9. Floreffe is brewed to fund a school housed in a former monastery.
  10. Grimbergen, made by the large Alken Maes brewery for an extant Norbertine abbey.
  11. Keizersberg is brewed in Oost-Vlaanderen by Brouwerij Van Steenberge.
  12. Leffe, the Abbey brand of Stella Artois, itself part of the multinational Inbev corporation, is brewed under licence from an extant brewery. It is thought to be the first such arrangement. Leffe has global distribution.
  13. Maredsous, the Abbey brand of Duvel Moortgat, Belgium's second largest brewer, licensed from Maredsous Abbey.
  14. Postel is brewed in Opwijk by Brouwerij De Smedt.
  15. Ramée is brewed in Purnode by Brasserie du Bocq.
  16. St. Feuillien is a small independent brewery.
  17. Steenbrugge is brewed in Brugge by Brouwerij De Gouden Boom.
  18. Tongerlo is brewed in Boortmeerbeek by Brouwerij Haacht.

Other non-certified Abbey beers include:-

  • Abbaye des Rocs, made by a farmers' co-operative and named after a local ruined abbey.[22]
  • Corsendonk, abbey beer brewed by a brewery in the name of the Corsendonk priory (monastery) in Oud-Turnhout
  • Kasteelbier, monastic style beers brewed in a castle.
  • St. Bernardus brewery, based on Watou originally brewed under contract for the abbey of St Sixtus at Westvleteren, but continues on an independent basis, in parallel with production at the monastery itself. Their range is considered a close match in recipe and style to the St Sixtus beers, which can be hard to obtain outside the area.
  • Tripel Karmeliet, with a three-grain recipe, is produced by Bosteels Brewery, who also make Pauwel Kwak. Bosteels, and Tripel Karmeliet, are now part of AB InBev after a not-so-popular take-over in 2016.

Pils or pale lager

This style makes up the bulk of beer production and consumption in Belgium. Belgian Pilsners are not particularly distinctive or renowned by connoisseurs.[23][24][25] The top brands include Belgium(Jupiler) and Stella Artois (both brewed by Inbev), Maes pils and Cristal (both brewed by the Alken Maes branch of Heineken). Stella Artois, originating in Belgium, is distributed globally.

The Pilsnerbeer is which is popularly called "pintje" (in Flemish, from English "pint" but in volume only 1/2 pint) or "choppe" (in French) in Belgium, was the basis of the "fluitjesbier" distributed during the German occupation in WWII and under rationing. This "fluitjesbier" was watered down to about 0.8° (compared to fruitjuice which can have up to 1.5° due to natural fermentation).[26]


Bock is a strong lager of German origin, and the Netherlands. Some Belgian brewers have produced bock-style beers what makes it a style applicable to Belgium.

White or wheat beer

This type of beer, commonly called witbier in Dutch, bière blanche in French and wheat beer in English, originated in the Flemish part of Belgium in the Middle Ages. Traditionally, it is made with a mixture of wheat and barley. Before hops became widely available in Europe, beers were flavoured with a mixture of herbs called gruit. In the later years of the Middle Ages, hops were added to the gruit. That mixture continues today in most Belgian white beers.

The production of this type of beer in Belgium had nearly ended by the late 1950s. In the town of Hoegaarden, the last witbier brewery, Tomsin, closed its doors in 1955. However, ten years later, a young farmer by the name of Pierre Celis in the same village decided to try reviving the beer. In 1966, Celis began brewing a wit beer in his farm house. Ultimately, his beer took the name of the village and became very successful and famous.

Some notable current examples are Celis White, Blanche de Namur and Watou's Wit. Their alcohol strength is about 5–6 percent ABV, and these beers can be quite refreshing, especially during the warm summer months. The herb mixture traditionally includes coriander and bitter orange peel,[27] among other herbs. White beers also have a moderate light grain sweetness from the wheat used. In recent times, brewers have been making fruit flavoured wheat beers.

Blonde or golden ale

Two Ciney beers: a blonde (left) and brown (right)
Duvel and glass sunday
Duvel, a typical blond Belgian ale

These are a light variation on pale ale, often made with pilsner malt.[19] Some beer writers regard blonde and golden ales as distinct styles, while others do not. Duvel is the archetypal Belgian blonde ale, and one of the most popular bottled beers in the country[28] as well as being well known internationally.[29] Its name means "Devil" and some other blonde beers follow the theme—Satan, Lucifer and Judas for example. The style is popular with Wallonian brewers, the slightly hazy Moinette being the best-known example. Chouffe can be considered a spiced version (with coriander).

Hop-accentuated beers and India Pale Ale

A few Belgian beers are pale and assertively hopped. De Ranke's XX Bitter has a British-style name. Brouwerij Van Eecke's Poperings Hommelbier, another example, hails from Belgium's hop-growing district.

Lambic beers (including gueuze and fruit lambics)

Spontaneous fermentation at Timmermans Brewery

Lambic is a wheat beer brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) by spontaneous fermentation.[30] Most modern beers are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts; Lambic's fermentation, however, is produced by exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. The beer then undergoes a long aging period ranging from three to six months (considered "young") to two or three years for mature. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste.[31]

From Lambic four kinds of beer are produced: Lambic, Gueuze, Fruit Lambic, and Faro.

Bottles of oude kriek; from left to right: 1. Brouwerij Mort Subite (Kobbegem) 2. De Cam (Gooik) 3. Hanssens Artisanaal (Dworp) 4. Boon (Lembeek) 5. Oud Beersel (Beersel) 6. Girardin (Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle)
  • The first of these, Lambic, is the unblended basic brew (young) or the refermented basic brew (old). Lambic is a draught beer which is rarely bottled, and thus only available in its area of production and a few cafes in and around Brussels.
  • The youngest of the Lambic brews, Faro, which is lambic just after the first fermentation is sometimes served with sugar or caramel added to make it palatable for consumption.
  • Gueuze blends old and young brews to stimulate a final fermentation, sometimes from three consecutive years (cfr sherry-method). Gueuze is the finished product, the beer that is commercialised. Top quality Geuze is bottled in large bottles (75cl) with a champagne-like cork, that require delicate handling, and controlled environmental conditions much like wine.
  • Fruit beers are made by adding fruit or fruit concentrate to Lambic or a mixture of Lambic brews before the final refermenting stage. The most common type is Kriek, made with sour cherries.

Amber ales

These are beers similar to the traditional pale ales of England, although less bitterly hopped.[32] A notable example is the 5% ABV De Koninck brand, with its distinctive half-spherical glasses (called 'bollekes'). It is popular in its native city of Antwerp. Another is Palm Speciale. Some, such as Vieux Temps, were based on British styles to please troops stationed in Belgium during World War I.[33] Others were introduced by the UK-born brewer George Maw Johnson in the late 19th century.[32] A very strong ambrée is brewed by "Bush" (Dubuisson), another brewery influenced by British styles.

Wallonian amber or ambrée ale, such a La Gauloise Ambrée, is considered to be somewhat distinct by some beer writers, and to be influenced by the French version of the ambrée style.[34]


Tripel is a term used originally by brewers in the Low Countries to describe a strong pale ale, and became associated with Westmalle Tripel.[35] The style of Westmalle's Tripel and the name was widely copied by the breweries of Belgium,[36] then the term spread to the US and other countries.[37] Gulden Draak was awarded the best-tasting beer in the world in 1998 by the American Tasting Institute (now ChefsBest).[38][39] This category is used as an independent type for beers that are NOT Trappist- or Abbey beers, but brewed in the same style ; and will be used as a second qualifier for Trappist- or Abbey beers


Dubbel (double) has a characteristic brown colour. It is one of the classic Abbey/Trappist types, having been developed in the 19th century at the Trappist monastery in Westmalle. Today, some commercial brewers using abbey names call their strong brown beers "Dubbel". Typically, a dubbel is between 6 and 8% abv. In addition to the dubbels made by most Trappist breweries, examples include St. Bernardus Pater, Adelardus Dubbel, Maredsous 8 and Witkap Dubbel.

Dubbels are characteristically bottle conditioned.

This category is used as an independent type for beers that are NOT Trappist- or Abbey beers, but brewed in the same style ; and will be used as a second qualifier for Trappist- or Abbey beers

Flemish Red

Typified by Rodenbach, the eponymous brand that started this type over a century ago, this beer's distinguishing features from a technical viewpoint are a specially roasted malt, fermentation by a mixture of several 'ordinary' top-fermenting yeasts and a lactobacillus culture (the same type of bacteria yoghurt is made with) and maturation in oak. The result is a mildly strong 'drinking' beer with a deep reddish-brown colour and a distinctly acidic, sour yet fruity and mouthy taste. This style is closely related to Oud bruin.

Oud bruin, or Flemish sour brown ale

This style, aged in wooden casks, is a cousin to the sour "Flemish Red" style. Examples include Goudenband and Petrus.

Brown ale

Regular bruin or brune beers such as Grottenbier are darker than amber ales, less sour than Flemish brown ale, and less strong than dubbel.

Scotch ales

Bier gordon
A thistle-shaped glass complements Belgian "scotch" beers.

These sweet, heavy-bodied brown ales represent a style which originated in the British Isles. The Caledonian theme is usually heavily emphasized with tartan and thistles appearing on labels. Examples include Gordon's, Scotch de Silly and Achouffe McChouffe.


Belgian stouts subdivide into sweeter and drier, and stronger and weaker versions. Examples include Callewaerts and Ellezelloise Hercule. The sweeter versions resemble the almost-defunct British style "milk stout", while the stronger ones are sometimes described as Imperial stouts.[40]

Champagne beers

Champagne style beers are generally ales that are finished "à la méthode originale" for champagne. Examples include Grottenbier, DeuS and Malheur Bière Brut. They receive a second fermentation much like Champagne does and are stored for several months "sûr lie" while the fermentation lasts. This creates the smaller, softer bubbles that we know from Champagne, but maintains the beer flavour and style.

Quadrupel or Grand Cru

In Belgium "Grand Cru" is more often used than "Quadrupel", these beers are a mostly a blend of brews, which is often refermented as a blend.


Saison (French for "season") is the name originally given to refreshing, low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, to refresh farm workers during harvest season. Modern-day saisons are also brewed in other countries, particularly USA, and are generally bottle conditioned, with an average range of 5 to 8% ABV,[41] though saisons at the more traditional 3.5% strength can still be found.

Although saison has been described as an endangered style,[42] there has been a rise in interest in this style in recent years, with Saison Dupont being named "the Best Beer in the World" by the magazine Men's Journal in July 2005.[43]

Historically, saisons did not share identifiable characteristics to pin them down as a style, but rather were a group of refreshing summer ales. Each farm brewer would make his own distinctive version.[44]

Winter or Christmas beers

Many breweries produce special beers during December. Most contain more alcohol than the brewery's other types of beer and may also contain spicing. An annual beer festival in Essen near Antwerp focuses on this type of beer with over 190 beers available for tasting in 2014.[45]

Fruit beers (non-Lambic)

Some brewers that are not Lambic-brewers make fruit beers in a similar process as the Fruit Lambic beers.

All brewers of this style make fruit lambic. Many brewers of top fermentation beers such as Belgian golden ales, ambers and Flemish old brown beers, that produce beers that usually go through a multiple stage fermentation process, are catching on to the trend to make fruit beers. The process starts after the first fermentation of the wort, when sometimes sugar is added to referment the beer on wooden casks. To make fruit beer the fruit, juice or syrup is added (instead of sugar) to the first brew and refermented, these may be termed fruit lambics or fruit beers, depending on the type of first brew.[46]

Beer that has fruit syrup or fruit lemonade added after (the final stage of) fermentation, in other words as a flavouring, are termed "Radlers" ("Shandy" in the UK) definitely not fruit beer.

Unused styles

Sometimes following styles are referred to as a type/style of Belgian Beer, however these are not because they cover multiple styles :

Strong ale

Beers above 7%, such as tripels or strong dubbels, are referred to in some sources as Belgian strong ale,[47] although this is not a name used by Belgian brewers.[48]

Table beer

Table beer (tafelbier, bière de table) is a low-alcohol (typically not over 1.5%) brew sold in large bottles to be enjoyed with meals. The last decade it has gradually lost popularity due to the growing consumption of soft drinks and bottled water. It comes in blonde or brown versions. Table beer used to be served in school refectories until the 1980s; in the early 21st century, several organizations made proposals to reinstate this custom as the table beer is considered more healthy than soft drinks. Some bars serve a glass of draft lager with a small amount of table beer added, to take away the fizziness and act as a sweetener, in Limburg it is referred to as a "half om".[49][50]

Archaic styles

These include[51]

  • Arge: A sour beer from Antwerp
  • Faro: A beer that was drunk sweetened. Not necessarily the same as the modern Faro.
  • Grisette ("little gray"): A lower-alcohol Saison drunk originally by miners in Hainault.[52]
  • Happe: A predecessor of wheat beer, made with wheat and oats.
  • Hoppe: An early hopped beer, from the mid-1500s when gruit was widely used.[53]
  • Kuyte: also called Cuyte, a strong beer originating in 16th century France, as Quente, before becoming established in Belgium. Popular with the upper classes.[54]
  • Pecce: A cheap beer.[55]
  • Roedbier: Literally, red beer. It is not clear if this was a single style.
  • Uitzet: A sour beer.
  • Walgbaert or Waegebaert:[56] Similar to Happe.
  • Zwaartbier: Literally, black beer. It is not clear whether this was a single style.


Belgian "special" beers (stronger or bottled beers) are often served in elaborate branded beer glassware. Unless the bar is out of the specific glass that goes with that beer it is more often than not served in its own glass. Most bartenders or waitresses will apologize if the beer comes in a different glass.

One of the more common types is the tulip glass. A tulip glass not only helps trap the aroma, but also aids in maintaining large heads, creating a visual and olfactory sensation. The body is bulbous, but the top flares out to form a lip which helps head retention.

A vessel similar to a champagne flute is the preferred serving vessel for Belgian lambics and fruit beers. The narrow shape helps maintain carbonation, while providing a strong aromatic front. Flute glasses display the lively carbonation, sparkling colour, and soft lacing of this distinct style.

Chalices and goblets are large, stemmed, bowl-shaped glasses mainly associated with Trappist and Abbey ales. The distinction between goblet and chalice is typically in the glass thickness. Goblets tend to be more delicate and thin, while the chalice is heavy and thick walled. Some chalices are even etched on the bottom to nucleate a stream of bubbles for maintaining a nice head.

In addition to the profusion of glasses provided by brewers, some Belgian beer cafés serve beer in their own "house" glassware. An example is La Lunette in Brussels.[57]

Cuvee Rene Gueuze

Geuze lambic beer in a flute glass

Beerglass orval

Orval beer in its "chalice" glass

Beerglass trappiste rochefort

Rochefort beer in its "goblet" glass


Duvel's tulip glass


Kwak beer with its unusual glass and stand


Hoegaarden Brewery wheat beer in its characteristic hexagonal glass


Gilladeken, a Spéciale belge with bottle and glass


The majority of Belgian beer brands are sold in bottles. Draught beers tend mostly to be pale lagers, wheat beers, regional favourites such as kriek in Brussels or De Koninck in Antwerp; and the occasional one-off. Customers who purchase a bottled beer (often called a "special" beer) can expect the beers to be served ceremoniously, often with a free snack.

These days, Belgian beers are sold in brown- (or sometimes dark green-) tinted glass bottles (to avoid negative effects of light on the beverage) and sealed with a cork, a metal crown cap, or sometimes both. Some beers are bottle conditioned, meaning reseeded with yeast so that an additional fermentation may take place. Different bottle sizes exist: 25 cl, 33 cl, 37.5 cl, 75 cl and multiples of 75. (8, 12, 24 or multiples of 24 fl. oz.) The 37.5 cl size is usually for lambics. Other beers are generally bottled in 25 or 33 cl format (depending on brands). The bigger bottles (75 cl) are sold almost in every food shop but customers do not always have an extensive choice. Bottles larger than 75 cl are named following the terminology used for champagne and are limited in quantity. In Belgian cafés, when someone orders a demi (English: "half"), he receives a 50 cl (half liter) glass (with beer from the tap, or from 2 bottles of 25 cl).

Virtually every Belgian beer has a branded glass imprinted with a logo or name.

Belgium contains thousands of cafés that offer a wide selection of beers, ranging from perhaps 10 (including bottles) in a neighborhood café, to over 1000 in a specialist beer café. Among the most famous are "Beer Circus," "Chez Moeder Lambic," and "Delirium Café" in Brussels; "de Kulminator" and "Oud Arsenaal" in Antwerp, "De Garre" and "'t Brugs Beertje" in Bruges, "Het Botteltje" in Ostend, "Het Hemelrijk" in Hasselt, "Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant", "De Dulle Griet" and "Trappistenhuis" in Ghent, "De Blauwe Kater" in Leuven, the Vaudrées in Liège and the "Stillen Genieter" in Mechelen. Although many major brands of beer are available at most supermarkets, off-licences located throughout the country generally offer a far wider selection, albeit at somewhat higher prices.

International distribution

Bierbörse Köln Belgische Biere 5
Belgian Beer at the international Bierbörse in Cologne.

Belgium exports 60% of its beer.[58] Some draught-beer brands produced by AB InBevStella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe – are available in several European countries. Aside from these, mostly bottled beer is exported across Europe. Cafés, exclusively or primarily offering Belgian beers, exist beyond Belgium in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, amongst others. Some beer festivals outside Belgium have a Belgian beer bar as an alternative to local products. In North America, a growing number of draught Belgian beer brands have started to become available, often at "Belgian Bars". Such brands include Brasserie Brunehaut, Karmeliet, Kwak, Maredsous, Mont Saint-Aubert, Palm, Rodenbach and St. Feuillien.

Beer festivals

Belgium has a number of beer festivals including:

  • The BAB-bierfestival, held every year in February in Bruges[59]
  • The festival held every spring in Leuven (previously in Sint Niklaas and Antwerp) organized by the consumer group Zythos.
  • The Belgian Beer Weekend held in Grand Place, Brussels, organized by the Brewer's association.
  • Karakterbieren Festival in Poperinge, Belgium's hop-growing capital.
  • The Beer Passion weekend held each July in Antwerp, organized by Beer passion magazine,
  • The Modeste Bier Festival held the 1st Weekend of Oct in Antwerp, Run by Antwerps Bier College.
  • The Christmas beer festival Essen
  • Alvinne Craft Beer Festival, at Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Zwevegem (Moen)
  • "La Géroublonnade", beer and gourmet event in a village in Gérouville, region of southern Belgium, during second Sunday of July.
  • The Weekend of Belgian Beers, held in Hasselt in November, organized by the Limburgse Biervrienden[60]
  • The Weekend of Special Beer in Sohier in February – all informations :

Beer cuisine

A number of traditional Belgian dishes use beer as an ingredient. One is Carbonade (French: the Flemish term is stoverij or "stoofvlees"), a stew of beef cooked in beer, similar to Boeuf bourguignon. The beer used is typically the regional speciality—lambic in Brussels, De Koninck in Antwerp, and so on—so that the taste of the dish varies. Another is rabbit in gueuze. In't Spinnekopke, Brussels, and Den Dyver, Bruges are famed for their beer cookery. In 1998 Anheuser-Busch InBev started a worldwide chain of bars/restaurants, Belgian Beer Cafe, serving typical Belgian dishes combined with Belgian Beer.

The varied nature of Belgian beers makes it possible to match them against each course of a meal, for instance:

  • Wheat beer with seafood or fish.
  • Blond beers or tripel with chicken or white meat
  • Dubbel or other dark beers with dark meat
  • Fruit lambics with dessert

Appreciation and organizations

"Beer Passion" is a magazine, which also organizes a beer festival.[61] "Zythos" is the name of the main consumer's organization, successor to the earlier OBP (Objectieve Bierproevers).[62] The Belgian Brewers' Association[63] represents breweries. It organizes beer festivals and an open breweries day. The Knighthood of the Mashstaff honours individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to brewing, and pays tribute to Gambrinus and Saint Arnold.[64]

Beer writers who have written extensively on Belgian beer include Belgians Peter Crombeq, Gert van Lierde and Erik Verdonck, and Britons Michael Jackson and Tim Webb.

On December 1, 2016, in the eleventh session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, as an appreciation towards the beer culture in Belgium, it was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Belgian beer brands

Beer name Beer style ABV Brewery
Celis White witbier 5% Brouwerij Van Steenberge[65]
Ciney blonde and brune 7% Alken-Maes (Heineken)
Cuvée des Trolls blonde 7% Dubuisson Brewery
Delirium Tremens tripel 9% Huyghe Brewery
Duchesse de Bourgogne oud bruin 6.2% Verhaeghe Brewery
Grimbergen Abbey Beer 6.7% Alken-Maes (Heineken - Carlsberg)
Gulden Draak donker 10.5% Brouwerij Van Steenberge
Jupiler pale lager 5.2% Brewery Piedbœuf
Lindemans Pêcheresse fruitbier 2.5% Lindemans Brewery
Mouten Kop India Pale Ale 6% Brewery De Graal
Pauwel Kwak amber ale 8.4% Bosteels Brewery
Rodenbach fruitbier 3.5% Rodenbach Brewery
Stella Artois pale lager 5.2% InBev
Tripel Karmeliet tripel 8.4% Bosteels Brewery

See also


  1. ^ "Number of active beer breweries in Belgium from 2009 to 2016".
  2. ^ "World: Global number of craft breweries increases to 17,732".
  3. ^ "B.E.S (Belgian Label Service)". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  4. ^ "Brewed force". The Economist. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  5. ^ Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium, Michael Jackson, ISBN 0-7624-0403-5
  6. ^ "Cheers as Belgian beer is added to Unesco cultural heritage list". The Guardian. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  7. ^ Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.5, UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage, accessed 15 June 2017, quote: "Beer culture in Belgium combines know-how concerning nature, social practices and craft skills that constitute an integral part of daily and festive life. Regularly shared between practitioners, knowledge and skills are transmitted from masters to apprentices in breweries but also within families, in public spaces and through formal education. Beer culture in Belgium contributes to the economic and social viability at local level and the constitution of the social identity and continuity of its bearers and practitioners, who promote responsible production and consumption."
  8. ^ Jef van den Steen, Trappist – Het Bier en de Monniken ISBN 90-5826-214-6, page 33.
  9. ^ P. De Commer: De brouwindustrie te Gent, 1505–1622. Handelingen der Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde te Gent, 1983, 7, 113–171.
  10. ^ Richard W. Unger (30 March 2007). Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 187. ISBN 0812219996.
  11. ^ Brewing methods Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage
  12. ^ "Tomp P Galvin on Orval". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  13. ^ a b Ben McFarland (2009). World's Best Beers: One Thousand Craft Brews from Cask to Glass. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 38. ISBN 1-4027-6694-7. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  14. ^ Beer Paradise on "Recognised Abbey Beer" (Dutch Language) Archived 18 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Beer made in Belgium: Abbey beer". Archived from the original on 10 May 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  16. ^ Adam Lindgreen; Joëlle Vanhamme; Michael B. Beverland (2009). Memorable Customer Experiences: A Research Anthology. Gower Publishing, Ltd. p. 77. ISBN 0-566-08868-1. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  17. ^ a b c "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter - Belgium's Great Beers". Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  18. ^ "AFFLIGEM". Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  19. ^ a b Tim Webb. Good Beer Guide to Belgium, 6th edition, p 81.
  20. ^ (Dutch Language) List of Certified Abbey Beers
  21. ^ "Abbaye de Bonne Espérance website". Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Belgian Beer Shrimper". 10 January 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  23. ^ Good Beer Guide to Belgium, 6th edition, p70, Tim Webb
  24. ^ The Complete Handbook of Beers and Brewing p 124, Brian Glover.
  25. ^ "The great beers of Belgium are not its lagers – Michael Jackson". 30 July 1999. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  26. ^ Herwig Jacquemyns ; België in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, Deel 2: Een bezet land (in dutch) ; DNB/Uitgeverij Peckmans, Kapellen 1984 (vijfde druk)
  27. ^ "ingredients". Hoegaarden. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  28. ^ The Complete Handbook of Beers and Brewing Brian Glover
  29. ^ "Belgian Brewer Finds Crafty Success". Wall Street Journal.
  30. ^ "Lambicland – The World's Most Complex Beers and Simplest Cafes". Archived from the original on 29 March 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  31. ^ "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter – Belgium's Great Beers". Archived from the original on 17 July 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  32. ^ a b Tim Webb. Good Beer Guide to Belgium, 6th edition, p 84.
  33. ^ "Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter". 30 July 1999. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  34. ^ Tim Webb. Good Beer Guide to Belgium, 6th edition, p 86.
  35. ^ "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter – Beer Styles: Tripel". Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  36. ^ The Great Beers of Belgium, Michael Jackson, MMC, 1997, page 226
  37. ^ Belgian Ale, Pierre Rajotte, Brewers publications, 1992, pages 31–34
  38. ^ (in Dutch) Van Steenberge Brewery – Gulden Draak
  39. ^ "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter – Down on your knees to bless monks' top ale". Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  40. ^ Tim Webb. Good Beer Guide to Belgium, 6th edition, p 90.
  41. ^ "Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter – Beer Styles: Saison". Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  42. ^ "Brasserie Dupont". Archived from the original on 3 July 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  43. ^ "MJ FEATURE: Best Beers in the World". Archived from the original on 7 July 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  44. ^ Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the European Tradition, page 98, Phil Markowski, Brewers Publications (2004), ISBN 0-937381-84-5
  45. ^ Essen Christmas Beer Festival List retrieved 16 June 2015
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  47. ^ Garret Oliver (9 September 2011). The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780195367133.
  48. ^ Tim Webb (29 May 2005). "A beer lover's guide to Brussels". The Observer.
  49. ^ Guardian article retrieved 27 March 2007
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  51. ^ James Mew (1892). Drinks of the World. Scribner & Welford.
  52. ^ Alworth, Jeff (25 July 2011). "A US microbrerwey recreates Grisette". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  53. ^ "Alexandre HENNE et Alphonse WAUTERS, Histoire de la ville de Bruxelles, quoted on". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  54. ^ A History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, retrieved from google books. 25 March 2009. ISBN 9781444305142. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  55. ^ "Beverages Past and Present. E.R Emerson, 1856". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  56. ^ "The Fran Book brewery". 16 August 1995. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  57. ^ Belgium (19 May 2007). "Trip Advisor on La Lunette". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  58. ^ Good Beer Guide to Belgium 6th Edition, Tim Webb
  59. ^ "Home – Bierfestival Brugge / Bruges Beer Festival / Februari 2013". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  60. ^ "Die Limburgse Biervrienden 2014". 23 June 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  61. ^ "Beer Passion". Beer Passion. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  62. ^ John White of White Beer Travels. "White's Beer Travels on the OBP, DOB and Zythos". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  63. ^ "". 8 September 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  64. ^ John White of White Beer Travels. "The Knighthood of the Mashstaff". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  65. ^ Stan Hieronymus (10 March 2010). Brewing with Wheat: The 'Wit' and 'Weizen' of World Wheat Beer Styles. Brewers Publications. p. 53.
  • Good Beer Guide to Belgium, Tim Webb, CAMRA Books, ISBN 1-85249-210-4
  • Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition, Phil Marowski, Brewers Publications (2004), ISBN 0-937381-84-5
  • Great Beers of Belgium, Michael Jackson, ISBN 90-5373-012-5
  • Lambicland: Lambikland, Tim Webb, Chris Pollard, Joris Pattyn, Cogan and Mater Ltd, ISBN 0-9547789-0-1
  • Alle Belgische Bieren, Ed. Hilde Deweer, Stichting Kunstboek Oostkamp, 2015 ISBN 978-90-5856-526-6

External links

Beer and breweries by region

This is a list of articles and categories dealing with beer and breweries by region: the breweries and beers in various regions. Beer is the world's most widely consumed alcoholic drink, and is the third-most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is thought by some to be the oldest fermented drink. A brewery is a dedicated building for the making of beer, though beer can be made at home, and has been for much of beer's history. A company that makes beer is called either a brewery or a brewing company. The diversity of size in breweries is matched by the diversity of processes, degrees of automation, and kinds of beer produced in breweries. A brewery is typically divided into distinct sections, with each section reserved for one part of the brewing process.

Belgian beer culture

Belgian beer culture includes traditions of craftsmanship for brewing beer and is part of the diet and social life of Belgians. Its cultural value was formally recognized in 2016 when it was added to UNESCO's "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" list.


The term dubbel (also double) is a Belgian Trappist beer naming convention. The origin of the dubbel was a strong version of a brown beer brewed in Westmalle Abbey in 1856, which is known to have been on sale to the public by June 1861. In 1926, the recipe was changed, and it was sold as Dubbel Bruin. Following World War Two, abbey beers became popular in Belgium and the name "dubbel" was used by several breweries for commercial purposes.

Westmalle's Dubbel was imitated by other breweries across the world, both Trappist and secular, leading to the emergence of a style. Dubbels are now understood to be a fairly strong (6%-8% alcohol by volume) brown ale, with understated bitterness, fairly heavy body, and a pronounced fruitiness and cereal character.

Chimay Première (Red), Koningshoeven/La Trappe Dubbel, and Achel 8 Bruin are notable examples from Trappist breweries. Affligem and Grimbergen are Belgian abbey breweries that produce dubbels.

Notable examples from the United States of America include Ommegang's Dubbel, Sound Brewery's Dubbel Entendre, and New Belgium's Abbey Ale.

Abbey 1856 Dubbel is produced in Argentina.

Flanders red ale

Flanders red ale or Flemish red-brown, is a style of sour ale brewed in West Flanders, Belgium.

Flanders red ale is fermented with organisms other than Saccharomyces cerevisiae, especially Lactobacillus, which produces a sour character attributable to lactic acid. Long periods of aging are employed, a year or more, often in oak barrels, to impart a lactic acid character to the beer. Red malt is used to give the beer its colour and the matured beer is often blended with a younger batch before bottling to balance and round the character.

Flanders red ales have a strong fruit flavour similar to the aroma, but more intense. Plum, prune, raisin and raspberry are the most common flavours, followed by orange and some spiciness. The sour or acidic taste can range from moderate to strong. There is no hop bitterness, but tannins are common. Consequently, Flanders red ales are often described as the most wine-like of all beers.

Notable examples include Duchesse de Bourgogne, Rodenbach and VanderGhinste Roodbruin.


Framboise (French pronunciation: ​[fʁɑ̃bwaz]) is the name of two kinds of alcoholic drinks fermented with the raspberry (framboise is the French word for raspberry).


Fruli, Früli, or Van Diest Fruli is a Strawberry Belgian fruit beer, produced at a craft brewery near Ghent. It is produced by blending Belgian wheat beer (70%) and pure strawberries (30%), and has 4.1% alcohol by volume. The beer is produced by Brouwerij Huyghe.


Gueuze (Dutch geuze, pronounced [ˈɣøzə]; French gueuze, [ɡøz]) is a type of lambic, a Belgian beer. It is made by blending young (1-year-old) and old (2- to 3-year-old) lambics, which is bottled for a second fermentation. Because the young lambics are not fully fermented, the blended beer contains fermentable sugars, which allow a second fermentation to occur.

Since gueuze is made by blending lambics, it tastes different from traditional ale and lager style beers. Because aged hops are used to produce these lambics, the beer has little to none of the traditional hop flavor and aroma that can be found in most other styles of beer. Furthermore, the wild yeasts that are specific to lambic-style beers give gueuze a dry, cider-like, musty, sour, acetic acid, lactic acid taste. Many describe the taste as sour and "barnyard-like".

In modern times, some brewers have added sweeteners such as aspartame to their gueuzes to sweeten them, trying to make the beer more appealing to a wider audience. The original, unsweetened version is often referred to as "Oude Gueuze" ("Old Gueuze") and has become more popular in the early 2000s. Tim Webb, a British writer on Belgian and other beers, comments on the correct use of the term "'Oude gueuze' or 'oude geuze', now legally defined and referring to a drink made by blending two or more 100% lambic beer."Traditionally, gueuze is served in champagne bottles, which hold either 375 millilitres (12.7 US fl oz) or 750 millilitres (25 US fl oz). Traditionally, gueuze, and the lambics from which it is made, has been produced in the area known as Pajottenland and in Brussels. However, some non-Pajottenland/Brussels lambic brewers have sprung up and one or two also produce gueuze - see table below. Gueuze (both 'Oude' and others) qualified for the European Union's designation 'TSG' (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) in 1997/98 - see Geographical indications and traditional specialities (EU).


HORAL (acronym in Dutch for Hoge raad voor ambachtelijke lambiekbieren; "High council for artisanal lambic beers") is a Belgian council of lambic beer breweries and blenders.

Huyghe Brewery

Huyghe Brewery (Dutch: Brouwerij Huyghe) is a brewery founded in 1906 by Leon Huyghe in city of Melle in East Flanders, Belgium. Its "flagship" beer is Delirium Tremens, a golden ale.


Jupiler (French: [ʒypilɛʁ]; Dutch: [ˈʒypilɛr] or [ʒypiˈleː]) is a Belgian beer introduced in 1966, now brewed by Anheuser–Busch InBev at Piedboeuf Brewery in the Jupille-sur-Meuse neighbourhood of Liège. It is the biggest-selling beer in Belgium.

Kriek lambic

Kriek lambic is a style of Belgian beer, made by fermenting lambic with sour Morello cherries. Traditionally "Schaarbeekse krieken" (a rare Belgian Morello variety) from the area around Brussels are used. As the Schaarbeek type cherries have become more difficult to find, some brewers have replaced these (partly or completely) with other varieties of sour cherries, sometimes imported.


Lambic ('lɒmbiːk or 'læmbɪk) is a type of beer brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium southwest of Brussels and in Brussels itself at the Cantillon Brewery. Lambic beers include gueuze and kriek lambic. Lambic differs from most other beers in that it is fermented through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria native to the Zenne valley, as opposed to exposure to carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeast. This process gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, usually with a sour aftertaste.

Oud bruin

Oud Bruin (Old Brown), also known as Flanders Brown, is a style of beer originating from the Flemish region of Belgium. The Dutch name refers to the long aging process, up to a year. It undergoes a secondary fermentation, which takes several weeks to a month, and is followed by bottle aging for several more months. The extended aging allows residual yeast and bacteria to develop a sour flavor characteristic for this style. Usually, cultured yeast and bacterias are used, as stainless does not harbor wild organisms as wood does.

Piedboeuf Brewery

Piedboeuf Brewery (Brasserie Piedbœuf) is a brewery in Jupille-sur-Meuse, Belgium. It is owned by Anheuser–Busch InBev. The main brand is Jupiler, the best selling beer in Belgium.


A quadrupel is a type of beer, with an alcohol by volume of 9.1% to 14.2%.

There is little agreement on the status of Quadrupel as a beer style. Writer Tim Webb notes that similar beers are called Grand Cru in Belgium.Quadrupel is the brand name of a strong seasonal beer La Trappe Quadrupel brewed by De Koningshoeven Brewery in the Netherlands, one of the eleven Trappist beers.

In other countries, particularly the United States, quadrupel or quad has become a generic trademark. The term may refer to an especially strong style of dark ale with a spicy, ripe fruit flavor.

Saint-Sixtus Abbey

Saint-Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren, which belongs to the Cistercians of Strict Observance, or Trappists, is a Roman Catholic abbey located in Westvleteren, in the Belgian Province of West Flanders. The abbey is famous for its spiritual life, characterised by prayer, reading, and manual work, the three basic elements of Trappist life.

It has also a reputation for its brewery, one of the several breweries of Trappist beer in Belgium.


Saison (French, "season," French pronunciation: ​[sɛ.zɔ̃]) is a pale ale that is highly carbonated, fruity, spicy, and often bottle conditioned. It was historically brewed with low alcohol levels, but modern productions of the style have moderate to high levels of alcohol.

Trappist beer

Trappist beer is brewed by Trappist monks. Fourteen monasteries—six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, and one each in Austria, Italy, England, France, Spain and the United States—currently produce Trappist beer as recognized by the International Trappist Association. In addition, the Authentic Trappist Product label is assigned to the beer products of twelve breweries.


Tripel is a term used by brewers or people mainly in the Low Countries, some other European countries, and the U.S. to describe a strong pale ale, loosely in the style of Westmalle Tripel. The origin of the term is unknown, though the main theory is that it indicates strength in some way. It was used in 1956 by the Trappist brewery, Westmalle, to rename the strongest beer in their range, though both the term Tripel and the style of beer associated with the name (strong pale ale), were in existence before 1956. The style of Westmalle's Tripel and the name was widely copied by the breweries of Belgium, and in 1987 another Trappist brewery, the Koningshoeven in the Netherlands, expanded their range with a beer called La Trappe Tripel, though they also produced a stronger beer they termed La Trappe Quadrupel. The term spread to the U.S. and other countries, and is applied by a range of secular brewers to a strong pale ale in the style of Westmalle Tripel.

North America
South America

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