With the advent of microbreweries in America, beer has finally gotten some long deserved respect. While not quite regarded on the same platform as wine, the subtleties and nuances that are possible in a well-brewed beer are now widely acknowledged. While there are many experts in all manner of English and German lagers and ales, from the lightest pilsner to the darkest stout, for many beer-lovers, there is still an aura of mystery surrounding Belgian beer. Strange, estery flavors and unorthodox brewing techniques abound, giving many Belgian ales a taste unlike any beer you’ve tasted. Once you develop a taste for them, you’ll find that Belgian beers can develop a flavor and complexity that rival the finest wines.
If the only Belgian-style beer you’ve had is Stella Artois, then you haven’t really had a representative sample. That being said, Stella Artois is a fine place to start if you’ve never had a Belgian beer before. It is light and easy to drink, and there is a slight yeasty, estery taste to it, which makes a good introduction to the fuller, more complex Belgians. Belgian beers are a bit of an acquired taste, I find, so it isn’t a bad idea to start your journey with a Stella. Don’t get to attached though, because you’ll definitely want to graduate to Dubbels, Trippels, and Strong Ales fairly quickly.
In serving most Belgian Style ales, you will want what’s known as a Trappist glass (after the Trappist monks, who brewed beer in Belgium for years). These are bowl glasses with feet and long stems, and look like a gross between a wine glass and a typical English pint. These glasses are perfect for allowing you to appreciate the subtle aromas and flavors of the best Belgian beers. In coming posts, I will explore the world of Belgian-style ales (from America and Canada as well as Belgium), and give you my personal recommendations for enjoying these great beers.