Belgian beers have a long rich tradition dating back thousands of years. The influence of these beers on the modern craft beer landscape reach far and wide. This rich tradition is getting a new world twist by many American craft brewers.
While a nod to tradition is important when tinkering with something so well respected, American brewers took these delicious styles and put a unique spin on them in a variety of ways.
Some brewers used styles and blended them with others, while some decided to barrel-age beers in unique wine or liquor barrels. Some simply used a Belgian style as a jumping off point into an entirely new direction. Whatever the decision, the results are delicious.
If you are a fan of Belgian beers there are plenty of new variants to try and if you are not a fan than you simply have not tried any yet. Where ever you fall on the spectrum here is a list of some unique and very tasty takes on world class Belgian beers.
Stone Brewing Co., Points Unknown IPA: This collaboration ale is a blend of two distinct beer styles. The first is a hop forward West Coast Double IPA, the second, a Belgian styled Tripel aged four months in oak barrels that originally housed red wine, then tequila. The result is a fairly complex, yet smooth and easy drinking beer. There are a bevy of fruit flavors on display with a wonderful hop punch and smooth Belgian finish. Stone Brewing Co. does great collaboration beers and Points Unknown IPA ranks as one of their best yet.
Brewery Ommegang, Belgian Independence Day Dry-Hopped Tripel: Belgian beers are a perfect base beer with which to experiment. Historically this is also true, as many beers were made on farms and were at the mercy of what crops were available at the time of brewing. With many of the hop varietals now available the experimentation goes even deeper. The wonderful hop punch in taste and aroma aids in the beer’s natural fruity aromatics and makes this 9.2 percent ABV beer go down very easy and offers an extra flavor dimension to an already complex beer.
Weyerbacher Brewing Company, Tiny: Belgian inspired stouts were in existence for a number of years; however it is not always a perfect marriage of styles. When not brewed in balance the Belgian yeast profile can add an acrid taste to the beer and make it undrinkable. However, Tiny is a shining example of a delicious Belgian Imperial Stout. The 11.8 percent ABV is perfectly hidden behind decadent flavors of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, roasted malts, figs and dark red fruits. The addition of the Abbey yeast strain is the perfect complement to the dark roasted malts. Tiny was recently made available in 4 pack 12oz bottles.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Fuego del Otoño: Jolly Pumpkin has long been at the forefront of the sour beer style and were one of the first breweries to brew sour beers in America. They brew many traditional Belgian inspired beers in a very traditional manner. Fuego del Otoño is a fall release for the brewery but pushes the boundaries on the very popular Saison style. Wonderfully smooth malt notes have hints of caramel, spices, and a slight nutty flavor that really smooths out this incredible beer perfect for the fall, but enjoyable any time of year!
Boulevard Brewing Co., Tank 7 Saison: Another American take on the wonderful Saison style, but with a much more traditional approach. The heart and soul of a Belgian Saison are definitely apparent in this world class beer with a wonderfully light, aromatic appearance of the yeast strain present throughout. The big change up comes from the American hops that impart a big citrus fruit taste giving way to a crisp, clean, and very dry finish. Tank 7 ranks as one of the best American takes on any Belgian beer style and is an absolute must try beer.
If you are a fan of traditional Belgian beers this list has plenty to offer. If you have tried American takes on Belgian styles but found them lacking, don’t give up, there are plenty of great American brewers making delicious Belgian beers, this list is just a very small amount of them.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon every Sunday on 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.