Belgian Beer


English: Duchesse de Bourgogne, Belgian beer

English: Duchesse de Bourgogne, Belgian beer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Duchesse de Bourgogne is a Flanders red ale-style beer produced by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. After a primary and secondary fermentation, this ale is matured in oak barrels for 18 months. The final product is a blend of a younger 8-month-old beer with an 18-month-old beer. The name of the beer is meant to honor Duchess Mary of Burgundy, the only daughter of Charles the Bold, born in Brussels in 1457, who died young in a horse riding accident. Like all Flemish red ales, Duchesse de Bourgogne has a characteristically sour, fruity flavor similar to that of lambic beers.

The Dubbel (also double) is a Belgian Trappist beer naming convention. The origin of the dubbel was a beer brewed in the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle in 1856. The abbey had, since 10 December 1836, brewed a witbier that was quite sweet and light in alcohol for consumption by the paters. The new beer, however, was a strong version of a brown beer. In 1926, the formulation was changed and it became even stronger. The first written record of its sale by the abbey was on 1 June 1861. Following World War Two, abbey beers became popular in Belgium and the name “dubbel” was used by several breweries for commercial purposes.

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

Chimay Red/Premiere, Koningshoeven/La Trappe Dubbel and Achel 8 Bruin are examples from Trappist breweries. Affligem and Grimbergen are

Grimbergen Dubbel

Grimbergen Dubbel (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

abbey breweries that produce dubbels. Ommegang and New Belgium’s Abbey Ale are examples from the USA.

Westvleteren 8

Westvleteren 8 (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

The Westvleteren Brewery (Brouwerij Westvleteren) is a Belgian brewery founded in 1838 inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in the Belgian municipality of Vleteren, not far from the hops-producing town of Poperinge and the medieval city of Ypres. The brewery and its beers are usually referred to as Westvleteren. The brewery’s three beers have acquired an international reputation for taste and quality, as well as the limited availability of the beers which are not brewed to normal commercial demands.

Trappist monks from the Catsberg monastery, located in France, founded the St Sixtus monastery in 1831. In 1838, the brewing at Westvleteren commenced. In 1850, some of the monks founded the Notre-Dame de Scourmont monastery, which also brews a Trappist beer. During World Wars I and II, the Westvleteren brewery continued to operate, albeit at a lower capacity. The brewery was the only Trappist one to retain the copper vessels throughout the wars—the other breweries had the copper salvaged by the Germans for their war efforts. In WWI this was primarily due to the abbey not being occupied by the Germans, but instead was caring for wounded allied troops. In 1931, the abbey began selling beer to the general public, having only served beer to guests and visitors up until that time.In 1946, the St. Bernardus brewery in nearby Watou was granted a licence to brew beer under the St Sixtus name. This agreement ended in 1992; St. Bernardus still brews beers of similar styles, but under their own name. That same year, the abbey opened its new brewery to replace the older equipment.

The brewery currently employs three secular workers for various manual labour tasks, however the primary brewing is done by the monks only. It is the only Trappist brewery where the monks still do all of the brewing. Of the 26 Cistercians who reside at the abbey, five monks run the brewery, with an additional five who assist during bottling.

As with all other Trappist breweries, the beer is only sold in order to financially support the monastery and other philanthropic causes. Whilst the brewery is a business by definition (its purpose is to make money), it does not exist for pure profit motives, and they do no advertising except for a small sign outside the abbey which indicates the daily availability of each beer. The monks have repeatedly stated that they only brew enough beer to run the monastery, and will make no more than they need to sell, regardless of demand. During World War II, the brewery stopped supplying wholesalers and since then they only sell to individual buyers in person at the brewery or the visitor’s centre opposite. These methods all go against modern business methods, however as stated by the Father Abbott on the opening of the new brewery, “We are not brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.”.
Beers

The brewery currently brews three beers:

Westvleteren Blonde (green cap), 5.8% ABV, introduced on 10 June 1999.
Westvleteren 8 (blue cap) (formerly Extra), 8% ABV.
Westvleteren 12 (yellow cap) (formerly Abt), a 10.2% ABV, introduced in 1940.

Until 1999, the brewery also produced a 6.2% ABV dark beer and a lighter 4° which served as the monks’ table beer, but these were replaced by the Blonde. The 8 and 12 are bottle conditioned and are considered to have a long shelf life, with some drinkers preferring the taste when the beers have been stored for several years. The ingredients are yeast, hops, malt, sugar, caramel and water.

The bottles have been sold without labels since 1945. All of the legally required information is printed on the crown tops. Because of this lack of space, Westvleteren beers are the only Trappist beers that do not have the official Trappist logo displayed on the bottle. The logo is only printed on the distinctive wooden crates. Any bottles that are labelled have had them added unofficially by others. For example, some importers into the United States label the bottles in order to comply with local regulations.

Currently, the beer is priced at €30.00 (Blonde), €34.00 (8°) and €39.00 (12°) per 24-bottle crate (excluding bottle/crate deposit). Deposit for empty bottles and crate: 12 EUR (9.60 EUR for the crate plus 0.10 EUR per bottle). Glasses specifically designed to drink the beer can be purchased at the abbey in packs of 6 for 17 euro.

Buyers were originally limited to ten 24-bottle crates of the beer per car, but as the beer increased in popularity, this was first reduced to five, then to three and now to two or one crates. For the Westvleteren 12 in 2009, it was limited to one case. When making an order now, the type and quantity of beer available for sale are revealed. Sales are limited to one order every 60 days per person per license plate and phone number. Also, the beer must be reserved on their “beerphone” beforehand. The monks do not sell beer to individuals who drive up to the abbey hoping to purchase beer. The reason for this is to eliminate commercial reselling, and hence give all visitors a chance to purchase the product.

The current production is 4750 hl (60,000 cases) per year, and has remained the same since 1946.

Aside from the brewery itself, the only other official sale point for the beer is the abbey-owned In de Vrede, a cafe and visitor’s centre opposite the abbey. All beers can be bought there for immediate consumption or take-away, depending on availability (however, prices are higher than at the abbey). Often there is no beer available at the shop. The shop also sells cheeses made at the abbey, yeast tabs (not yeast to make beer but dead yeast for health) and other Trappist products.

Buyers of the beer receive a receipt with Niet verder verkopen (“Do not resell”) printed on it. The abbey is very much against resale of their beer, and it is their wish that the beer is only commercially available at the two official sale points. To this end, any Westvleteren beer which is sold anywhere else in the world is grey market beer, as no wholesalers or pubs are supplied with the beer. The abbey is actively working to eliminate the illicit sales, and generally only agrees to media interviews to spread their message against drinking illicitly sold Westvleteren beer.

In October, 2010 there were speculations that the beer would be sold in supermarkets, which have not yet come to pass.

The brewery and the Belgian retailer Colruyt are bringing a gift pack (6 bottles Westvleteren 12, 2 glasses) for sale, only against exchange of promotional coupons printed in selected media. Goal of the sales is to increase income to provide funds for urgent and immediate renovations at the monastery. Available from November 2, 2011, sales will be limited to 93.000 packs. One pack per coupon at 25,00 Euro/pack. All earnings of the sale will go to the renovation project. This is a first in the history of the brewery. (source: Het Nieuwsblad, October 14, 2011)

On November 4, 2011, it was announced that US importer Shelton Brothers would be importing 7760 gift packs consisting of 6 bottles Westvleteren 12 and 2 glasses starting in April 2012. Also mentioned was that Manneken-Brusel Imports out of Austin, TX would also be importing an undisclosed amount of the beer into the U.S market. Pricing is to be determined.
International reputation

Many beer drinkers rank Westvleteren 12 among their favourite beers. The 8 and the Blonde also rank highly on beer-rating websites.

In June 2005, when Westvleteren 12 was again highlighted as “Best Beer in the World”, news organizations followed this up and articles appeared in the international press, highlighting the beer ranking and the unusual business policies.

Following these events, interest in Westvleteren’s output increased and stories appeared of the abbey’s stock being low, forcing the monks to reduce the amount of beer sold to each customer. In an interview, monk Mark Bode explained that the abbey had no intention of increasing its production, despite demand: “We make the beer to live but we do not live for beer.”

Despite the popularity, the monks of St Sixtus have continued to decline almost all interview and visit requests, and have not enjoyed all of the attention they have received. Non-monastic visitors to the abbey are usually turned away, instead being directed to the visitor’s centre opposite where there is information about the abbey and brewery. They have stated their desire to only produce as much beer as needed to finance the community.

Palm Breweries is a brewery company. It owns several different Belgian breweries.

As early as 1597, records can be found in Steenhuffel’s archives detailing a manor named Den Hoorn.

The first signs of brewing activity at Steenhuffel came in 1747. A deed of consensus mentions two breweries, De Hoorn and De Valck. De Hoorn, owned then by Jean-Baptiste De Mesmaecker, was later to develop into the brewery we know today.

In 1908, Henriette De Mesmaecker, great-granddaughter of Jean-Baptiste De Mesmaecker, married Arthur Van Roy. Arthur Van Roy oversaw the running of their pub and farm, and eventually became the driving force behind the construction of the brewery as we know it today.

Palm Breweries

Palm Breweries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The De Hoorn brewery was not spared the violence of World War I, and it was completely destroyed in 1914. However, Van Roy decided to rebuild it; bigger and better than before. He chose to still top-ferment his beer in the old Brabant style rather than brew it using newer methods, such as those used to brew Pilsner.

In 1929, Van Roy decided to give his beer a proper name, calling it Speciale Palm. Speciale refers to the style of beer “Special Belge”.

1930, and Arthur Van Roy decided to teach his son, Alfred, how to brew beer. He was taught how to brew it so that it was not only generous and tender, but full of taste and flavour as well. This, coupled with what Alfred learned at the Brussels brewing school, led to the first copper brewing room with a mill being built. This brewing room is known simply as “Brewing Room 1” today.

rewed in Steenhuffel:
Palm Speciale (5,4% ABV) amber colored;
Dobbel Palm stronger and darker, only sold in December replacing Palm Speciale;
Palm Royale (formerly Royal Van Roy Ale) (7,5% ABV) brewed on the occasion of Alfred Van Roy’s 90th birthday;
Steendonck (5% ABV), a classical white beer.
Brewed in Roeselare : see Rodenbach

Brewed in Bruges :
Brugge Tripel (8.7% ABV) amber colored;
Brugge Blond (6.5% ABV);
Steenbrugge Dubbel and Steenbrugge Tripel two abbey beers;

Brewed in Lembeek : see Boon Brewery
Geuze Boon, a slightly sweetened geuze
Oude Geuze Boon, a traditional geuuze
Geuze Marriage Parfait, a different blend of traditional geuze
Kriek Boon, a sweetened Kriek
Oude Kriek Boon, a traditional Kriek
Kriek Marriage Parfait, a different blend of traditional Kriek
ramboise Boon, a sweetened fruitbeer, based on raspberry

Roald Smeets Post

A glass of helles

A glass of helles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roald Smeets brings you Pale lager which is a very pale to golden-coloured beer with a well attenuated body and a varying degree of noble hop bitterness. The brewing process for this beer developed in the mid 19th century when Gabriel Sedlmayr took pale ale brewing techniques back to the Spaten Brewery in Germany and applied it to existing lagering methods. This approach was picked up by other brewers, most notably Josef Groll of Bavaria who produced Pilsner Urquell in the city of Pilsen, now in the Czech Republic. The resulting pale coloured, lean and stable beers were very successful and gradually spread around the globe to become the most common form of beer consumed in the world today.

Bavarian brewers in the sixteenth century were required by law to brew beer only during the cooler months of the year. In order to have beer available during the hot summer months, beers would be stored in caves and stone cellars, often under blocks of ice.

In the period 1820-1830, a brewer named Gabriel Sedlmayr II the Younger, whose family was running the Spaten Brewery in Bavaria went around Europe to improve his brewing skills. When he returned, he used what he had learned to get a more stable and consistent lager beer. The Bavarian lager was still different from the widely-known modern lager; due to the use of dark malts it was quite dark, representing what is now called Dunkel beer or the stronger variety, Bock beer.

The new recipe of the improved lager beer spread quickly over Europe. In particular Sedlmayr’s friend Anton Dreher used the new lagering technique to improve the Viennese beer in 1840–1841, creating Vienna lager. New kilning techniques enabled the use of lighter malts, giving the beer an amber-red rich colour.

Pale lagers tend to be dry, lean, clean-tasting and crisp. Flavours may be subtle, with no traditional beer ingredient dominating the others. Hop character (bitterness, flavour, and aroma) ranges from negligible to a dry bitterness from noble hops. The main ingredients are water, Pilsner malt and noble hops, though some brewers use adjuncts such as rice or corn to lighten the body of the beer. There tends to be no butterscotch flavour from diacetyl, due to the slow, cold fermentation process.

Pale lager was developed in the mid 19th century when Gabriel Sedlmayr took some British pale ale brewing techniques back to the Spaten Brewery in Germany, and started to modernise continental brewing methods. In 1842 Josef Groll of Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic, used some of these methods to produce Pilsner Urquell, the first known example of a golden lager. This beer proved so successful that other breweries followed the trend, using the name Pilsner. Breweries now use the terms “lager” and “Pilsner” interchangeably, though pale lagers from Germany and the Czech Republic with the name Pilsner tend to have more evident noble hop aroma and dry finish than other pale lagers.

With the success of Pilsen’s golden beer, the town of Dortmund in Germany started brewing pale lager in 1873. As Dortmund was a major brewing centre, and the town breweries grouped together to export the beer beyond the town, the brand name Dortmunder Export became known. Today, breweries in Denmark, the Netherlands, and North America brew pale lagers labelled as Dortmunder Export.

A little later, in 1894, the Spaten Brewery in Munich recognised the success of these golden lagers and utilised the methods that Sedlmayr had brought home over 50 years earlier to produce their own light lager they named helles, which is German for “light coloured”, in order to distinguish it from dunkelbier or dunkles bier (“dark beer”), which is another type of beer typical for the region, being darker in colour and sweeter than helles.

Examples of helles include Löwenbräu Original, Spaten Premium Lager, Weihenstephaner Original Bayrisch Mild, Hofbräu München Original, Augustiner Bräu Lagerbier Hell and Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Helles.

The earliest known brewing of American lager was in the Old City section of Philadelphia by John Wagner in 1840 using yeast from his native Bavaria. Modern American-style lagers are usually made by large breweries such as Anheuser-Busch. Lightness of body is a cardinal virtue, both by design and since it allows the use of a high percentage of rice or corn.

Though all lagers are well attenuated, a more fully fermented pale lager in Germany goes by the name Diet Pils. “Diet” in the instance not referring to being “light” in calories or body, rather its sugars are fully fermented into alcohol, allowing the beer to be targeted to diabetics. A marketing term for a fully attenuated pale lager, originally used in Japan by Asahi Breweries in 1987, “karakuchi” (辛口 dry?), was taken up by the American brewer Anheuser-Busch in 1988 as “dry beer” for the Michelob brand, Michelob Dry. This was followed by other “dry beer” brands such as Bud Dry, though the marketing concept was not considered a success. In fully attenuated pale lagers, nearly all the sugar is converted to alcohol due to the long fermentation period. The resulting clean, lean flavour is referred to as “dry”.

A 5 litre mini keg of Bitburger Premium Beer (...

A 5 litre mini keg of Bitburger Premium Beer (a pale lager) purchased in Sydney, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Premium lager is a marketing term sometimes used by brewers for products they wish to promote; there is no legal definition for such a product, but it is usually applied to an all malt product of around 5% abv. Anheuser-Busch also uses the terms “sub-premium” and “super-premium” to describe the low-end Busch beer and the slightly higher-end Michelob.

Spezial is a stronger style of pale lager, mostly brewed in Southern Germany, but also found in Austria and Switzerland. Spezial slots in between helles and bock in terms of flavour characteristics and strength. Full-bodied and bittersweet, it is delicately spiced with German aroma hops. It has a gravity of between 12.5° and 13.5° Plato and an alcohol content of 5.5 – 5.8% abv. The style has been in slow decline over the last 30 years, but still accounts for around 10% of beer sales in Bavaria.

Bock is a strong lager which has origins in the Hanseatic town Einbeck, Germany. The name is a corruption of the medieval German brewing town of Einbeck, but also means goat (buck) in German. The original bocks were dark beers, brewed from high-coloured malts. Modern bocks can be dark, amber or pale in colour. Bock was traditionally brewed for special occasions, often religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter or Lent.

Malt liquor is an American term referring to a strong pale lager. In the UK, similarly-made beverages are called super-strength lager.

Oktoberfest is a Bavarian festival dating from 1810, and Märzen are the beers that have been served at the event in Munich since 1818, and are supplied by 6 breweries: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner-Bräu, Hofbräu-München, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. Only beers that are brewed within the borders of the city of Munich are permitted to be sold at the original Oktoberfest. Criteria for Oktoberfest To be served at the festival, beer must meet these criteria:

adhere to the Purity Law;
have an original gravity between 13.5º and 14º Plato (about 6% alc.);
be brewed by a Munich Company located within the city limits of Munich.

Upon passing these criteria, a beer is designated Oktoberfest Beer.

Oktoberfest beer is also a registered trademark of the Club of Munich Brewers. It is also known as Münchner Bier (Munich Beer). Bavarian beer (Bayrisches Bier) and beers produced in Munich (Münchner Bier) are protected by the European Union as a PGI Protected Geographical Indication. Traditionally Oktoberfestbiers were lagers of around 5.5 to 6% abv called Märzen – brewed in March and allowed to ferment slowly during the summer months. Originally these would have been dark lagers, but from 1872 a strong March brewed version of an amber-red Vienna lager made by Josef Sedlmayr became the favourite Oktoberfestbier. Since the 1970s the type of beer served at the festival has been a pale Märzen of 13.5 to 14º Plato and 5.5% to 6% abv. Though some Munich brewers still brew darker versions, mostly for export to the USA. The colour of these lagers may range from pale yellow to deep amber, with the darker colours more common in the USA. Hop levels tend not to be distinctive, though some USA examples may be firmly hopped. Modern beers sold as Oktoberfest and Märzen in Europe are mostly pale in colour.

Roald Smeets – Trappist beer is brewed by Trappist monks. Eight Trappist monasteries–six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands, and one in Austria–produce beer.

The Trappist order originated in the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe, France. Various Cistercian congregations existed for many years, and by 1664 the Abbot of La Trappe felt that the Cistercians were becoming too liberal. He introduced strict new rules in the abbey and the Strict Observance was born. Since this time, many of the rules have been relaxed. However, a fundamental tenet, that monasteries should be self-supporting, is still maintained by these groups.

Monastery brewhouses, from different religious orders, have existed across Europe since the Middle Ages. From the very beginning, beer was brewed in French cistercian monasteries following the Strict Observance. For example, the monastery of La Trappe in Soligny already had its own brewery in 1685. Breweries were later introduced in monasteries of other countries as the trappist order spread from France into the rest of Europe. The Trappists, like many other religious people, originally brewed beer to feed the community, in a perspective of self-sufficiency. Nowadays, Trappist breweries also brew beer to fund their works and for good causes. Many of the Trappist monasteries and breweries were destroyed during the French Revolution and the World Wars. Among the monastic breweries, the Trappists were certainly the most active brewers. In the last 300 years, there were at least nine Trappist breweries in France, six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, one in Germany, one in Austria, one in Bosnia and possibly other countries.

Today, eight Trappist breweries are active–6 in Belgium, 1 in the Netherlands, and 1 in Austria.

In the twentieth century, the growing popularity of Trappist beers led some brewers with no connection to the order to label their beers “Trappist”. After unsuccessful trials, monks finally sued one such brewer in 1962 in Ghent, Belgium.

In 1997, eight Trappist abbeys – six from Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), one from the Netherlands (Koningshoeven) and one from Germany (Mariawald) – founded the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from abusing the Trappist name. This private association created a logo that is assigned to goods (cheese, beer, wine, etc.) that respect precise production criteria. For the beers, these criteria are the following:

The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.

The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a          monastic way of life

The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

Trappist breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.

This association has a legal standing, and its logo gives the consumer some information and guarantees about the product.

There are currently seven breweries that are allowed to have the products they sell display the Authentic Trappist Product logo:

As of February 2012, the trappist brewery of the abbey of Engelszell, Trappistenbrauerei Engelszell in Engelhartszell, Austria, is active and has started brewing beer at the monastery (the former production had stopped in 1929). The monks claim that their next challenge will be to obtain the logo, hopefully before the end of 2012.

The Dutch brewery De Koningshoeven produces the only Dutch Trappist beers – branded La Trappe – that are able to carry the “Authentic Trappist Product” logo. Their use of the logo was withdrawn in 1999, but was restored in October 2005 (see Brouwerij de Koningshoeven for details). In 2012, an 8th brewery in Austria has started production.

The French abbey of Sainte Marie du Mont des Cats has been selling Trappist beer since June 16, 2011. This abbey has no brewery at this time and does not plan to build one in the near future, for reasons of cost and brewing skills. They have not excluded rebuilding one brewery in the future. The Trappist beer sold by Mont des Cats is produced by the Chimay brewery and does not wear the “authentic trappist product” logo.

The Trappist monks of the Abbey of Maria Toevlucht in

Westmalle trappist beer

Westmalle trappist beer (Photo credit: Verity Borthwick)

, Netherlands are planning an on-site brewery.

The designation “abbey beers” (Bières d’Abbaye or Abdijbier) was originally used for any monastic or monastic-style beer. After the 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. In other words, an Abbey beer may be:-

Produced by a non-Trappist monastery—e.g. Cistercian, Benedictine; or   produced by a commercial brewery under an arrangement with an extant monastery; or   branded with the name of a defunct or fictitious abbey by a commercial brewer; or  given a vaguely monastic branding, without mentioning a specific monastery, by a  commercial brewer.

With the recent exception of Koningshoeven’s Bockbier, Trappist beers are all top fermented and mainly bottle conditioned. Trappist breweries use various systems of nomenclature for the different beers produced which relate to their relative strength.

The best known is the system where different beers are called Enkel/Single, Dubbel/Double and Tripel/Triple. Considering the importance of the Holy Trinity in the church, it is unlikely that the choice of three types of beers was accidental. Enkels are now no longer brewed as such.

Colours can be used to indicate the different types, dating back to the days when bottles were unlabelled and had to be identified by the capsule or bottle-top alone. Chimay beer labels are based on the colour system (in increasing order of strength red, white and blue). Westvleteren beers are still unlabelled.

There is also a number system (6,8 and 10, as used by Rochefort), which gives an indication of strength, but is not necessarily an exact alcohol by volume (ABV). Achel combine a strength and a colour (of the beer itself—blond or brown) designation.

The idea of visiting Trappist monasteries to sample their beers has become more popular in recent years, partly due to promotion by enthusiasts such as the ‘beer hunter’ Michael Jackson. Most brewing monasteries maintain a visitor’s centre where their beers can be tasted and bought (sometimes with other monastic products such as bread and cheese). Visits to the monastery itself are usually not available to the general public. Although you can overnight in some of the monasteries (like Achel), if your purpose is non-touristic.

Westmalle trappist beer (Belgium). Nederlands:...

Westmalle trappist beer (Belgium). Nederlands: Flesje Westmalle tripel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red. There are approximately 178 breweries in the country, ranging from international giants to microbreweries.

Beer in Belgium, dates back to the age of the first crusades, long before Belgium became an independent country. Under Catholic church 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, artesinal brewing methods evolved, under abbey supervision, during 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 50 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.

Roald Smeets