by Nathan Hak Beer Journalist at Beerwulf 05 January 2020
A tiny country with a huge beer tradition - yes, we’re of course talking about Belgium, where beer culture is so vital to the fabric of the nation that it’s officially protected by the UN.
Belgium is one of the 100 smallest countries in the world. But when it comes to beer, this little nation is one of the biggest there is. It wasn’t declared a world cultural heritage by UNESCO for nothing, after all.
Best Belgian beer
We’ve come up with our list of the top 10 best Belgian beers based on a number of factors, such as:
- Popularity in our shop
- Favourites among the Beerwulf team
- Awards and accolades
- Score on the beer rating site Untappd
So without further ado, allow us to offer up our list of the Top 10 Belgian Beers!
1. Tripel Karmeliet
This three-grained Tripel has to be named the public favourite! This has always been one of our most popular beers and is the one most often mentioned by our Beerwulf team as their favourite Belgian beer. In addition, Tripel Karmeliet scores a huge 4 stars on Untappd, based on no less than 237,000 ratings! That many beer lovers can’t be wrong.
This strong tripel (8.4%) is brewed with barley, wheat and oats. It’s a perfectly balanced beer that’s delicious to taste with many types of cheeses, especially with creamy brie.
2. Affligem Blond
One beer that fits that description no end is Affligem Blond. The typical Affligem yeast gives a nice, fruity touch to our our best-selling Blond. This one is also a regularly cited favourite amongst the Beerwulf team.
3. Chimay Blue
The first dark beer in our list and also the first Trappist beer is Chimay Blauw, also called Grande Réserve.
Are you a fan of Tripels, but less so into dark beers? Let yourself be convinced by the king of Chimay! The dark malt remains subtle; you’ll taste it in the form of caramel and toffee.
Chimay blue is an excellent beer for aging, too. After a few years it becomes softer, sweeter and "ripened" flavours can develop, for example port. It’s well worth the wait!
Few beers have reached this level of iconic status. Powerful, tasty, accessible and dangerously easy to drink: that's a Duvel.
With an alcohol percentage of 8.5%, Duvel is a typical Belgian powerhouse. The alcohol gives it sweetness, while the hop varieties Saaz and Styrian Golding provide a fruity, orangey character.
The finish is tight and slightly peppery. It’s strong, but not complicated, and a Duvel always tastes great. My tip? It’s even better with a portion of fish and chips on the side.
5. Pauwel Kwak
With its solid position in the top 10 of our best-selling beers, Pauwel Kwak is here to stay. In this amber-coloured beer you can taste toffee and spicy tones, together with an orange-like fruitiness. It is soft, sweet and slightly bitter, and it’s loved by many.
Almost as world-famous as the beer itself is the beer glass in the wooden holder. The story goes that if you order a Pauwel Kwak, you have to give your own shoe as a guarantee for this special glass. You can recognise a bar that serves Kwak by the special shoe basket they have on the ceiling.
6. Westmalle Tripel
According to many, the inventor of the Tripel style is none other than Westmalle. Westmalle Tripel is brewed within the walls of Our Lady's Abbey of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and thus it’s the second recognised Trappist beer in our list.
Whether the story of how this beer originated is true or not, the fact is that Westmalle was the first brewer to give the name Tripel to their heaviest beer, after which many other brewers followed.
And yes, it truly is a fantastic Tripel, full of yummy fruit aromas of banana and pear with a certain spicy touch. The beer is also quite hopped, which balances beautifully with the firm body and sweetness.
7. Rochefort 10
At over 11%, Rochefort 10, the heaviest beer on our list is another recognised trappist. This is no surprise, since Belgium is home to 6 of the 14 Trappist breweries.
This strong, dark beer is really one to enjoy quietly. Fruity aromas of plum, raisin and fig harmonise nicely with malty tones like caramel, liquorice and a touch of chocolate. It has a floral, spicy touch with a warm, soft-bitter finish.
8. La Chouffe Blonde D'ardenne
A list of the best Belgian beers list is not complete without the world famous La Chouffe. What has certainly contributed to the fame of this beer is the friendly little guy on the label. If someone says they want “the gnome/dwarf beer”, then you know it’s La Chouffe!
The beer itself looks seductive with its golden colour and firm head. What many people notice first are the notes of coriander, orange peel and mandarin. It tastes pleasantly sweet, but fruity and fresh. The finish is soft and a little spicy, just how you want this beer to end.
9. Troubadour Magma
Number 9 is an outsider. Is it an IPA or a Tripel? Maybe it is both. Troubadour Magma has the typical fruit flavours of an IPA, like passion fruit, citrus and mango, nicely combined with fruity yeast flavours of apple and pineapple. The biscuit-like malt flavour will remind you of an IPA, but the body and amount of alcohol (9%) is more typical of a tripel.
Nevertheless, the Musketeer brewers dared to make something different, instead of choosing the safe option with a classic Tripel. Cheers to that!
We end this list with perhaps the most adventurous beer, because an Orval always tastes different. This is due to the Brettanomyces (Brett) yeast that ensures that the beer continues to develop. This means you can discover something new every time! You can find the bottling date on each bottle of Orval.
A young Orval is still a bit sweet and hoppy. Over time, this trappist becomes dryer, more sparkling and more complex. A sour note develops with typical Brett aromas, which are best described as farmyard or a horse blanket. It’s truly a beauty of a beer that never gets boring!
Orval is a recognised Trappist beer. The monks brew as much beer as their way of life allows, but the demand is many times bigger - which is why Orval is often sold out. This popularity only confirms the place of this magnificent beer in our top 10!