by Nathan Hak Beer journalist at Beerwulf
Top 10 best Belgian beersThe best of Belgium
A tiny country with a huge reputation in beer: who else could we be talking about but Belgium, of course, where beer culture is officially protected by the UN.
Belgium occupies only 0.006% of the total surface of the earth, making it one of the top 100 smallest countries in the world. When it comes to beer, however, Belgium is world famous. UNESCO didn’t declare Belgian beer culture a world cultural heritage for nothing, after all.
The best Belgian beers?
Our top 10 is based on the popularity in our shop, the favourites of the Beerwulf team, the awards and the score on beer rating site Untappd. They are listed below. Do any sound familiar?
The public favourite: Tripel Karmeliet
This three-grained tripel is a certain public favourite! This has always been one of our most popular beers and has been mentioned the most 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.
Style standard: Affligem Blond
And that is exactly how I’d describe Affligem Blond. The typical Affligem yeast gives a nice, fruity touch to our most-sold blonde, and a beer that’s also often mentioned by the Beerwulf team as a favourite.
Dark, powerful Trappist: Chimay Blue
The first dark beer in our list and also the first Trappist: Chimay Blauw, also called Grande Réserve.
Enjoy tripels, but not so much a fan of dark beers? Then let yourself be convinced by the king of Chimay. The dark malt is subtle but you will taste a hint of caramel and toffee.
Chimay blue is an excellent beer for aging. After a few years it becomes softer, sweeter and "ripened" flavours can develop, for example, a port flavour. Worth the patience!
Few beers have reached this level of iconic status. Powerful, tasty, accessible and dangerously easy drink: that's a Duvel.
With an alcohol percentage of 8.5%, Duvel is a typical Belgian powerhouse. The alcohol gives a sweet experience, while the hop varieties Saaz and Styrian Golding provide a fruity character, which might remind you of orange.
The finish is tight and slightly peppery. It’s strong, but not complicated, and Duvel always tastes great. My tip: it’s even better with a portion of fish and chips on the side.
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.
Westmalle Tripel: The Mother of All Tripels
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.
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.
La Chouffe Blonde D'ardenne
A top 10 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.
Troubadour Magma: IPA and Tripel
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 going the save way 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!