Belgian Beer Styles
Beer is traditionally made from water, barley and hops, but sometimes wheat is added to create a crisp, citrusy flavour.
A yeast culture is added to the mash that derives from this mixture, which then converts the sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Every brewery has its own strain of yeast culture, each with its own specific properties that contribute, together with the selection of different types of malts and hops, towards defining the type of beer exclusive to that brewery. Beers can ferment in wooden barrels or undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Various Belgian breweries add ‘rough grains’ such as rice and maize to guarantee the beer’s taste and stability. A very important ingredient in the brewing process is, of course, hops, which not only give the beer its bitterness, but also help preserve it. In addition to the classic bitter hops, Belgian brewers are increasingly turning to more aromatic hops for their typical, often fruity, flavours. Lambic brewers use aged, dried hops to make their beers less bitter.
In line with the example of the medieval ‘gruit’-based recipes, various herbs and spices are added in addition to hops for a more distinctive flavour. Coriander and curaçao (dried orange peel) are for example typical for the Belgian white beers giving them their fresh and citrusy touch.
Beers are classified into beer styles according to the fermentation method used. For Belgian beers we notice four types of fermentation: bottom, top, spontaneous and mixed.
Two unique and typically Belgian beer styles are beers of spontaneous fermentation and beers of mixed fermentations.