Beer styles Belgium

Alternative Belgian beer styles

A ludicrously strong pale and a ludicrously strong dark Belgian beer, taken in Ghent.

Style guidelines. Doncha just love them? As homebrewers, we can see that they have their uses sometimes, if you’re trying to recreate a specific beer, or describe what you’ve created in terms that everyone will understand.

But the categories that exist for Belgian beers are pretty daft. Objectively speaking, is there actually much difference between a “Belgian Golden Strong Ale”, and a “triple”, at least as defined here? Or even a Belgian Blond Ale? “Dubbels” and “tripels” are surely only relative terms, depending on which brewery makes them.

At least the idea of separate styles for “Trappist” beer and an “Abbey” beer seem to have fallen by the wayside, although you still get sweeping generalisations such as:

“Finish is variable depending on interpretation (authentic Trappist versions are moderately dry to dry, Abbey versions can be medium-dry to sweet)”

Personally, I think we should start again with Belgian beer styles. My simpler categorisation would go as follows:

(1) witbiers

(2) sour ones

(3) fruity ones

(4) boring pilsners

(5) Belgian pale ales (you know, the ones that aren’t ludicrously strong)

(6) ludicrously strong pale beers

(7) ludicrously strong dark ones

Have I missed anything?

Obviously, within these, there are some huge ranges of flavours, but that’s the case with the guidelines as they currently stand. My classification is also easier for the layman to understand.

Next week: having sorted beer styles, how to end world hunger.


8 replies on “Alternative Belgian beer styles”

I certainly agree that many of the current Belgian “styles” being bandied about are pretty much meaningless, except for some well-defined ones (see below).

I guess (2) should be split into lambik and Flemish sour, with separate categories for gueuze and faro. These are, after all, pretty well defined styles.

Belgian amber ales (not ludicrously strong) might also be a category.

I suppose (5) could just as well be called “Blonde”?

I like your style… Oh, and your style guidelines! And I agree with the comments above. Nice and simple. Anyway, “styles” are made to be, or are just asking to be broken in my books.

Ron — possibly for the sake of completeness, although to my weak British tastebuds, anything over 5% is strong, and over 6% ludicrously so…so there may not be that much distinction. Are there many dark Belgian beers at 5% or under?

Lars – I thought about splitting out lambic and Flemish sour, but then I thought that, from a layman’s perspective the sourness is what hits you, regardless of the very different ways that they’re made. And as for (5), I suppose what I was thinking of were the beers like Palm Ale and John Martin — Belgian takes on English styles, which seem to have a distinct flavour of their own. But maybe that’s too complicated?

Great stuff! I’m a bit of an anarchist when it comes to styles, and I hope I can keep on bieng one once I start homebrewing, and I really loved reading your categorisation.
I think you should also add, ludicrously overrated ones (there are quite a few of them)

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