This got us thinking. After all, though hop aroma is not something we especially associate with Belgian beer, it is certainly not the case that Belgian beer is bland or homogenous.
Hops are great – we love them – but their amount and variety are far from being the only variables a brewer has to play with.
In fact, two beers made with simple pale malt and ‘boring’ Fuggles could end up tasting and looking completely different, and equally mindblowing, if the following variables were carefully manipulated by a skilled brewer. (Or screwed up by a lazy one.)
Dark or clear? Unrefined? Caramelised?
Long boils to darken/caramelise sugars in the wort.
Blending of multiple strains.
Refinement/customisation in the lab.
Mash liquor chemistry/softness.
Boil liquor chemistry/softness.
Creative ‘misuse’ of specialty malts.
Belgian/German/British/US version of standard types, e.g. Pilsner malt.
Mash temperature and timing.
Heather (as in Williams Bros. Fraoch).
Salt (as in gose).
Spices (e.g. coriander).
Lactose and other unfermentable sugars.
M&Ms, otter spittle, Mr Kipling apple pies, and so on.
Timings of hop additions.
Extract, pellet or whole leaf?