Belgian Beers are rich in not only flavor, but also history and tradition as well. There are many different categories of Belgian style beers. The Beer Judge Certification Panel, who qualifies beer judges and oversees most of the beer competitions in the U.S. lists 15 distinct styles of Belgian beer. Here they are.
Witbier – a light colored ale normally made with spices like orange peel and coriander
Belgian Pale Ale – an amber to copper colored ale brewed with Belgian yeast strains without spices
Saison – a light colored seasonal (Saison means season) ale based on a historical tradition
Biere De Garde –means “beer for keeping”. Three styles exist, blond, amber and brown.
Belgian Specialty Ale – A catch all category for varieties of the above that set it apart.
Flanders Red – reddish colored ale that usually has sour notes
Flanders Brown – brown ale, rather malty but normally sour as well
Straight Lambic – sour ale created by using wild yeast, usually light in color
Gueuze – light colored ale with sour notes, similar to a Saison but with that wild yeast sourness
Fruit Lambic – a lambic style ale brewed with fruit. Raspberry, apple and cherry are common
Belgian Blond Ale – Very light sweet ale, also can be considered a “Single” Belgian ale
Belgian Dubbel – brewed with twice as much malt as Belgian Blond, can be darker with higher ABV
Belgian Tripel – brewed with three times as much malt as Belgian Blond, normally dark with high ABV
Belgian Golden strong ale – Light colored ale brewed with a high ABV.
Belgian Dark Strong Ale – Dark, strong and hearty. Can be called “Quads”
Any Belgian you find in stores or on tap at your favorite establishment should fall into one of these catagories. The Belgian blonde, Dubbel, tripels, witbiers and saisons are probably the most common forms you will encounter, while the sour ales and lambics are pretty rare. I highly recommend trying to find beer of each category just to experience the width and breadth of Belgian beer.
Go drink some craft beer!
Cheers!