To enthusiasts, Belgian beer is a beautiful thing. In Belgium itself, beer is served or sold in cafés, restaurants, grocery stores, and beverage centers. There are several predominant beer styles in Belgium, and most are sold in bottles. What do they taste like and are there any tips on pairing them with food? Here is an overview of the styles of Belgian beer and some guidance on how to pair your favorite Belgian beer with food.
Blanche or White Beer
This light wheat beer usually contains light, aromatic spices and a hint of citrus. Best food pairing option: High quality, nutty Gruyere is all you need to pair with this beer for a delicious tasting. If you are looking for something a bit more filling than cheese alone, try the hearty combination of cheese and potatoes in a traditional tartiflette.
This non-malted wheat beer is made strictly in the Brussels area. It has a unique crisp and dry flavor that improves with age. This somewhat tart beer is fermented with wild, airborne yeast. Best food pairing option: Light, white meat entrees, like the roasted lemon rosemary chicken, and desserts are best with this beer. Don’t pair it with steak or sausage; the crisp, fruity flavor would most certainly clash with the hearty, savory fare.
Kriek is a fruit Lambic beer style that has a longer fermenting process from the addition of fruit – usually cherries. If the beer is fermented with raspberries, it is considered a Framboise beer. Best food pairing option: Cheesecake and other rich, fruit-complimentary desserts are best with a fruit beer. Peches Melba compliments berry-fermented beers, as well as the rarer peach-or plum-fermented Kriek.
Faro has flavors very similar to a classic Lambic, but far less intensity. The finished product has a hint of sweetness from brown sugar and mild aromatic spices. Best food pairing option: Molasses notes in the beer are beautifully enhanced with any chocolate desserts. For the ultimate experience, try tasting it with a bit of dark Belgian chocolate or a single dark chocolate truffle.
Gueueze is yet another subclass of Lambic beer. It undergoes a unique blending process of mixing mature Lambic beer with young Lambic beer that still contains sugars. The result is a second fermentation and a sharp sparkle. Best food pairings option: Aromatic caramelized apples and spice desserts go well with this beer.
This heavily malted beer style features full-bodied notes of caramel and a sour finish. Best food pairing option: Salty and savory foods taste best; desserts and sweet food will distract from the sugary malt of the beer. Try a serving of hearty steak au poivre for a traditional treat.
Blonde or Golden Ale
As the name implies, this beer is pale. There is a very slight, almost undetectable note of fruit that is upstaged by the predominant clean flavor of hops and malt. Best food pairing option: Something spicy, like chicken a la diable. This beer is best as a thirst quencher.
Red ale is a sour style beer that acquires a signature strong, complex flavor from a long maturation period in oak. It has a hint of sweetness and mildly discernible tart fruity notes. Best food pairing option: Salty food is the way to go with red beers. Try robust meat, such as garlic turkey sausage or good, sharp cheddar cheese.