As brew enthusiasts the world over continue exploring the vast number of high-quality handmade beers, Belgium’s rich beer-brewing history makes the little Western European country’s top offerings some of the best in the world. Beginning in the 1600s, Belgian monasteries brewed beer as a way to improve the lives of all those in the community around them—and did so while adhering to a strict monastic standard of quality and flavor.
In the centuries since then, numerous other Belgian brewers and businessmen decided to follow those same standards, which has resulted in a superior gene pool of beer production concentrated in the small country. The flavors of these brews are wonderful and unique, and their packaging and delivery via specially designed bottles suits the quality of product, which leaves a lingering effect on the palate that is unmistakable.
In the United States, Belgian brews are becoming a staple on a rapidly growing list of drink menus—from established Manhattan bistros to the high-end beer taverns that keep popping up throughout Southern California. The growing popularity of Belgian beer is credited to its complexity and refinement: rich colors and full-bodied flavors exhibiting strong notes of fruits, flowers, and spices that include clove and coriander; exceptional balance of effervescence and a smooth mouthfeel; and, of course, the typically higher alcohol content—and thus greater boldness—than that of traditional American ales, lagers, and pilsners. What follows is the first in a selection of Belgian beers that are sure to scintillate any microbrew enthusiast with a taste for perfection.