Everything you need to know about belgian beer!
It´s no secret that Belgians love beligian beer.They love it so much that they even drink about 72 litres of belgian beer on average per person each year. In Spain, however, this number is much lower. There they only drink about 46 litres of beer per person per year. Beer is really part of the Belgian culture.
So much so that in 2016 UNESCO inscribed belgian beer culture on their list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
How did belgian beer originate?
First, let’s see how belgian beer was originated. The origin of Belgian beer goes back many centuries. In Assesse (small village in Belgium), excavations have been found of a brewery and malt house from the 3rd and 4th century AD. This indicates that beer was already produced in Roman times. However, beer only became really popular during the middle ages. During this time more breweries were emerging and producing different types of beers.
In the beginning, beer was made from gruit, a fermented mixture of herbs and spices. From the 14th century this was replaced by hops, because they also used it in Germany and The Netherlands. Nowadays, hops is still used for brewing beer. The reason for its increasing popularity in the middle ages is that in those days beer was often healthier than water. Due to the preparation and fermentation of beer, it could not contain any germs. This in contrast to water, which has often been the cause of many diseases and epidemics
What different types of belgian beer are there?
This increasing popularity means that today there are many different types of belgian beer. In addition, there are no rules in Belgium about the development of new beer types. In Germany, for example, they have a law called the Reinheitsgebot. This is a law that means that beer may only consist of water, hops, barley and yeast.
The different types of beer are mainly due to the way of production. In Belgium breweries are free to add other ingredients such as herbs and fruits to the beer. This results in many different types of beer, which the most popular are listed below.
1. Lager (Pils)
Lager is the most drunk beer in Belgium. It originally comes from Germany, but now it’s loved worldwide. Which is usually brewed from only malt, water, hops and yeast and has therefore a quite weak and basic taste. This beer usually has a alcohol content of about 5%.
Because of this it appeals to a large audience. However, less and less lager is being drunk lately. This is probably due to the increasing popularity of speciality beers.
2. Abbey beer (Abdijbier)
Abbey beer is beer brewed by the fathers of an abbey or associated in name with an abbey. These beers originate from the Middle Ages. Monasteries started to brew beer in order to earn some money. As mentioned before, beer became extremely popular at that time and so was abbey beer.
In the first half of the twentieth century the number of abbey beers decreased, because the kettles were melted down for weapons in world war one and two. Later in the twentieth century, many abbeys started producing beer again.
3. Wheat beer (Witbier)
Wheat beer is a top-fermented beer that is brewed not only with barley malt, but also with unmalted wheat or oats. This belgian beer often has herbs such as coriander and citrus peels added. It gives the beer a fresh citrus-like taste.
The beer is also unfiltered and therefore a bit cloudy. It is often drunk with a slice of lemon. At one point wheat beer was so popular, that the beer had too little time to mature. The sour taste could than be added with the slice of lemon
4. Speciality beer (Speciaalbier)
There is no legal definition for speciality beer, which means that almost all alternative beer types fall under the category of speciality beer.
Speciality beer does not have a specific taste, but can be for example fruity, sour, sweet or bitter. Currently more and more types of speciality beers are coming onto the market.
El Conde Belga
In short, because of the long history of belgian beer, there are many different types of beers. Because belgian beer is loved all over the world, it can often also be found outside of Belgium. If you happen to be in Valencia, be sure to visit El Conde Belga.
This is a trendy Belgian tapas bar where you can drink many different types of Belgian beer. The restaurant is located near the centre, so definitely worth a visit on you next city trip to Valencia.