Belgian & French Ales

November 19, 2009

These unique beers possess a huge range of strengths, colors and flavors. Many do not fit into any formal style categories. Whether strong or weak, light or dark, sour or sweet, they are always brewed with distinctive yeasts that contribute aromas of pepper, fruit or spice. Spices such as orange peel and coriander are sometimes used.

Classic Belgian-Style Ales

These are complex, yet approachable, ales often featuring a higher alcohol content combined with a high degree of drinkability. These ales are traditionally brewed by Trappist monks who employ brewing techniques that have changed little over the centuries. Abbey dubbel ales have an attractive red to brown hue with flavors that suggest dark fruits and raisins. Tripels are brewed with pilsner malt that produce a light color but fuller flavor profile than dubbels. They often have honey and fruity aromas. Both styles are brewed with Belgian candi sugar which boosts alcohol levels while increasing drinkability.

  Beer COLOR

The range is shown by graduated color in glasses.

  HOPS

The size of the green dot indicates the intensity of hop bitterness and/or aroma.

  BODY

The size of the gray dot indicates fullness and/or sweetness.

 

FLAVOR

ABOUT

QUALITIES

WINNING EXAMPLES

Abbey Dubbel

Abbey Dubbel

A strong, lightly hopped, deep amber ale with a dry to modest body. Complex caramel, raisin, fruity flavors. Crisp finish.

A slightly strong reddish-brown ale, whose body is thinned by the use of  sugar in the recipe.

h1
b2

ABV: 6.5-7.5

GLASS: Stemmed Abbey Goblet

  • Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Brother David’s Double, 2010 Silver GABF Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale
  • Pizza Port Carlsbad, Revelations,
    2010 Gold GABF Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale
AbbeyTrippelNU

Abbey Tripel

Strong golden ales with sugar added for drinkability. Lightly to moderately hopped, with fruity, honeyish aromas.

A strong and sophisticated group of beers with Trappist origins in the mid-twentieth century.

h3
b2

ABV: 7.0-11.0

GLASS: Stemmed Abbey Goblet

  • Bastone Brewery, Nectar des Dieux,
    2010 Gold GABF Belgian-Style Abbey Style Ale
  • Allagash Brewing, Tripel Ale,
    2009 Silver GABF Belgian-Style Abbey Style Ale

Belgian Strong Dark

Belgian Strong Dark

A wide variety of deep rich flavors: Chocolate, raisins, caramel, burnt sugar. Rarely any hop character.

Wide category defined simply by its title, often with monastic connections.

h1 b2

ABV: 7.0-11.0

GLASS: Large Tulip Glass

  • The Covey Restaurant & Brewery, 100,
    2009 Silver GABF Belgian-Style Strong Ale
  • Allagash Brewing, Allagash Black,
    2007 Bronze GABF Belgian-Style Strong Ale

Witbier & Farmhouse Ales

Belgium and Northern France have a long tradition of brewing simple, earthy beers. While sometimes made in small breweries in remote villages or farms, they are often brewed on a larger scale, especially the witbier style. Some of these beers contain unmalted grains. Witbiers are an ancient type of white ale made from malt, oats and a large proportion of unmalted wheat that gives the beer a cloudy haze. Witbier is wonderfully fruity with bitter orange peel and coriander added to increase bitterness without adding additional hops. Farmhouse breweries are said to have first produced the saison style from unsold barley after the harvest. Traditionally fermented in open vats in the attics of barns, these ales have a unique flavor produced by the wild yeast present in the Flanders region of Belgium. Saisons are dry, crisp, and complex with an assortment of spiciness and early flavors produced by the unique yeast. Biere de Garde is French for “beer to keep” and was originally brewed by farmers in the spring to consume throughout the summer. These blonde ales were the top-fermenting interpretations of bock beers originating in Northern France. They have a light color and slight malt sweetness.

FLAVOR

ABOUT

QUALITIES

WINNING EXAMPLES

Witbier White Ale

Witbier (White) Ale

Witbier is light, but elegantly fruity, with a creamy milkshake texture. Spiced with coriander, orange peel and other spices. Low bitterness.

An ancient type of white ale made from malt, oats and a large proportion of unmalted wheat.

h1 b3

ABV: 4.8-5.2

GLASS: French ‘Jelly’ Glass

  • TAPS Fish House & Brewery, TAPS Belgian White, 2010 Gold GABF Belgian-Style Witbier
  • Big Dog’s Brewing Co., Belgian White,
    2009 Silver GABF Belgian-Style Witbier
  • Boulevard Brewing Co., ZON,
    2009 Gold GABF Belgian-Style Witbier
Saison

Saison

Dry, crisp, and complex with plenty of fruitiness, hints of earth, and often refreshing hop aroma and bitterness.

A softly hazy style of golden ale said to originate from farmhouse breweries of Northwest Belgium.

h3 b3

ABV: 4.5-8.0

GLASS: Large Tulip Glass

  • Great Divide Brewing Co., Colette,
    2010 Silver GABF Belgian and French-Style Saison
  • McKenzie Brew House, Saison Vautour,
    2010 Gold GABF Belgian and French-Style Saison
Biere de Garde

Biere de Garde

Blonde to amber in color, these are well-balanced beers, a bit malty and slightly sweet, with low to moderate hopping.

Rustic, top-fermented  interpretations of blondes and bocks originating in Northern France.

h1 b5

ABV: 4.5-8.0

GLASS: Large Tulip Glass

  • Two Brothers Brewing Co., Domaine DuPage, 2010 Bronze GABF Belgian and French-Style Ale
  • Lost Abbey, Carnevale,
    2009 Gold GABF Belgian and French-Style Ale

Sour & Wild-Fermented Ales

Once produced only in certain regions of Belgium through spontaneous, open fermentation, today, ales fermented with “wild” yeasts and microbes are some of the most sought after styles for craft beer aficionados. While varying heavily by style and producer these beers often exhibit unconventional flavors that can be quite vinous (wine like) and often exhibits notes that can be described as barnyard-like or simply ‘wild’.

FLAVOR

ABOUT

QUALITIES

WINNING EXAMPLES

Lambic

Lambic and Gueuze

Pale, often hazy and unbelievably aromatic with earthy, fruity and barnyard notes and almost no hop bitterness or aroma. Lambics are always bone dry and very refreshing, although they vary from softly to seriously sour.

An ancient family of sour beers fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria. Gueuze, the most common form, is a bottled blend of young and old lambics. Fruit is often added.

h1 b1

ABV: 5.0-6.3

GLASS: Large Tulip Glass

  • Russian River Brewing Co., Supplication,
    2009 Bronze GABF Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale
  • Lost Abbey Brewing, Duck Duck Gooze,
    2009 Gold GABF Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale
Flemish Brown and Red

Flemish Brown and Red

Fully tart or sweet-and-sour, often with vinegary aromas on top of caramelly, burnt sugar flavors and profound fruitiness.

Classic ruby-colored ales aged up to two years in oak then blended with unaged beer.

h1 b2

ABV: 4.8-5.2

GLASS: Large Tulip Glass

  • The Bruery, Oude Tart,
    2010 Gold GABF Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale
  • Snake River Brewing, Le Serpent,
    2010 Bronze GABF Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale

  BEER COLOR

The range is shown by graduated color in glasses.

  HOPS

The size of the green dot indicates the intensity of hop bitterness and/or aroma.

  BODY

The size of the gray dot indicates fullness and/or sweetness.