You’re in Brussels. What are you drinking? Don’t just say beer. In Belgium there’s amber, blond, brown, dubbel, Flemish red, gueuze, lambic... and that’s just the first half of the alphabet.
If you’re getting dizzy before you’ve even taken a sip, just focus on these five for starters...
A tripel is a strong pale ale – this light-gold version packs a punch at 8.4%. It’s a three-grain ale, made from wheats, oats and barley, which gives a complex flavour profile of vanilla, clove, pepper and citrus, and a creamy mouthfeel from the oats.
The most recent creation from the Trappist monks of Chimay, this golden beer (8%) is bitter but not acidic, with a distinctive flavour. Look out for hints of banana, cinnamon, bread, honey and even bubblegum. It has a dry edge with a lingering aftertaste.
An unfiltered blond (8%), refermented in barrel and bottle, this beer has a citrusy, fruity aroma – from lemon to peach and banana – with hints of coriander too. It’s lightly hopped, with a sweetish aftertaste. Recognise it by the red-hatted gnome on the label.
Refreshing and highly drinkable, Rodenbach (5.2%) is a traditional Flanders red-brown beer, and a good introduction to sweet-sour styles. It pours a deep ruby colour and has a dark sugary balsamic taste, with notes of tart cherry, malt and sour caramel.
Sour, spiky gueuze is an acquired taste, but it’s a real Brussels classic. This one (5.5%), made from a blend of one-, two- and three-year-old lambics, is brewed by one of the city’s few remaining breweries. Woody, straw-like and dry, its flavour is perhaps most frequently described as ‘funky’.