Every month, Beertasteslike focuses on a different BJCP style category or two. You can read all about July’s Featured Category here. The BJCP is a great guide for industry standard flavor profiles, tastings and some of the technical aspects of craft beer but what do you do when you’re at your local bottle shop and you’re looking for these beers?
The beers that the BJCP selects as “commercial examples” are great standards of each style but we wanted to add our own BTL twist to this guide. What we select might not fall exactly in the beer style due to adjuncts, aging, etc. but we feel that they are good representations of the styles as a whole. Our selections should also be readily available to you. Let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite.
CATEGORY 24. BELGIAN ALE
This category covers the maltier Belgian ales. These beers still have the famous fruity and spicy characteristics most have come to expect from Belgian beers but they tend to be more balanced.
A very refreshing wheat-centric ale with moderate citrus and spice notes. Usually made with 50% wheat that gives the beer its hazy appearance and tangy malt sweetness that is balanced by the spicy-herbal and floral hop aroma. Many recipes include coriander and dried bitter orange peel which accentuate the yeast driven flavors. This may be the subcategory with the most easily accessible commercial examples. ABV 4.5-5.5%
Allagash White, Blanche de Bruxelles, Celis White, Hoegaarden Wit, Ommegang Witte, St. Bernardus Witbier, Wittekerke
Blanche De Chambly, Unibroue
More yeast driven than Hoegaarden or Wittekerke but still within style. A great example and one of my favorites!
O-Gii, Milwaukee Brewing Company
If I was choosing my favorite traditional witbier I would have probably gone with the Allagash White but I really love the Rishi Tea addition in O-Gii by Milwaukee Brewing Company. I am not a huge tea fan but it added a floral aroma and flavor that is unusual in wits while keeping the nice wheat backbone.
24B. BELGIAN PALE ALE
These are everyday beers that are low in alcohol and easy to drink. Belgian pale ales are well balanced with more of a subtle yeast character than other Belgian styles. Most of the flavor and aroma is from the malt and hops. The biscuit and toasty notes from the malt and the fruity, citrus and spice notes from the hops are both complimented by the subtle but present pepper phenols from the yeast. The BJCP provides a surprisingly small number of commercial examples for this style but De Koninck is the most popular beer drank by locals in Belgium. ABV 4.8-5.5%
De Koninck, De Ryck Special, Palm Dobble, Palm Speciale
Guess what BPA stands for? Yup, that’s right: Belgian Pale Ale. It seems to me this may be the perfect example to pour in your glass. An easy-drinking hoppy pale ale. Its dry hopped with Cascade hops which give it a lovely orange aroma that plays very well with their house yeast strain.
A Little Crazy, Revolution Brewing
This is probably cheating as it should fit into an IPA category but the label, the brewery and the beer all scream BPA! This is more like and amber mixed with an IPA with a dash of Belgian yeast added, but it is fully delicious!
24C. BIÈRE DE GARDE
The most malt driven style in Belgium. These beers are aged or lagered for long periods of time hence the name Bière de Garde which translates to “beer for keeping.” You will find that this style will range in color: blonde, amber and brown. Also note that the darker the beer the more malt will be present in the flavor. Regardless of color this beer should always finish dry. Some versions will have some must or cellar notes which the BJCP says is a flaw (oxidation) but some have come to appreciate that aspect. ABV 6-8.5%
Ch’Ti (brown and blond), Jenlain (amber and blond), La Choulette (all 3 versions), St. Amand (brown), Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts (blond), Russian River Perdition
Oro De Calabaza, Jolly Pumpkin
A hugely complex beer with some tartness and mild funk. JP’s beers are always well balanced and this is no exception. The spicy and peppery notes are not overpowered by the must from the wild yeast. This may blur the lines of Bière de Garde but hey, I’m putting it here anyway. It’s good!
Domaine DuPage, Two Brothers
I could try and lie but my experience with Bière de Garde is limited. I recently had a fresh bottle of this beer and it was very smooth and easy to drink. I would compare it to a pared-down version of an Oktoberfest for the uninitiated.
Category 25. STRONG BELGIAN ALE
This category contains the pale, well attenuated, balanced to bitter beers, often more driven by yeast character than malt flavors, with generally higher alcohol (although a range exists within styles).
25A. BELGIAN BLONDE ALE
A golden ale that has subtle fruit and spice notes driven by the Belgian yeast. Like many Belgian beers it’s named for its color which can range from light to deep gold. Some versions will have more spice (phenols) than others but all will have fruit notes (esters). Belgian Blond beers appeal to a lot of European lager drinkers. They are similar in look and even in ingredients but the difference is in the yeast and fermentation profile. ABV – 6-7.5%
Affligem Blond, Grimbergen Blond, La Trappe Blond, Leffe Blond, Val-Dieu Blond
Devotion Ale, Lost Abbey
One of the best American brewers of Belgian styles, the Lost Abbey hit the mark with this Belgian blond ale. Nice spice and citrus notes standout over the bready malt. A crisp and clean Belgian style done to perfection.
Fiddlesticks, Buckledown Brewing
I am stretching the style a lot on this one since technically this is a Belgian IPA but I feel like it fits a lot of the tasting notes. I would probably just choose a Belgian version of an IPA more times than not. Buckledown is a small local brewery that is doing a lot of interesting things with Belgian style beers.
A refreshing, fairly bitter and extremely dry Belgian ale. Saisons are sometimes referred to as Farmhouse ales. This harkens to its original roots as a thirst-quenching beverage made for seasonal workers who were called Saisonniers. Farmhouse ales are fruity and spicy getting most of their flavor from the yeast. Some versions will often have a mixed fermentation sometimes using brettanomyces or Lactobacillus. Beers in this style will often be pale in color but can easily range to deep brown or even black (range on BJCP guidelines is 5-22SRM!). ABV 3.5-9.5%
Ellezelloise Saison, Fantôme Saison, Lefebvre Saison 1900, Saison Dupont Vieille Provision, Saison de Pipaix, Saison Regal, Saison Voisin, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
Sorachi Ace, Brooklyn Brewery
In the mid 2000’s Americans began to brew Saisons and this was one of the first. Why it’s not on the commercial examples is beyond me! Sorachi Ace is named after the Japanese hop used in the beer. The lemon-forward hop enhances the yeast profile wonderfully and the end result is a refreshingly dry and complex saison.
Sofie, Goose Island
Widely distributed but Goose Island knocks it out of the park with this beer. This wine-barrel aged saison mixes the dry finish of a saison with just a slight amount of funkiness.
25C. BELGIAN GOLDEN STRONG ALE
Belgium’s answer to the Czech pilsner. When the pilsner was imported it was an immediate hit and Belgian brewers began to brew this style to attract those pilsner loving customers. The first to brew this style was the Moortgat Brewery with their famous Duvel (previously named Victory Ale). Although its generally referred to as a strong pale or strong blond, this style actually got its current title from the famous beer writer Michael Jackson who was the first to call the style a Belgian Golden Strong. It shares many characteristics of the Belgian Tripel but with more subtle flavors. The beer is a pale, highly carbonated, hoppy and complex Belgian style with light fruit notes of pear and apple. Golden strong ales are always high in alcohol but drink very easy which is where the Devil (that’s have Duvel means!) connotations come from; these beers are a real devil and can often sneak up on you.
Judas, Lucifer, Piraat, Russian River Damnation: Brigand, Delirium Tremens, Dulle Teve, Duvel,
La Chouffe, Brasserie D’Achouffe
Another beer I would’ve assumed to be on the list of commercial examples. This one’s a no-brainer. La Chouffe is the quintessential Belgian beer and one of my all-time favorites!
Providential Golden Ale. Trader Joe’s
I can’t believe you are still reading this after seeing I named a grocery store beer as my example but hear me out. These “vintage” beers are brewed by Unibroue in Canada and they are the best value for a bomber you will find. I stock up on these in the winter and drink one of these every couple of months until they run out.