The Beers of Bruges

Belgian Beers

Last week, we took a closer look at excursion options and opportunities in Belgium, looking at the cities of Bruges and Antwerp. Belgium has much to offer to the discerning traveller, from a stunning array of architecture to delectable food such as waffles, chocolate and chips.

No mention of Belgium’s food and drink seen can be made without drawing reference to the nation’s vast collection of beers. One of the excursion opportunities available enables you to explore the city of Bruges by embarking on a beer tasting tour. So without further ado, this week Pullmantur takes a closer look at the beers you might be able to enjoy whilst in Bruges whilst on a cruise around Northern Europe.

Background

Today, across Belgium, you will find establishments that can offer hundreds of beer options – each offering different colours, different tastes and different aromas. One of the earliest mentions of Belgian beer dates back to the days of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire, over 2,000 years ago. He claimed that the Belgians were among the bravest under the Gauls. At the time, beer was a popular beverage, but was surprised to discover that the Gauls he defeated in Belgium were drinking a far more potent version.

The popularity of beer continued to rise and in the 15th century, the fortified city walls of Bruges contained 54 breweries. Sadly, after the World War 1, the rise in popularity of Pilsner beer and the investment required in production meant that many of the city’s breweries were forced to close. Two large scale breweries remain in operation today; these are De Halve Maan (which has been brewing since 1856) and Fort Lapin.

Trappist Beers

Trappist beers are specifically produced in Trappist monasteries where the monks play an active role in the production. The profits are used to either support the monastery or social programmes outside. There are only 11 breweries in the world that meet this specification, six of which can be found in Belgium. Be sure to keep an eye open for Trappist beers: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.

Types of Beer

Witbier

Witbier

Dubbel is one of the most common types of Belgian beer and is often used by Trappist and Abbey breweries. It has a characteristic brown colour, flavours and production processes can vary from beer to beer.

Tripel beer is made using a large amount of uncaramelised beet sugar, which lightens the ale and gives it a glowing golden hue. It’s slightly stronger than a dubbel at around 7-10% and is filled with fruity flavours such as apple, pear, citrus and banana.

Belgian strong pale ale is a relatively recent creation, having emerged in the 1970’s. It is similar to tripel beer, but is often lighter in colour, drier and slightly bitter in taste, and highly carbonated.

Belgian pale ale is not to be confused with its stronger counterpart, despite being quite similar. They have a copper colour with a toasty maltness and a fruity, peppery flavour.

Witbier (translated: “white beer”) can be traced back to the Middle Ages, although it nearly died out in the 20th century following the rise in popularity of pilsner and pale lagers. Fortunately it was revived in the form of Hoegaarden and has become popular around the world. It is brewed with unmalted wheat, coriander and orange peel to give it a citrus and spicy flavour.

Lambic Ale

Lambic Ale

Lambic ales are generally quite rare, but not impossible to find. Unfortunately, the production process is quite complex and it is generally only brewed within the Brussels area. Rather than controlled methods of brewing, the beer is fermented using the wild yeast and bacteria that floats around in the air. This gives it a natural sour taste and there are also many other types of lambic ale including: unblended lambic, gueuze and fruited lambics.

Flanders red and brown ales are also quite sour in taste, but are indigenous to the north of Belgium (Flanders region). These beers are inspired by tart blended porters that dominated the English beer market. Flanders red beers are packed with berry, plum and balsamic vinegar flavours that leave a sour taste. The brown counterpart is made up of plums, figs, dates and red berries that create a toned-down sourness.



Whether you want to spend your time in Belgium exploring and tasting the various beers or exploring the historic architecture – you can do it all with a Pullmantur cruise.

Pullmantur operate cruises all around the world to popular destinations such as Northern Europe and the Caribbean; as well as cruises to destinations of natural beauty including Iceland and the Norwegian fjords.

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