Today we’re continuing the post series on the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam. So far we’ve covered a lot, but there’s still a lot to go. In the last post we started talking about basic beer styles by introducing German/Czech beers. In that post I said this would be a 2 part series. I kind of fibbed there, sorry about that. There are 4 key sections to this, and I really think it’s best to cover each one in a post. There is so much to know here, I don’t want to rush anything.
Well, enough with the review and introduction, let’s get down to business with one of my favorite styles: Belgian.
Belgian beer has a long history that started before the first crusades. In fact, Belgian beer started before there even was a Belgium! Like most things of this time period, Belgian beers started with the church. Abbeys brewed and sold beer as a way to raise funds. Flemish and French abbeys were given permission by the Catholic church to sell their beer, which they did very well. Many of the artisanal methods we use today came from these monks. In this post, we will look at the monastic over-reaching styles. These two major styles hold many unique styles of beer, but they do have some special needs that must be met to fall into the categories. Let’s take a look at Trappist and Abbey Belgian beers.
Trappist beers are a unique Belgian beer mainly because they can only be brewed in Trappist monasteries. Along with this, the monks must play a role in the brewing and the profits from the sale of the beer need to be used to support the monastery or programs tied to it. In the whole world, there are only seven monasteries that meet these guidelines. Six of them are in Belgium with the remaining one in the Netherlands. While this is a style of Belgian beer, there can be many unique styles made in Trappist monasteries, making it more of a designation and less a style. Here is a list of the current Trappist breweries in Belgium:
Abbey ales are similar to Trappist beers, but have less strict rules on where and how they are produced. These are Belgian styled beers that may or may not be produced in a monastery. There are some more detailed specifications, like “Certified Belgian Abbey Beer” set forth to signify a beer that is brewed under license to an existing or abandoned abbey, but the general term can be molded to fit many beers. Abbey beers still tend to fit traditional Trappist styles, but can diverge as needed.
When talking about abbey and Trappist beers, there are multiple styles included in these general guidelines. Here is a brief overview:
- Amber Ales
- Blonde or Golden ale
- Brown Ale
- Champagne beer
- Flemish Red
- Belgian IPA
- Lambic beers
- Strong Ale
- Table Beer
- White (Wheat)
As you can see, there are quite a few styles that can be called Abbey or Trappist. I think this is a good place to stop in the description of Belgian beers. The next part of this post will be all about the key styles from the list above. Next time, we will look at Ambers, Dubbels, Tripels, lambics, Saisons, and strong ales.
Until next time,