In addition to some wonderful history, the country of Belgium is "The Beer country". Bordering France, Luxembourg, Germany and The Netherlands, Belgium is in the heart of Europe. This technologically advanced member of NATO and the EU is truly a beer-lovers haven.
So much so, in fact, that the Belgian Brewer's Guild boasts that a beer lover could easily enjoy a different beer every day and not have to duplicate his selection for over a year. How's that for choices, beer lovers?
In a practice that dates back a long time, some of Belgium's more famous breweries are actually brewed in monasteries. These are called trappiste breweries and are brewed by members of the monastic order. There are five well known trappiste breweries: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westveltren.
They all produce multiple types of beers with the exception of Orval. They believe that producing a single beer allows them to concentrate on one product and not lose focus by concentrating on multiple beers.
Most breweries produce a "dubble" or "tripple" variety, referring to the strength of the beer which is the result of the fermentation activity. The trappiste beers are bottle conditioned and are often stored in cellars where they can evolve into some wonderful beers with age.
More widely available are the "biere d'abbaye" or "abby beers" that are no longer brewed at the abbeys but have been contracted out to local brewers. The original formula is used by the brewer, but the beers are more plentiful to more modern brewing capabilities.
Recently, Belgian beers and ales have greatly influenced the brewing in America. A few examples of this are typified by Celis Brewery in Austin, Tx., New Belgium of Ft. Collins, Co., North Coast Brewing in Ft. Bragg, Ca., and Unibroue in Quebec.
If you haven't already tried beers from Belgium, you're in for a rare treat. After all, it's not "The Beer Country" for nothing.