Belgian Beer Primer

Belgian Beer Primer(cont.)


Bottles, Not Kegs

“Belgian beer is really about the bottles, not the draft beer,” says Chuck Stilphen, co-owner of the Trappist, a Belgian beer bar in Oakland, California. Nearly all Belgian craft beer is bottle-conditioned. Consequently, in the United States you’ll find most Belgian beers offered in
At the Trappist in Oakland, California, they stock about
150 different bottles.
bottles. “Belgians on draft tend to be flatter and more one-dimensional,” says the Spuyten Duyvil’s Joe Carroll. When sharing a big bottle, some beer-lovers fight over who gets that last, sludgy shot: The yeast contains lots of vitamin B, which is good for hangovers.

Fancy Glasses

Belgian breweries distribute specific glasses to go with their beers. These range from ridiculous vessels (like Kwak’s science-fair-esque glass that looks like a bulbous test tube held up by a wooden stand) to dramatic stemmed chalices, and can be a fun part of receiving your drink. Some people say these are just marketing tools. Others, like Chris Lively, the proprietor of Ebenezers Pub in Maine, insist that the glassware is “how the brewery wants the beer to look—to present it, show off its smell, the head of the beer, how the bubbles will come up. … It almost starts to make it an extra art.” Regardless, it’s generally agreed that the standard straight-sided pint glass found in most bars is never an ideal glass from which to drink Belgian beer. Rather, Carroll suggests a straight-sided tumbler for witbiers, gueuzes, and pale ales; or a large wineglass for the more full-bodied or aromatic styles like the Trappists.

The Trappist has a limited number of taps that change regularly.


Check specialty beer and wine stores in your area to find Belgians, or enjoy them in public at the following U.S. bars and restaurants:

  • La Trappe
  • Lucky Baldwins Delirium Café
  • The Monk’s Kettle
  • Toronado
  • The Trappist
  • Map Room
  • Ebenezers Pub
  • Publick House
  • Sunset Grill & Tap
  • Cadieux Café
  • Blind Tiger
  • Café d’Alsace
  • Hop Devil Grill
  • Markt
  • Spuyten Duyvil
  • Vol de Nuit
  • Green Dragon
  • Monk’s Café

Roxanne Webber is an associate editor at CHOW.

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