Ok, enough hokey introductions…
Maybe you’ve seen that the craft beer market has been big lately on collaboration beers between two different breweries. Well the Belgian IPA is sort of like the collaboration of two different beer styles. Although “Belgian” is not a style at all, is it. Read on…
So what is a Belgian IPA? Think of it as the Belgian brewers’ embracement of the popular IPA … or the American brewers’ attempt to incorporate Belgian qualities into a style made popular in the United States. Either way, we think you’re getting the best of both worlds with this style.
Here is the Gateway Beers profile of the typical characteristics you can expect to find in a Belgian IPA, on a 1-5 bar scale:
As you can see, this puppy is FULL of flavor, with plenty of hoppy bite, and a rich – yet effervescent – mouthfeel. Aromas should come across as floral and hoppy, and flavors should replicate with some additional bready and Belgian yeasty quality – sometimes with spice, tropical citrus, and even creamy banana qualities. For most top-notch beers in this category, it should resemble mixing a good American IPA with a Belgian Tripel.
Usually weighing in between 7 and 10% ABV, the Belgian IPA is not something to be slammed during a tailgate, or fired through a funnel at your next frat party. This is high quality, carefully-crafted ale which should be enjoyed at a medium temperature (think 40-55°) and served in proper glassware, such as a tulip or widemouth wine glass.
For starters, sharp cheeses like aged cheddar will pair well, as will pungent and even tangy cheeses – after all, a strong, flavorful beer deserves a strong cheese. For an entree, go with a spicy rare beef dish, like a peppercorn crusted filet, or one served with a horseradish based sauce. Asian dishes with a nice heat, including those containing wasabi will pair nicely, as would a “1-2 pepper” Thai dish. For dessert, consider a crème brûlée, as the banana qualities in most Belgian IPAs will shine through, while the dry effervescence will serve to cut through the thickness.
The Belgian IPA is still a bit of a rare find, so you’ll usually need to hit a nice beer store or craft beer oriented bar to find some. In the Philly area, we’re fortunate enough to have about 25 varieties (relative to over 120 American IPAs) to choose from. Below are our Top 3 varieties to look for – in terms of both quality and availability:
– Van Steenberge Piraat, 10.5% ABV (Ertvelde, Belgium)
– Brasserie d’Achouffe Houblon Chouffe, 9% ABV (Achouffe, Belgium)
– Green Flash Le Freak, 9.2% ABV (Vista, CA)
To see several other top-rated selections, check out our Beer Selector page for Belgian IPAs, and pick up some of these gems at one of the great take-out beer stores and distributors in Southeastern PA. Cheers!