Belgian IPA

Do you enjoy IPAs…  Ya?  How about Belgian beers… Those, too?!?  Well do we have a beer style for you…

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.

Serving Suggestion

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. 

Food Pairings

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!

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Philly Beer Week 2011 Preview

Well, it only took a couple of weeks, but we finally made it through all the events listed on the Philly Beer Week website.  And I must say, it’s daunting.  So we decided to give you our top selections for each day, with no particular bias toward any one establishment or featured brewery. 

Top “3”

We started under the notion that this would just be a simple Top 3 list for each day, but frankly, that’s impossible.  There are simply too many “epic”, “can’t miss”, “are you serious?!?” events to choose just 3, so we added 5 honorable mentions to each day.  Especially since PBW is spread out across so many areas of Southeastern PA, and not everyone has a limo driver.

You can download and print the list as either a 1 page Excel file (recommended – as the electronic version will also have drop-down sorting, and the events’ descriptions embedded as comments) – or as a PDF file

Here’s a visual …

We hope to cross paths with many of you over the next 10 days – so if you see someone wearing a black Gateway Beers shirt, stop over and say Yo…

And follow us on Twitter as we’ll be updating our adventures & whereabouts throughout the week –

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American IPA

How is it possible that we’ve yet to feature a write-up on one of the BEST “gateway beer” styles on the planet?  Shame on us…   So here you go, hop-heads – in partial celebration of the timely release of Hop the movie, we bring you the American IPA… enjoy!


Stemming from the English IPA which originated back in the early 1800’s, the India Pale Ale got its name from a style of beer that was brewed strong and hoppy in order to survive the long voyage for English troops stationed in India… a barren wasteland for beer (still today, if we do say so ourselves).  But fast-forward to today, and the English IPA is actually quite timid, relative to most Americanized versions – which generally come to bear with a fuller, sharper, more pronounced hop aroma and flavors, yet balanced well with a prominent coating of malty sweetness.


Let’s start by clearing this up – the American IPA is NOT the American Intellectual Property Abstract.  While also dry, that thing is also terribly boring… and the American India Pale Ale is anything but… featuring hop varieties that present the aromas & flavors of any/all of the following: citrus, pine, resin, floral, perfume, bubble gum, or tropical fruits.  And when you factor in a sweet, clean malty balance, it’s no wonder this style is such an eye-opening gateway beer for so many.

Here’s the Gateway Beers profile of the typical characteristics you can expect from a typical American IPA, on a 1-5 bar scale:

 For a more thorough description of the style, check in with our friends from the Beer Judge Certification Program, and/or the Brewers Association.

Serving Suggestions

The American IPA is definitely stronger than your average beer, but not so much so that you can’t enjoy a couple full-sized nonic pint glasses full without losing your lunch, dog.  It should be served warmer than your typical light lager to let the inviting aromas and flavors really shine through… i.e. NO FROSTED MUGS.

Food Pairings

The American IPA’s flavor profile plays well with your spicier food pairings such as Cajun, Thai, Mexican, and our favorite – the All-American Buffalo Wing… bring on the hot sauce!  Of course, you can always make a burger or pizza pair up well with the right toppings, too, so get creative people.  Think pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, or any of the above-mentioned styles of food draped on a pizza (Buffalo Chicken pizza, anyone?).



Where do we even start with this one… The American IPA is one of the most frequently brewed styles in the world, and here in PA there are over 100 varieties you can sample.  But let us start you off with some ‘relatively’ easy ones to find which we (and a few thousand others) think are great representations of the style:

Stone IPA, 6.9% ABV  (Escondido, CA)

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, 7% ABV  (Kalamazoo, MI)

Cigar City Jai Alai, 7.5% ABV (Tampa, FL)

There are so many others to choose from, may we suggest starting with the American IPA Beer Selector page on Gateway Beers … we’re pretty sure you’ll find some nice selections to satiate your lust for the hop.  And connect with us on FACEBOOK for daily recommendations over the next week.  Cheers!

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Welcome to Spring, people.  Doesn’t quite feel like it here in the Philly area, so I haven’t packed all my full-flavored, high ABV beers into the cellar just yet.  And with that said, this week, we’re helping March go out like a lion with the Doppelbock style.

The Doppelbock is a great transitional beer to take you from Winter to early Spring.  Sometimes referred to as Fastenbier (“Lenten beer”), and Starkbier (“strong beer”), the doppelbock literally translates to ‘double bock’, in case you couldn’t figure that one out on your own, Skippy.  Originated in Germany (did I need to mention that, too?), it is one of the country’s strongest styles of beer, typically weighing in between 6-9% ABV – with some maxing out on the deadlift at 13%.  

Brief History Lesson

Doppelbocks have a cool history, emanating from its creation by the Paulaner monks in the 1600’s as a type of “liquid bread” to be consumed during the Lenten fasting period.  In fact, here’s a really cool all-doppelbock fast being conducted right now by a gentleman in Iowa – J. Wilson – aka “Brewvana” – a blogger, home brewer, and newspaper editor.  I’d recommend starting at the About page of his Diary of a Part-Time Monk blog, and then reading from Day 1 backwards through today.   

To read more about the Doppelbock’s history, including how Paulaner’s famous Salvator fathered the hundreds of doppelbocks now ending with “-ator” in their name, check out this fantastic history lesson from the German Beer Institute.

What to Expect

The doppelbock will typically have a dark ruby-to-brown complexion, with a creamy head.  The aromas will feature a strong malt presence, with some bready/toasty qualities.  The body should be rich and fairly full, featuring flavors of rich caramel, toasted bread, with dark fruits and/or light chocolate notes in the background.  Some will have a warming alcohol presence, and all should be pretty smooth on the palate overall.

Here is the Gateway Beers profile of the typical characteristics you can expect to find in the Doppelbock style of beer:

For a more in-depth expose on the characteristics of a doppelbock, check out the latest Style summary from the Beer Judge Certification Program.  

Serve It Up

Like most good craft beers, you should never down a doppelbock from a bottle – just ask yourself, “what would the monks have done?”  They would’ve poured it into a proper mug at cellar temperature – THAT’S how you enjoy a doppelbock.


Food Pairings

Stick with foods that have substance… if you pair this beer up with some bland pasta dish or fish, you won’t even taste the subtle nuances the chef may have created for you.  Instead, lean toward roasted or grilled gamey meat like goose & venison, or saltier meats like ham, or a burger with thick-cut smoked bacon.  In the cheese world, swiss can actually compaire/contrast nicely with the creaminess and sweetness of the beer.


Top Recommendations

There are about 45 varieties of doppelbock that you can get here in Southeastern PA – about 30 of which are available year round, and ALL of which are rated in the ‘A’ or ‘B’ categories on  Below are 3 that will be generally available this time of year across our area’s top take-out beer stores and beer distributors:

Ayinger Celebrator, 6.7% ABV (Aying, Germany)

Weihenstephaner Korbinian, 7.4% ABV  (Freising, Germany)

Stoudt’s Smooth Hoperator, 7.2% ABV  (Adamstown, PA)

For additional recommendations this week, connect with us on FACEBOOK for a different recommendation each day, and leave us a Comment below to let us know what you think.

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St. Patty’s Picks

In recent months, we’ve brought you top picks for Christmas, New Years, and even Valentine’s Day… so we couldn’t help ourselves with this one.

So while you’re picking your Sweet 16 next week, go ahead and pick a Final 4 (or more) from this Sweet 17 list for some St. Patty’s Day revelry.  Just don’t drink the latter before doing the former…


Download a printable copy here:  St. Patrick’s Day Top 17 List 

**beers are listed in alphabetical order by brewery name… not by any type of ranking**  

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