Belgium is well known as the birthplace of Jean-Claude Van Damme, the nation where french fries were perfected, and the setting for the (once-under-now-properly-rated) dark comedy, In Bruges. It’s also home to some of the best beer in the world. Brands like Rodenbach, Westmalle, St. Bernardus, and La Chouffe are all famous worldwide, thanks to their quality and taste.
Belgian beer is so popular, in fact, that it’s spawned Belgian-style beer from breweries well beyond its borders. Especially here in the United States.
To help you pick a few Belgian and Belgian-inspired beers to try this month, we reached out to a handful of our favorite bartenders. They served up a mix of American craft choices as well as classic Belgian brews. Check their picks out below!
Frambois Raspberry Lambic
Demetrëa Dewald, lead bartender at Bar Mateo at Zinc Cafe in Los Angeles
Brouwerij Lindemans Raspberry Lambic is a classically perfect Belgium beer. The bottle looks like a classic holiday but the taste is what makes this fruity gem stand out. Bright raspberry flavors without being too sweet, with a tangy afternote, and sparkling fizzy texture make every sip a party in your mouth.
It’s also a great introductory Lambic-style beer for those wanting to expand their palates.
St. Bernardus Abt 12
Sarah Kemp, beertender at Living The Dream Brewing in Littleton, Colorado
St. Bernardus Abt 12 from, you guessed it, St. Bernardus, is truly craft beer at its finest. This dark quadruple is the essence of Belgium and a work of art — utilizing their own strain of yeast since 1946. With an ABV of 10%, this delicious Belgian brew is sure to keep you warm all winter long.
Wynwood Father Francisco
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Wynwood Brewery — Father Francisco. Never has there been a more crushable (nearly) 10% beer that you can even drink in the heat. Hints of banana and clove at the end, but oh so good across the palate.
Goose Island Matilda
Alex Tack, bartender at Rex 1516 in Philadelphia
My favorite American interpretation of the Belgian style is probably Goose Island’s Matilda. Its beauty lies in its balance. It’s a nice combination of dry and malty, and its baking spice notes aren’t cloying or artificial tasting. Instead, they sort of meld into the yeasty aspects, in the same way, a lot of authentic Belgian ales do.
This beer also clocks in at a perfect 7% abv, so it packs a kick without making it a reckless hazard to enjoy more than one or two.
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
Delirium’s Noel, which only releases from late December-early January, is my favorite dark Belgian this season. Perfect for the holidays with a profile of fruitcake, currant, and vanilla. Full-bodied, but drinks incredibly light. If not for the 10% ABV, several could be had…and still may be.
Justin Moses, wine director at Sand Valley in Nekoosa, Wisconsin
It’s a bit hard to find, but I can’t recommend the seasonal specialty, Jubelale, from Deschutes Brewery enough. Fig, chocolate, toffee, and mulling spices will warm you up during the holiday season and straight through winter (as will the 6.7% ABV).
Rochefort 10 Trappist Ale
Cari Hah, formerly bar manager at Alcove Café in Los Angeles
My pick is Rochefort 10 Trappist Ale. For winter I always want a strong dark beer to sip out of a goblet. This beer is complex and full force with notes of plum, raisin and malt. Very robust in flavor and aroma.
Duchesse de Bourgogne
Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California
Depending on what you’re looking for exactly, the Duchesse de Bourgogne definitely fits the bill. It’s a sour ale, so it’s got that tart, delicious, almost sour cherry quality, but it’s complex and delicious. Great for drinking around the fire or before dinner.
Unibroue La Fin du Monde
Brandon “Habi” Habenstein, bartender at The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Co. in Bardstown, Kentucky
Ah, winter. The time for high gravity beers. The Belgian tripel, a paragon in the beer world. There is no more fitting tripel to drink this year than La Fin du Monde (the end of the world) from Unibroue. It’s the Belgian yeast that makes the style so significant, making it seem like it’s been infused with loads of spices when in actuality it’s classic micro-biological-magic.
Let this 9% classic ease your mind and remember: you’re not the first person to surmise the end of the world and you won’t be the last.
pFriem Flanders Red
Fans of Rodenbach or just sour ales, in general, will love this 7% Flanders red ale. It’s tart, tangy, and filled with hints of sour cherries, rich oak, and subtle, grapey, wine-like flavors perfect for a cold winter’s night.
One of the most popular Belgian beers in the world, La Chouffe might be adorned with a whimsical gnome-looking character. But the beer inside is far from a gimmick. It’s 8% ABV and filled with fresh fruit, sweet honey, mild citrus, and subtle hop flavors.