No country has a more diverse beer culture than Belgium. They brew everything from light and lively witbiers to big and bold tripels, along with everything in between. This week's lineup certainly illustrates that diversity--three unique offerings that have only country of origin and their outstanding quality in common. Here are a strong pale ale, a hopped-up golden and a blond ale all worthy of your attention.
You'll be tempted to pour this one delicately to avoid the thick sea-foam head. But you'll want that head, otherwise this heavily carbonated brew will overwhelm your palate with fizz. It takes a while for that first sip, but oh, what a lovely sip. An exceptionally rich array of bright fruit flavors leads off with mango, tangerine and apricot, backed by spicy almond and sweet pastry. This is one of the best beers I've tasted lately, but at 10 percent alcohol, caution is advised.
De Ranke XX Bitter
This beer is touted as the "hoppiest beer of Belgium," and even without having tasted them all, I'd still say they have a strong case. Labeled as a golden ale, Belgian IPA would seem more accurate. There's a mouthful of resiny hops in each sip, blanketing the sweet malt and fruity phenolics that lurk in the background. For all that bitterness, the bite is not overly aggressive, and lively carbonation helps keep things in line. Hop-heads rejoice.
Van Eecke Kapittel Blond Ale
Smooth and refreshing best describe this abbey ale. Sweet malt and light grain dominate the palate with lively lemon and orange adding balance along with a nice backbone of chewy, balancing hops. There's definitely a steely touch of mineral on the nose and in the mouth, which I found intriguing and enjoyable. Notes of green tea and spice come through on the finish in the sessionable offering.