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Jul 5, 2014 09:31 AM

Novice traveling to Belgium, want to learn ahead of trip

I'm NOT a regular beer drinker, depends on my mood, food, etc.

I don't know the difference between hoppy and malty (if there is a difference) or a pale ale vs an IPA or any of that, though I'd like to learn.

What I do tend to like are darker, richer maybe towards sweeter beers; Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is a favorite, I like a vanilla or oatmeal or chocolate stout or porter. Not a big fan of super carbonated or grassy types.

In an effort to start my education I purchased a Duvel and a Caroulet (??i think) Tripel. Didn't care for the basic Duvel, just tasted thin to me. The Tripel was better, though it still tasted very fresh maybe? I apologize for the limited vocabulary.

Can you guys recommend a few names for me to start tasting? I'm in Chicago and would happily (actually love to) find someplace to do flights and get some breadth rather than buying the big bottles only to discover I don't like them. Non-judgmental pourers would help.


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  1. Look for a dubbel, which will be darker and a bit less dry than a tripel. Maybe you would like Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Keizer (also known as Grand Cru of the Emperor), which is another dark one. Or Rochefort 10.

    1. Congrats on expanding your horizons. Go to a proper beer store and ask for dubbels and quadruples. Unfortunately I don't know Chicago well enough to recommend one. Try searching on beer advocate for shops.

      Dubbels and quadruples run darker and sweeter which you seem to prefer. Triples are or should be dryer and are my preferred style. If you look into it start with the Trappist big 6 breweries and buy their dubbels. That's a good introduction.


      1. I agree about dubbels and quadruples and would also recommend Belgian Strong Dark Ales as well. I recommend that you go to and click on the "Beer Styles" tab on the home page and then review the Belgian/French styles on the left hand column of the next page that loads. Click on Dubbel, Quadruple or Belgian Strong Dark Ale and you will get a list of the most popular examples of those styles. That should give you a good starting place to find other beers you may like.

        1. For some Tripels other than the Gouden Carolus (which is one of my Favorites) try:
          Jambe De Bois from Brasserie de la Senne in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Belgium

          Achel Extra Blond from St. Benedictusabdij Brewery in Achel BE

          Straffe Hendrik from De Halve Maan Brewery in Brugge BE

          Maredsous 10 from Duvel Moortgat in Breendonk-Puurs BE

          La Trappe Tripel from Koningshoeven in Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands

          La Fin du Monde from Unibroue in Chambly, Canada

          10 Replies
          1. re: chefj

            Thank you all so much, especially for the advocate suggestion!

            1. re: SueFH

              Which part of Belgium are you visiting? Belgium is not the US and buying local beers may not be the best way of preparing for your trip. Quadruple, for example, is an American beer and not recognized in Belgium.

              If you tell me which areas you plan to be, perhaps I can give you some recommendations.

              1. re: ThomasvanDale

                What do you mean by Quads aren't recognize in Belgian? They are brewed and sold there correct?

                1. re: Chinon00

                  Quads brewed in Belgium? Here's a list of beer types available in Belgium/Netherlands from Wikipedia (the Dutch one):

                  You might also consider reading this from an American blogger:

                  1. re: ThomasvanDale

                    Well here's an example of a beer brewed in Belgium called a quad by the brewer:

                    So again what you mean by "not recognized in Belgium" I'm not clear on. Not recognized by whom?

                  1. re: ThomasvanDale

                    Hi! We will be in Brussels Saturday afternoon/evening, Bruges on Sunday, and then to Leuven on Monday where our daughter works and lives (until January). Leave for Italy early Tuesday morning.

                    1. re: SueFH

                      I have one more question, and then we can proceed to some suggestions. The question is this: are you doing beer "research" or are you simply hoping to experience some Belgian beers as long as you are in the area?

                    2. re: ThomasvanDale

                      Hi! Thanks for asking. We will be in Brussels Saturday afternoon/evening, Bruges on Sunday, and then to Leuven on Monday where our daughter works and lives (until January). Leave for Italy early Tuesday morning.

                    3. re: SueFH

                      I do not understand what you mean by "the advocate suggestion"?

                  2. I realize the level of disdain that I'm directing be dumped on my head, but here goes:

                    in Belgium, I go into a bar and order a small beer (usually 25cl, about 8 oz) of whatever is on tap. If there's no language barrier, I ask what the bartender recommends. If I like it I might have another, if not, I'll try something different.

                    Hasn't failed me yet, and allows me to keep my choices to what's local (may not even be available in bottles, let alone be exported to the US!), fresh, and popular wherever I am.

                    20 Replies
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      You won't get any disdain from me. It seems like a perfectly reasonable way to discover new things.

                      1. re: ThomasvanDale

                        thanks -- it's certainly not very academic, but it's worked well for me.

                        1. re: ThomasvanDale

                          I agree with TvD. In fact, I'm not sure why you think anybody would disdain you for that methodology, sunshine842.

                          1. re: RB Hound

                            because it's not very scientific, and it pays no attention whatsoever to brewing style or the origin of the hops or the alcohol content..

                            It's a riff on "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like"

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Sorry, but I think your analogy is quite wrong.

                              If you taste food, for example, a pie, do you think "how could I make that?" or "this tastes really nice." If you are a baker, then you might try to analyse the pie for the purpose of reproducing it. If you are eating the pie only for enjoyment, then knowing how to make it is not relevant.

                              The same with beer. Does it taste good? Do you like it? Those are the only questions you need to answer unless you are a professional brewer and plan to copy or modify the beer.

                              Drink beer for enjoyment, not for science.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Sure drink what you like but if you want that taste or flavor duplicated in the future you might wanna develop a vocabulary that allows you to adequately describe what you like to a knowledgable bartender.

                                1. re: Chinon00

                                  This is precisely why I prefer traveling through Bavaria tasting beers. There are no pubs there with 100 taps or hundreds of bottles. Most pubs have between one and three beers on. There might be one dark beer, one light beer and a seasonal. If you find something you like, order another one. No one says it has to be complicated.

                                  1. re: ThomasvanDale

                                    But if you know what you like and can describe it then you are good to go anywhere (assuming they have what you are describing). It could be as simple as knowing the style name or just the name of the beer.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      My experience in the US is much different. When I go into a pub and ask for a beer that's well-balanced or not drowning in C-hops, most of the time I end up being served something bland. Which is most certainly not what I was looking for.

                                      I also don't quite understand why, if you like a beer, you can't just order another bottle of it.

                                      1. re: ThomasvanDale

                                        No one is saying that. But if you happened to enjoy Doppelbock while in Germany, what's wrong w/ knowing that and ordering one in the US?

                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                          How is that "develop a vocabulary that allows you to adequately describe what you like to a knowledgable bartender."?

                                          It seems to me you've moved quite a distance from your original statement. But, more to the point, I'd probably ask for a German one since I'd have no idea what an American one might taste like.

                                          1. re: ThomasvanDale

                                            If it gets you what you like in a sea of alternatives it's supremely adequate in my estimation. You don't have to sound like a brewer.

                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              Fortunately, where I drink beer there is no "sea of alternatives." It makes the choice much easier. I really don't understand why choosing a beer has to be so complicated.

                                              1. re: ThomasvanDale

                                                "A Doppelbock please." How can it get any simpler?

                                  2. re: Chinon00

                                    but I want to try what fresh and popular locally. There really aren't any styles at which I'll turn up my nose, so limiting myself is contrary to my goal.

                                    (aaaaand.....cue the disdain)

                                    In the US, yeah -- I'll ask for things that are a particular style, because if I drink what's fresh and local, the chances ending up with Budfuckingweiser is still pretty good.

                                    I didn't drink beer in college because I thought I didn't like beer. When I graduated and had enough money to try REAL beer, taaadaaaa....oh THAT's what that's supposed to taste like!

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      I don't know where you live but there are bars which do specialize in local craft beer. One in Philly (the legendary "Standard Tap") only serves beers which are brewed 70 miles away or closer. A good selection of local craft beer is on menus of most beer bars in Philly (where I'm from). These kinda places sound right up your alley.

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        oh there are something like 25 craft breweries in the Tampa area -- and the ones I've tried are awesome....but I don't always find myself in/near any of them.

                                        But even at those, I tend to ask the barkeep (who is frequently the brewer or his wife) what he's most proud of today....and I drink that.

                                        I'm very rarely disappointed.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          As long go to breweries/brewpubs and you know where to stay away from in regard to getting served a Budfuckingweiser you're in good shape;]

                            2. re: sunshine842

                              Don't know if things have changed in the past ten yrs since visiting Belgium, but the beer centric bars that I went to usually only offered a handful of beer on tap - usually lagers and golden ales - which was only a fraction of the styles and brands offered in the bottle.

                              1. re: LStaff

                                I have been a fan of Belgian ales for over 25 years, and have always enjoyed the really good ones from the bottle. I believe that the appearance of famous Belgian ales on draft (notably Chimay White) has been driven by the U.S. market demands for draft product, and not by anything inherent in Belgian beer culture.