When other travelers ask me about Belgium, I emphasize that Belgium is a diverse nation with many regional differences in food, dialects, and attitudes.
Or, I talk about beer.
I realize that this goes against my travel mantra of not promoting stereotypes but really, the beer here is so fabulous that I absolutely have to write about it.
When I first arrived in Belgium a year ago, I barely explored the culture of beer here. Mostly because the information available in Belgium is incredibly vast. Personally, I think the best way to really gain knowledge on this topic is to try different beers for yourself and develop your personal taste.
It’s good for any traveler to have some knowledge of the local food and drink anywhere they visit. It’s a sure fire of gaining insight into the culture and connect with the locals, who will appreciate that you have taken an interest in their native dishes, which they make with pride.
What better way to connect with new friends than over an authentic dinner where wine and beer flows plentifully into every glass and mug?
Belgium is full of beer brewers, experts, enthusiasts, and partakers. In this region of Europe, beer brewing can be dated back as far as two millennia and it’s trickled its way into almost every aspect of Belgian society — making this a beer lover’s paradise. And given Belgium’s long history of beer brewing, the region offers many specialty beers which can only be found here.
The general rule for food and beer pairing is to keep sweet with sweet and tart with tart. Of course, there is a lot of playing around you can do by trying a contrast, but those guidelines are a good way to help you get started.
Here are three types of beers you’ll find in Belgium (along with just about anywhere else in the world) and some quick n’ easy ways to pair them with your meal for a delicious combination.
1. Blonde beers
Blonde brews compliment dishes with a lot of spice and heat. Think Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and spicy BBQ — anything where you can imagine scrambling for a cold drink after a few bites. You’re going to want a light, refreshing beverage with some carbonation to soothe those taste buds. Blonde beers also compliment cheeses that are nutty, tangy, sharp, or pungent like Gorgonzola or Feta.
2. Amber Ales
Amber Ales go hand in hand with pork, poultry, and salads. They’re a great pairing with a weekend lunch of something like hamburgers, sausages, sandwiches, and soup or stew. Pizza and Mexican cuisine are also a safe bet here. The best cheese to pair and Amber Ales with would have peppery or sharp flavors like a Pepper Jack or a nice, sharp Cheddar.
3. Dark beers
Dark beers are a great pairing for beef, smoked meat, and smoky BBQ dishes. You can also try one paired with a fruit and chocolate dessert or a dark chocolate cake smothered in raspberries and you’ll discover a match made in heaven. As for cheeses, these darker brews bring out the earthy and buttery flavors in cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Gouda, Havarti, and Swiss.
If you’re in Belgium and looking for some expert level guidance into the world of Belgium beers, these famous establishments can’t be missed!
- Delirium Café in Brussels
- Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant in Gent
- Comptoir des Arts in Brugge
- Kulminator in Antwerp
- De Fiere Margriet in Leuven
And, as always, please drink safely and responsibly!