Belgians produce some of the most revered beers in the world and have for centuries. Trappist monks and abbey breweries cloak their methods in a hushed blanket of tradition and whispers, but that’s not the only way to brew witbiers, Belgian pale ales and quads. When U.S. brewers take up these styles, they tend to do so with their own American penchant for less customary ingredients, and of course, big hops. These six beers are among the best of the domestic wave of Belgian-inspired brews:
The Collective Brewing Project American Sour Red: OK, it’s definitely 2016 when a damn good Flanders red comes out of Fort Worth, Texas. This cabernet barrel-aged interpretation pours a light ruby color, and emits all the vinous notes the style demands. There’s bright raspberry jamminess on the nose, flanked by wet red wine barrel earthiness; the sip is a whiplash of juicy red wine grapes and raspberry before the barrel’s dryness and some winelike tannins lasso in the fruit.
The Bronx Brewery Belgian Style Pale Ale: Citizens of Bruges might argue with classifying this hop-forward beer as a true Belgian pale, but that’s just fine by our American palates. Belgian yeast contributes a touch of green pear and bubblegum sweetness, but tangerine hop flavor (supported by grainy Cheeriolike malts) is the star here. Fine bubbles and gentle hop bitterness slide the sip toward an easy conclusion; we’d stock this in our fridge on the regular.
Rogness Thorhildur Belgian-style Quadrupel: Quads are the most complex of all Belgian ales, weaving dark fruit and a spectrum of malt sweetness with muscular alcohol strength. Pflugerville, Texas-based Rogness Brewing Co. does the style justice with this oak-aged, 10.3% sipper. The nose is a dead ringer for fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip banana bread, full of toasty browning bread crust and spice. The smooth sip introduces golden raisin and cinnamon alongside the chocolate before some darker, sweet-tart fruits like cherry and plum surface. It’s a tasty brew now, but aging this could tease out even more malt depth.
Saint Archer White Ale: It makes good sense that a brewery from sunny San Diego produces this easy-drinking, begging-for-warm-weather witbier. (We have a cooler, ISO beach!) The right level of coriander spice that characterizes a witbier sometimes trips breweries up, but this version opens with perceptible coriander that doesn’t override the beer’s cereal wheat and bright, citric orange flavor. Lively carbonation and a subtly bitter finish wash flavor from the tongue, inviting another drink.
Highland Park Brewery Neighborhood Barrel-Fermented Witbier: Throw ‘barrel-fermented’ in a beer’s name and it sounds complicated, but this 5.3%, L.A.-brewed witbier is quite straightforward. There’s limelike tartness on the nose, just rounded out by fresh oak notes. On the tongue, it’s more of the same: A brightly carbonated rush of lemon peel leads the sip, with just a bit of tart wheat underneath it. If you’re a Berliner weisse fan, you’ll likely enjoy this.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Straffe Drieling spiced tripel: Those in the know seek out this Hood River, Oregon brewery’s Belgian farmhouse brews; Straffe Drieling is a delicate, harmonious interpretation of a Belgian tripel with added chamomile and coriander. The base tripel is beautiful, offering lemon and peppercorn notes with some green melon in the center of the sip. The chamomile reads as tealike and botanical and adds another complimentary facet to the rustic sip, which finishes dry and elegant.