1. Trappist beers
You might recognize Westvleteren because its “12” has been consistently rated as the best beer in the world. This one might be a bit tricky to find. Some people get it straight from the monastery (http://sintsixtus.be/) but most specialized beer shops should have it.
A personal favorite of mine is Orval. It is a bit of an odd one out among the Trappists. Only one type is brewed, which is an amber, dry hopped beer of 6,2%. The scent is fruity and hoppy. The taste is lightly sour due to wild Brettanomyces yeast involved in the brewing process. Some bars will serve different ages of Orval because the taste evolves as it ripens in the bottle. Young Orval has a fruity and hoppy aroma, while year-old Orval will start to develop a more complex bitter taste.
For a stronger hit you can try Westmalle tripel (9,5%) with a strong taste and rich aroma, Chimay bleu (9%) with a smooth and malty flavor or Rochefort 10, a full-bodied, complex dark brown beer.
Just in case you are curious about the other Trappist beers there is Gregorius from Austria, Spencer from the US, Tre Fontane from Italy and Zundert and La Trappe from the Netherlands. La Trappe was actually the first Cistercian monastery and started this brewing tradition in 1685, hence the term Trappist beers.
2. Spontaneous fermentation
A second fermentation with a blend of young and aged lambic produces Gueuze. It ferments further in the bottle resulting in strong carbonation. This gives the beer a crisp sparkly taste and is the reason why it is often called the Champagne of beers. Other complex flavours and aromas derive from the wild yeast and aging process. Fruits like sour cherries or raspberries are macerated in the lambic to produce Kriek and Framboise respectively.
Some well-known Gueuze makers are Cantillon, Oud-Beersel, Girardin, Boon, Lindemans (try the cuvée René), Timmermans, Hanssens and 3 Fonteinen.
Most bars in Belgium should have one or more beers of spontaneous fermentation but to have the real experience, a visit to the Pajottenland region is advised. A personal recommendation is a little bar in the Gueuze heartland called In de verzekering tegen de grote dorst. This bar also hosts a biannual international festival of spontaneous fermentation attracting many foreign beer enthousiasts. One town over you can also visit De Cam, a nice bar and small-scale Gueuze-blender where you can taste the local cuisine and drink the locally produced Gueuze, Lambic, Kriek or Framboise.
3. Flemish red
4. Old brown
6. Speciale Belge
7. Belgian white
8. Abbey beers
Guest post by Robrecht.