Belgium is a country with one of the strongest beer tradition in the world dating back to the 12th century, when local French and Flemish abbeys brewed as a way to raise funds. But it was not until 18th century that trappist tradition arrived in Belgium, as trappist monks had to abandon France due to the French revolution. It's worth noting that trappist is not a style of beer, but a origin and just 12 monasteries in the world can sell trappist beer, 6 of them in Belgium: Rochefort, Orval, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Chimay and Achel. St. Bernardus beer is also based in the Westvleteren recipe, but their license with them expired in the 90's, and they can't longer sell under the trappist name. Both the trappist and non-trappist traditions have given birth to styles as Abbey Dubbel, Abbey Tripel, both pioneered by Westmalle, Quadrupel, Belgian Ale or Belgian Strong Ale.
Another strong brewing tradition in Belgium comes from the Lambic area. This style of brewing is characteristic from the area around Brussels—Pajottenland, in the Senne Valley—and is endemic of that region, as it depends on the wild yeast present on the valley. The beers are spontaneously fermented, and then mixed between old and new blends—the Gueuze Lambic style—or with fruits—like the Fruity Lambics. Famous lambic producers include Boon, Cantillon, Lindemans or 3 Fonteinen.
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Van Steenberge is a familiar brewery from Ertvelde, in Belgium. It was founded in 1784 by Jean Baptiste De Bruin. The brewery takes the name of Paul Van Steenberge, married with Margriret Schelfault, 3rd generation descendant of Jean Baptiste. In 1978, they partnered with the Augustian friars of Ghent in order to produce their traditional blond ale, whose recipe dated back to 1295, called Augustijn, and later in the 80s they expanded their high fermentation lineup with beers like Piraat and Gulden Draak. Nowadays the brewery is still independant and under the management of Paul Van Steenberge, 7th generation brewer.
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Duvel is a brewery founded in 1871 by Jan-Leonard Moortgat in Steenhuffel (Belgium). Its name comes from the Flemish word for devil. Althought it is still owned by Moortgat family, it is now considered a macrobrewery, exporting to more than 40 countries, and owning another Belgian breweries as Brasserie d´Achouffe or De Koninck.
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Browerij Huyghe was funded in 1906 after Leon Hughe purchased an existing brewery in operation since 1654. The brewery started operating under the name Brouwerij-Mouterij den Appel, but after 1938 they changed it to the funder´s name. In 1988 they first brewed their world-wide famous beer Delirium Tremens a blonde Belgian Strong Ale with their trademark pink elephant in the label.
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Brasserie d´Achouffe is a Belgian brewery founded in 1982 by Christian Bauweraerts and Pierre Gobron. Its name comes from the word chouffe, which means gnome in the Walloon dialect. Legend has it that in the time of the Templars, in the forests of Cedrogne, a colony of gnomes produced beer for the whole country until a landslide buried them alive, so the Belgians had to start producing their own beer. But in 1978, the surviving gnome visited the founders, teaching them the recipe for their first beer, the Golden Chouffe.
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Chimay is a trappist brewery founded in 1862 in Baileux (Belgium). They produce three different ales and a patersbier—a beer for their monks. It was the first brewery to use the Trappist seal in their labels. They use their own water from a well within the monastery walls, and the remains from the brewing process are used to feed their own livestock—that produces the famous Chimay blue cheese.
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St. Bernardus is a brewery from Belgium. Originally, the monks were based in Mont des Cats in Godewaersvelde (France), but the anti-clerical policies in France in the late 19th century forced them to move to Watou (Belgium), a few km away from the original. There they opened the Abbey of Notre Dame de St. Bernard, and started producing trappist cheese.
In 1934, as the attitude towards monks in France improved, they came back to their original location, selling their cheese factory. After the WWII, other trappist monastery, St. Sixtus in Westvleteren gave a license to the cheesefactory in order to commercialize their beers. This marked the foundation of brewery St. Bernard, hiring the brewmaster from Westvleteren, Mathieu Szafranski, who brought the recipes and yeast strain from St. Sixtus.
The beers were sold under different names, Trappist Westvleteren, St. Sixtus or Sixtus, until the license came to an end in 1992. But the recipes and know how remained, and since them the beer is sold under the name St. Bernardus.
Other trappist breweries:
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Kasteel is a Belgian family brewery founded in 1865 in Werken by Amandus Vanhonsebrouk. He was the city major and the brewery was part of his farm. In 1900, Amandus son, Emile took the business and moved into the family farm, but after some family problems, he decided to leave Werken and found a brewery in Ingelmunster, called Sint Jozef. After WWI, they expanded their facilities, paying half of the construction workers salary in beer.
In 1956, they focus in the production of a brown ale called Bacchus, changing the brewery name again to Vanhonsebrouck. Next year, they started to brew Gueuze and Kriek Lambics with the St Louis brand. But in 1990's Brussels' producers forbud the use of Lambic denomination for beers outside the Seine valley, but made and exception with the Vanhonsebrouck family. After 1991, they introduced the Kasteel brand, and in 2016 they closed the old brewery in Ingelmunster, moving to the new Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck brewery in Emelgem.
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Het Anker is a historical Belgian brewery from Mechelen, founded in 1872 in a existing brewery that belonged to the begine monks and had been producing beer at least from 1471. The brewery was renamed to Het Anker, meaning two anchors in Flemish. One of their most famous beer is the Gouden Carolus, named after Charles V, who was raised in Mechelen.
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Cantillon is a Belgian brewery founded in 1900 by Paul Cantillon and Marie Troch. It is the only Lambic brewery located in the city of Brussels. Their beginnings were not as an actual brewery but as a blendery. They established themselves near Mons boulevard and ellaborated Gueuze Lambics from different producers from the area. Then they would sell their beers at their current location, at Gheudestraat 56-58.
After WWI, two of their sons—Robert and Marcel—joined the business. They bought the recently closed Brasserie Nationale du Néblon, and started brewing there, brewing their first batch in 1938. After WWII, a heat wave in Belgium destroyed most breweries' stocks, so Cantillon did not recover their production until 1955. Paul Cantillon passed away in 1952, and Marie in 1958.
In the 60's, Lambic demand declined, and both brothers left the business to Marcel's son-in-low Jean-Pierre Van Roy. Jean Pierre started using sweeteners in order to keep the brewery afloat, but that was also a commercial failure, so it was abandoned in 1978. That year, Jean Pierre decided to open the brewery as a museum, in order to have an extra source of revenue.
In 1986, Cantillon started exporting to USA, and in 1989 Jean-Pierre son, Jean, entered the business. Since 1992, Cantillon has become one of the most sought-after brewery, and in 2017, they expanded their facilities with the adjacent building, previously owned by Brasserie Limbourg.
Its production processes are rooted in the Lambic tradition, but they not longer use foeders but stainless tanks. Then the beer is aged in wine barrels.
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De Halve Maan
De Halve Maan is a historic brewery in the historic center of Brugges (Belgium). Its name means half moon, and the beers are labelled under three brands Straffe Hendrik, Brugse Zot and Halve Maan. The brewery has belonged to the Maes family for 7 generations, and in 2008 they installed a 3 km. beer pipeline under Bruges in order to connect the brewery with the bottling house.
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