Belgium's Great Beers
Understanding the styles
In seeking to compete with Pilsener lagers by using very pale malts and Czech, Slovenian or German hops, while retaining ale yeasts, Belgium has created a wide range of aromatic, fruity-tasting, golden specialities. Some of these are at a conventional alcohol content, like the Special made by Anne De Ryck at her brewery in Herzele, near the hop-growing town of Aalst, in East Flanders. Others are stronger, like the 6.0 per cent Straffe Hendrik Blonde, which has its own brewery-restaurant, in Bruges (26 Wal Plein). The most famous are the very strong ones like the deceptively drinkable classic Duvel, at 8.5 per cent. This has a very complex regime of four temperature stages in its fermentation and maturation. The name (pronounced Doov'l) is a corruption of the Flemish for Devil. This beer has many competitors, usually with Devilish names. A good example is Hapkin, named after an axe-wielding Count of Flanders.