Nam’s speech at the first Belgian Beer Festival in Vietnam, 2014

Let me start by asking you guys some questions

Which country has the most individual beer brands in the world?

Which country has the best beer in the world?

Which country has the longest history of brewing in the world? The most types of beer in the world?

Which country has the strongest beer in the world?

Where is the bar with the largest number of beers in the world?

Which country is regarded as the “Beer Capital” of the world?

Which country has the biggest beer company in the world?

There are a lot of questions about the tale of beer but only one answer: BELGIUM!

I am not a beer expert but I have a great passion for beer, especially Belgian beer. I give myself the privilege of talking about the beer culture as I have drunk 200 different beers in the world, of those 148 are Belgian beers, including the best-rated beer in the world: Westvleteren XII. I spent one year in Belgium drinking beers almost every day. I tried to taste as many beers as possible and wrote down some notes about each beer. I traveled to different cities in Belgium to discover new beers and make a collection of beer bottles.

Today, I would like to share with you some of the unique points about Belgian beer.

As you know or may not know, the history of Belgian beer can be dated back to the Middle Ages. In the past, alcohol used to be banned in bars. Thus, Belgian breweries increased their ABV of their beers to replace alcohol. That’s why Belgium has the strongest beers in the world now, with ABV ranging from 1.5% to 12%. In fact, the most popular ABV of Belgian beers is from 7-11% ABV, except for a unique case of Black Damnation VI Messy, 39%.

What is the difference between popular beer brands in Vietnam and Belgian beers?

In Vietnam, we are all familiar with such beer brands as Heineken, Tiger, Hanoi, or Saigon Beer. Some of you might refer to Czech or German beers as the best beers in the world.

I used to be in both Czech Republic and Germany to drink their beers. I must say that there might be a big misunderstanding here. The reason is that most popular beers in Vietnam, including Czech and German beers or even Corona from Mexico belong to one type: Pils or Lager beer. It is one-timed and bottom-fermented, with ABV around 5%. This is the most popular beer in the world. If you want to compare, you can compare those to such Belgian Pils or Lagers as Jupiler or Stella Artois.

Most special beers in Belgium are two-timed and top-fermented, one time in the brewery and the second in the bottle. If you ever drink a special Belgian beer, you will, absolutely, realize that popular beers in Vietnam, even Czech or German beers, are watery.

How many beer brands are in Belgium and how to differentiate between them?

To this point, I must insist that there are no exact statistics on the total number of beer brands in Belgium as many brands come and go. In addition, there are also seasonal brands to be produced in limited amounts.

However, in my experience, there are around 600 different individual Belgian beer brands available in the market in 01 years.

Beer in Belgium can be differentiated by its color, taste, or fermentation process. Most typically, Belgian beers are categorized into 18 types. I can count on some of them:

–     Pils or Lager beer: Jupiler, Stella Artois

–     Amber beer: Palm Special, Bush 12, Vieux Temps, or La Gauloise

–    Wit/White beer: my favourite, is originated in the Flemish region, spearheaded by Hoegaarden, which is the best in the world. Wit beers have ABV of about 5-6%, making it quite refreshing, especially in peak summer or after playing sports. Others include Wittekerke from Kortrijk, Blanche de Namur from Namur, and Blanche de Bruxelles from Brussels. My tip: Hoegaarden is the best

–    Brown beers: are quite strong, with ABV ranging from 8-12%. Some popular ones of this type are Gulden Draak and Blue Chimay. I prefer drinking this strong beer with a cigar, as a substitute to the expensive “Cognac”.

–    Stout: do you know the most well-known stout, or dark beer, in the world – Guinness from Ireland? However, Belgium also possesses a very unique stout, Hercules, which is a dark, aromatic, and strong beer. It seems that Hercules is brewed and fermented in a different way from Guinness, which is made from burnt malt.

–    Golden ale or Blonde: the most popular beer in Belgium. I can count on a variety of blond beers: Orval, Achel, Chimay, Emane, Rocherfort, etc. All of them are brewed twice, first in oak barrels, and second in the bottle itself. Blond beers are quite strong, with ABV ranging from 8-12%. It is better to drink blond beers in the afternoon, evening, or weekends when we do not have to work after that. Some others include Lucifer, Judas, Satan, and Moinette.

–    Tripel or triple beer: derives from Duvel Tripel. The name “Tripel” is then widely used in other breweries to name their blond, strong beers that are often brewed twice or triple times. All tripel beers are fermented on top of the barrels.

–    Abbey beer: is brewed by the monks. In the past, abbey beers were not sold for profit as all incomes were used for community works. Nevertheless, commercial breweries are now using this name based on an agreement with the abbey.

–    Trappist beer: is the proudest beer in Belgium. It only offers and authorizes 06 breweries to sell under the name: “Trappist Authentic”. I remember all of them: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmall, and Westvleteren. Of those, Westvleteren XII has been crowned the best beer in the world many times and in many beers rating events or competitions.

–    Geuze/Lambic beer is quite sour. Lambic is a wheat beer brewed by spontaneous fermentation. Contrary to most modern beers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer’s yeasts, Lambic’s fermentation is produced by exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, which locates the Brussels Capital region. Lambic undergoes a long aging period of 3-6 months to 2-3 years to mature. It is the unusual process that gives the beer its distinctive flavor: dry, vinous, and cidery with a slightly sour aftertaste. This category is composed of 03 subcategories: Gueuze, Fruit Lambic, and Faro.

–    Holiday or special beer is only brewed on special events like Christmas or Easter. Holiday beers may contain more alcohol than the brewer’s other types of beer and even spicing.

–    Dubbel: has a characteristic brown color, which is one of the classic Abbey/Trappist types. Dubbel was first developed in the 19th century at the Trappist monastery in Westmalle. A dubbel has ABV range of 6-8%. Some typical dubbels are Maredsous, Sint Bernardus Peter, etc.

–    Flemish red: is represented by Rodenbach. I don’t quite like this type. This beer is distinguished from a technical viewpoint using roasted malt, fermentation by a mixture of several ordinary top-fermenting yeasts, and maturation in oak barrels. The result is a mildly strong beer with a deep reddish-brown color and a distinctly acidic, sour yet fruity and mouthy taste.

–     Table beer is the cheapest one in Belgium. We can drink during lunch as its ABV is only 1.5%.

In Belgium, beer is a culture and to discover the tale of Belgian beers is an endless journey. At last, I also take this opportunity to introduce to you the most unique beer in Belgium. This is the beer that you cannot buy in any supermarket or beer shop in the world. This is regarded by many experts or beer gurus as the best beer in the world. This is the beer that Belgians do not produce for commercial purposes.

The best beer in the world?

This is WESTVLETEREN XII! (I will bring one empty bottom to the festival, all suppliers in Vietnam: SBB, Beer Temple, Beer Plaza, do not have this beer).

If you want to taste this beer, you should visit Belgium and make a pilgrimage to where it is produced: the Abbey of Sint Sixtus!

Now, I hope that I have shared with you my knowledge and experience about Belgian beers. Believe me! The best way to understand the beer culture and the tale of Belgian beers is to…DRINK!

Let’s have a toast! Have a great evening with Belgian beers! Cheer!

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