History of Belgian IPA
A beer style that is a bit on the modern side and one that’s constantly undergoing some tweaking and seemingly endless reinvention (especially by American brewers) is Belgian India Pale Ale (IPA). Probably my favorite beer in the world of IPAs, these beers are unique in the sense that 20-30 years ago, no brewery in Belgium was making one of this sort (they were, and really still are considered to be too bitter). Combining America’s love affair with highly hopped beers, it’s an interesting style, and has garnered a lot of attention to the point where Belgian brewers are jumping into the game and are introducing their own versions.
Belgian IPA Characteristics
In theory as well as reality, the base beer for a Belgian IPA is very much similar to that of an American IPA. A number of malts can be used, and typically American hop varietals are employed, but the major factor is that they’re finished with Belgian yeast strains. That special, lovely, spicy Belgian yeast will give off a cleaner, drier edge and will help stifle that bitter, grassy, piney flavor that the hops being used will give off. The word I always use for the aroma of Belgian IPA is floral—it always should have that blend of the Belgian yeast nose along with a blend of hops and citrus. Fruity, estery and sweet aromatics can also be present. Their appearance can vary from gold to copper with some almost having a reddish/ruby cast. You’ll want to see a nice, white to off-white billowy head, courtesy of all those hops, and like a lot of other Belgian style beers, as well as a lot of American IPAs, can be very cloudy. The major flavor proponent will be that recognizable American hop, with plenty of malty, toasty, biscuity notes, along with a bit of orange or pear-like fruitiness. Their finish will be spicy, clean and dry, but with enough lingering hops in the swallow that will let you know that there’s no debating that this IS an IPA.
Belgian IPA Food Pairings
Belgian IPA may not quite have the versatility with food that American or even English IPA does, but because it’s a collision of a lot of different ingredients getting the Frankenstein treatment, it still is a fine choice at the table. Pretty much anything strong and on the spicy side will work well, with the American hops handling the spice of Mexican and Asian cuisine, along with plenty of American dishes that can include burgers or any pork dish, no matter how it’s treated. As long as it’s not TOO hoppy, it will also pair well with roasted game, be it chicken, turkey, or goose. If you want to reach for the cheese, these are great beers to pair with a variety of cheddars, along with Gorgonzola, Camboloza and Stilton. If dessert is part of the plan, go for a caramel apple tart, ginger spice cake or maybe some rice pudding.
As I have stated, Belgian IPA is a style that bounces around the room, and coincidentally the team at Kegworks is presently enjoying a keg of Victory Wild Devil—a Belgian IPA that has all the hallmarks of the style but has additionally been treated with a wild yeast fermentation in the form of Brettanomyces that throws off a funky, phenolic tartness that plays very nice with the hops. I just hope I can make it over there before it’s kicked something as good as that never lasts long over there. In the meantime, I plan on continuing enjoying one of my Top 5, and I encourage you to do the same. Cheers!
[techtags:BELGIAN IPA, BELGIAN IPA HISTORY, BELGIAN IPA CHARACTERISTICS, BELGIAN IPA FOOD PAIRINGS, TOP BELGIAN IPAS, BELGIAN INDIA PALE ALE]