Now that we’re (for the most part) done covering my top 5 styles of Bock beers and their relatives, I thought it would be a good time to start focusing on some more seasonal brews. And when I say “seasonal,” I mean warmer weather beers. The forest is abloom, Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us, and even though I had to turn the furnace on yesterday to bring the heat in my house up to a tolerable level, I’m still pretty psyched about summer starting up. So to that end, I’d like to talk about my Top 5 Belgian Strong Pale Ales.
Belgian Strong Pales are, well, a higher test version of Belgian Pale Ale, a style that is very common and that dominates the Belgian Brewing scene. Originally developed by the Moorgat brewery in the 1940’s as a response to the growing popularity of German & Czech Pilsners, they tend to be less bitter than their English and American counterparts, using aged hop varieties for a more delicate finish. These beers are pale straw to golden with even some amber hues in color, but that color is always brilliant. Like a lot of the Belgian styles, a dense, rocky, persistent white head will always be an earmark of this style.
The aroma of these beers will always be complex, with some significant fruity undertones, some spice, and some perfumy, floral hop characteristics. Flavor-wise, there will be a marriage of spicy, fruity alcohol flavors, supported by some soft malt. Also present can be some warming alcohol notes, since the range for these beers can be from 7.5% to 10.5%.
As far as food pairings go, BSPA isn’t the most versatile beer out there, but it’s at the top of my list for pairing with seafood, from soups and chowders to the oiliest, richest fish dishes available. It also works very well with Asian and Indian food.
Belgian Strong Pale Ale can sometimes easily be mistaken for a Triple, especially ones that are higher than 9% alcohol, but the give-away is that they’ll be a bit lighter-bodied, crisper, and drier. That drier finish and lighter body serves to make the aggressive hopping and spiciness more prominent. The best examples of this style are complex and delicate, and Duvel, as many of you already know, is the absolute benchmark of the style, and of course makes my list. Few beer styles have a significant, stand-above-the-crowd commercial example, and Duvel is it. If you’re new to Belgian Strong Pale Ale, that is your first purchase (but feel free to follow through with the other four I recommend J). Here’s to summer!
My Top 5 Belgian Strong Pale Ales
Piraat 9% Blonde
[techtags:BELGIAN STRONG PALE ALES, BELGIAN PALE ALES, BSPA BEER REVIEW, BEER REVIEWS]