Old tradition of Belgian beer

Since 1100s

Old tradition of Belgian beer means there is a lot to talk about and of course it’s famous.
Opinions differ on how many beers and how many breweries we really have in Belgium. See here some of the estimates.

Duvel (Devil) and Mort Subite (Sudden Death), two famous beers

The country has been in the brewing tradition since the 1100s, before it even was a country.
The region’s interest in beer began when the Catholic Church sanctioned the use of abbeys to brew and distribute beer to raise money for upkeep near the end of the 10th century. Another reason was that most drinking water was polluted and the beer offered a safe alternative.
Over the years, the nuns in the abbeys began pioneering new ways to brew, strengthening the diversity that was available to the locals in brewing villages. At the turn of the 20th century, there were over 3,000 breweries in Belgium, but the two World Wars had a devastating effect on the Belgian economy that reached deep into the brewing industry.

Over centuries of experimentation, Belgian beers have become world-famous for their unique qualities, such as their strength, sourness, or their uniqueness in that many have been brewed in churches by monks! Also, with over 3,000 types of beer, there is a beer for any preference.

Belgium has more individual styles of beer per capita than any other country in the world. With a population barely scraping past 11 million, they produced a whopping 1,132 distinct types of beer in 2011. Fast-forward to 2013 and that number is a mind-blowing 3,043 beers that were brewed among all 10 provinces of Belgium.

Big industry

The Netherlands was the largest EU exporter of beer and second worldwide after Mexico in 2020 according to a Dutch source.
According to a Belgian source, Belgium was the biggest exporter in Europe. It has created a big gap over its direct competitor, Germany, followed by the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.

More about Belgian beer:

Belgian Beer–A Centuries-old Tradition” by BelgiuminChina, dated 1 November 2021. More about that in a next post, looking at some of the more famous styles.


10 Ways Belgium Will Change The Way You Drink Beer” by Andrew Handley, October 27, 2014.

In this site, many sections:

  • Spontaneous Fermentation (Lambic)
  • Beer Cocktails
  • The Longest Bar In The World
  • The Bruges Beer Pipeline
  • The Farm Brewery
  • Trappist Beer
  • World’s Largest Beer Menu
  • Unholy Consumption

The secret of classic Belgian beers?

Medieval super yeasts! According to VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology), in a 21 October 2019 article.
An international team of scientists, led by Prof. Kevin Verstrepen (VIB-KU-Leuven) and Prof. Steven Maere (VIB-UGent), has discovered that some of the most renowned classic Belgian beers, including Gueuze and Trappist ales, are fermented with a rare and unusual form of hybrid yeasts. These yeasts combine DNA of the traditional ale yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with that of more stress-resistant feral yeasts such as Saccharomyces kudriavzevii.
Mixed origins
“These yeasts are hybrids between two completely different species” says Dr. Jan Steensels (VIB — KU Leuven Center for Microbiology), who coordinated the lab work of this study. “Think of lions and tigers making a super-baby.”

One thought on “Old tradition of Belgian beer

  1. Great stories but the truth lies in the uniqueness of the urine produced by Belgian nuns, as I thought everyone knew!! All the other European brews are basically monks’ piss, while US beer does away with the nuns and monks altogether and is…well, just……. “raw material”, so to speak!

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