First Coast Brews: From Belgium with love

I'm a big fan of the Belgian beer industry. Perhaps its years of Catholic training, but beer by Monks is pretty darn good. There is a sweet caramel spiciness in Belgian beer that appeals to me. So Belgian Beer week is nearly a national holiday for me!

The Alewife Beer School this week was on Belgian style beers. Belgian style because we sampled domestic Belgian beers, not actual Trappist Ales. I don't think this was a coincidence that Belgian Beer Week followed this class! 

The history of Trappist Ales is interesting. To give you the 'Reader's Digest' version, a few sects of Monks stopped eating meat, embraced agriculture and started brewing beer to supplement their meals. The Monk beer was very low in alcohol, called "patersbier" or Father's Beer. It is the equivalent of a 'Single' in the Belgian world, we normally see Dubbel, Trippel and Quads. Those latter three are higher in alcohol and all originated less than 100 years ago.

Farmhouse or Saisons as well as Biere De Garde (French and Belgian) are also considered Belgian beers. And there are White Ales or Lambics in the style.

I could write a ton about the history of Belgian beer, how prohibition led to the creation of the Dubbel style, how there are rules about what beers can be called Trappist (hint: you have to be a monastery and beer isn't your main focus) but I'd rather talk about our local Belgian style beers.

In Jacksonville, you'd have to live under a 'no beer' rock not to know about Aardwolf's Award-winning Belgian Pale Ale. BPA is one of my go to summer beers, light ABV at 5.5 percent, with malty notes and subtle yeast notes. Overal,l the style of Belgian Pales is more like an English style Pale Ale, in that it doesn't have that strong yeasty notes of a Trippel, but shares the copper/golden color. 

Aardwolf also has Hard Target ABV 8 percent Belgian Golden Strong Ale on tap right now. As far as the sours, beware the Oud Bruin ABV 9 percent if you are not fond of sours. I found it bracing and sort of like drinking vinegar, I liked it but I am a sour head. 

Intuition Ale Works has a few Belgian Style brews on tap now too. One of my favorites is Dubbel Helix, ABV 7.8 percent. I'm a fan of the darker Belgians anyway, because of the strong caramel notes. Dubbel Helix reminds me of the caramelized sugar on the top of a creme brulee. Good malts and the yeast gives it a lovely kick.

Intuition just tapped Honey Badger ABV 8.5 percent Saison, made with local orange blossom honey. They also have a couple of other Farmhouse style brews to enjoy.

Engine 15 Brewing also dabbles with the Belgian style, currently Heavy Engine Quad is on tap in Jax Beach. Weighing in at a hefty 10.5 percent, you probably should not drink too many of these! I'm a fan of their Quad, it is a boozy delight, with some caramel and malty notes. I'd drink as a dessert beer (but not overly sweet) to end an evening.

Green Room Brewing has a Belgian White on tap, called Juggling Suns ABV 4 percent. It is brewed with Pineapple and Chamomile.

Southern Swells Brewing has a flagship Saison called Lyla Joan ABV 6.3 percent. It is a really nice citrus hop with the yeast funk you'd expect in a Saison. It's great for hot weather and perfect at the beach.

Atlantic Beach Brewing just released a Belgian Strong golden ale called St Augustine ABV 8 percent.  I haven't tried this one yet but am looking forward to it.

Bold City Brewing is pouring Yasgur's Farmhouse Ale at the Roselle Street taproom. At ABV 5.5 percent, this sessionable ale was brewed with CASK member Joe Gilfus. 

Pinglehead Brewing has a few Belgian style beers to kick back right now at Brewer's Pizza taproom. Ambitious Monk, is a boozy ABV 11 percent Belgian Trippel. It is rated fairly highly right now as a traditional yeasty trippel. I think I need to head to Brewer's soon!  Also on tap is El Diablo Pequeno Belgian Single ABV 5.1 percent that is a CASK member Shaun Newman beer. Our homebrewers are on fire! This one is rated very highly and means I have two reasons to head back to Brewers!

At the Beer School, I had a clear favorite, Ommegang Three Philosophers Belgian Quad. It was strong malt and caramel. There were notes of dried fruits, like raisin and a hint of tart fruits. It is blended with a small amount of Liefmann's Kriek Lambic. It is a whooping 9.7 percent ABV, but drinks like something half that. 

The other I liked from beer school was North Coast's Brother Thelonious Belgian Strong Dark ale with an ABV of 9.4 percent. I found the nose to be funky like a farmhouse, but that did not continue to the taste. Strong malt notes and some caramel sugar.

So whether you hit a local brewery and get a Belgian or head to the store to buy some, raise a glass to those crazy Monks and their love of beer!

Want to know what is going on in town, what is new in the taproom? See the latest beer news? Then head over to our Facebook page and hit like!

Cheers y'all!

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