Are you a beer nerd if you take the time and energy to print out the entire BJCP 2015 Style Guidelines, putting each page in a plastic cover, and filling a three ring binder with the completed copy? As I sit and prepare to get the low down about the pale beers of Belgium I can’t help but think that my binder may be a little over the top. I may have taken it out when friends and family were over so we could properly evaluate the beers we were drinking, and I find it amusing to just open a page and start reading away. What beer nerd doesn’t though right? Anyways, lets crack open a beer (and my binder) and dive into the details about these awesome pale Belgian brews.
Blonde Ale: As the name suggest we are looking at a golden colored ale that fits into the Strong Belgian Ale category. Color can range from a light to deep gold and a good head with lace is a must. Aromas will be somewhat subtle but also complex. Light sweetness and fruity esters are common along with a spicy or earthy hop nose. The front of the beer as it comes into your mouth may be a little grainy and sweet, but the finish will be fairly dry with some alcohol lingering in the after taste. The yeast should have very soft flavors which may come off as orange or perfume-like, and a light hop flavor accompanied by some honey and/or caramel provide spicy or earth like flavors with a dose of sweetness to your palate. Mouthfeel should be medium to high in carbonation with a medium body. This style has a cleaner profile than most Belgian beers and can even be lager-like.
Belgian Pale Ale: A creamy white head that dissipates quicker than other Belgians brews along with an amber to copper color that is pretty clear make up the general appearance of this style. Referred to by some as the everyday or session beer of the region they focus on being balanced and highly drinkable. The aroma consists of toasty and biscuit-like flavors from the malt with low hop aroma and some moderate fruitiness. Somewhat sweet with pear and/or orange fruit flavors welcome the beer into your mouth with a finish that can be either moderately dry or sweet with a touch of bitterness. Style dates back to the mid-1700’s with some post World War Two varieties showing British influence (yeast and hops).
Belgian Golden Strong Ale: As the name suggests this beer is highly attenuated and complex. Yummy! Color will come in anywhere from yellow to medium gold and with a nice clarity to it. Typical is a long lasting head with Belgian lace and do expect this one to be quite effervescent. Put the glass to your nose and sniff for flavors of fruity esters, low and peppery phenols, perfumy and/or floral hops, soft and low alcohol intensities and a light character driven by the sweetness of the grains. The combination of alcohol, fruit and spice come together excellently in the flavor and are well supported by the malt character. Low levels of peppery phenols and low to moderate hop spiciness add to the overall flavors and the finish can have some medium to high bitterness to it. The light mouthfeel and smoothness of the alcohol make these high gravity beers rather smooth for how big they are.