In the late 1800s, monks at the Trappist monasteries in Belgium began brewing beer that would later inspire hundreds of breweries around the world. While


Washington Brewers Pay Homage to Belgian Beers at Belgianfest

In the late 1800s, monks at the Trappist monasteries in Belgium began brewing beer that would later inspire hundreds of breweries around the world. While the Belgian monks weren't the first brewers in the world, they have and continue to brew some of the tastiest beers to come out of that small, lowland nation. There are over 150 breweries in Belgium--about the same number as in Washington State--brewing some of the most celebrated beers in the world. And on February 4, Washington brewers will serve up their tastiest Belgian-style beers at the third annual Belgianfest.

Trappist beers are notable because they must be brewed at the Trappist monasteries in order to be labeled "Trappist." Styles of these beers range from blonde to dark ales, the most famous probably being Chimay. Abbey beers are monastic-style beers, which can be brewed elsewhere. Other Belgian beer styles include crisp wit beers, a style originated in Hoegaarden with a beer of the same name. Cloudy like a hefeweizen, but with coriander and citrus peel aromas and flavor, Hoegaarden's wit beer is the style and flavor Coors tried to replicate with it's Blue Moon beer. This popular macrobrew is recognizable because of the unique orange wheel garnish, something you'd never see in the Belgian original.

That's not to say fruit and beer don't go well together, but they create a better partnership when combined during the brewing process. Lambic is a unique style of beer that must be brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium. Lambics are brewed using spontaneous fermentation, using only wild yeast present in the area. Some lambics have added fruits such as raspberry, peaches and blackcurrant. Kriek is a lambic brewed with sour cherries.

At Belgianfest, over 60 Belgian-style beers will be available at the two tasting sessions. Engine House No. 9 out of Tacoma is pouring a kriek-style beer. Some breweries, such as Big Time Brewery, use Belgian yeasts like Westmalle and Achouffe. One of the beers they'll be pouring is their Jack Candy Grand Cru, a Belgian-style strong ale. A number of breweries are pouring dubel and tripel beers. These Belgian-style beers are most notable for their high alcohol content and can range in color, flavor and aroma.

A few breweries are serving sour ales and saisons. Sour beers, like the one being poured by Anacortes Brewery, have a distinctive sour taste many people find appealing. Some sour beers are brewed similar to lambics, with the use of wild yeasts. Saison beers--sometimes referred to as farmhouse beers--are being served by Schooner Exact, Hilliard's and Engine House No. 9, among others. Saisons don't have a uniform flavor, but many have a strong citrus aroma and distinctive yeasty flavor.

Worth seeking out at this year's Belgianfest is Black Raven Brewery's La Petite Mort, a Belgian-style strong ale. This brown ale has been aged in bourbon barrels, giving it a unique woody flavor and aroma. The name, La Petite Mort, means the little death in French, but it's also a metaphor for orgasm. That's simplifying it though. It's said to refer to the melancholy one may feel after experiencing something so pleasurable with their entire being. Who knows, after a few hours at Belgianfest, you may feel the same way.

Belgianfest takes place at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center. There will be two tasting sessions on Saturday, February 4, beginning with a 12- 4 p.m. session, followed by 5:30-9:30 p.m. evening session. Tickets are available now at and are $30 in advance or $35 at the door per session.

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