Before I knew anything of pale ales or porters, stouts or sours, I knew that Belgian beers were pretty special and help an important place in the beer world. That’s because Belgium has one of the richest cultures of brewing that has not been hamstrung in the same way as British brewing was by the rise of The Big Six national brewers. Nor has it been interrupted in the same way that American brewing was by the prohibition.
The first Belgian beers date back to the 1100s, where local abbeys would brew beer as a way of raising funds to run operations. This  method of raising money for monastery operations would later become a cornerstone of the Trappist breweries that first appeared in the early 1800s. Since the early days when beer was brewed predominantly as a way to sanitise water, Belgian beer has evolved to encompass dozens of styles with even more local variations on those styles.
This long history has given the Belgians plenty of time to perfect their recipes – Orval have been brewing only two beers since 1931. Because of this, there has been quality beer coming out of the country for as long as anyone can remember. You’d be hard pressed to find a brewer who was not in some way influenced by Belgian beer. It’s only natural that these brewers from other countries would look to Belgium when developing new beer recipes.
Several months ago we did an email that looked at 5 of these Belgian-style beers that weren’t brewed in Belgium. This blog is now expanding upon two of those beers and introducing a new, third beer.

The Wild Beer Co. Epic Saison – 5.0% ABV

The Wild Beer Co. have a habit of consistently blowing our minds with these awesome sour beers, ridiculously fresh pale ales and IPAs, and luxuriously rich stouts. However, it is one of their more modest beer styles that reinforces their ability to blend styles and take them to their limits, the Epic Saison. Okay, aside from the name, it’s quite modest.
This beer is a mash up of two styles, one Belgian and one American. The Belgian half is a saison, a beer originally brewed to keep farmworkers hydrated – about as modest a drink as you could imagine. The second half is a pale ale which, despite its surge in popularity, is pretty tame in comparison to its bolder brother, the IPA, or the huge imperial stouts dominating the beer rating scoreboards.
The combination of these two styles, however, makes for a beer that is anything but modest. The very first characteristic you get from this beer is a big aroma of passion fruit and juicy citrus fruits. The Sorachi Ace hop used is well known for its bold flavours that can be particularly dominant. It is therefore expected that the delicate aroma of a saison are unable to shine through in a beer as judiciously hopped as this one.
However, the saison aspect of this beer isn’t simply there because it allows for an awesome name. There is a slight spiciness to most saisons, a characteristic that stems from the esters produced by saison yeast. This combines awesomely with American hops to give the beer a bittersweet flavour. Funkiness from the yeast works together with the bright hop flavours to create a hint of tartness that then quickly gives way to a slightly more floral finish.
If you like the Epic Saison, check out the below beers:
For a traditional saison – Saison Dupont
For a hopped saison – Tank 7 Boulevard
For a Sorachi Ace pale ale – Sorachi Faceplant Weird Beard

Alesmith Horny Devil – 10.0% ABV

AleSmith, over in San Diego, California, have an incredible reputation around the world for the quality of the beers that they produce. What’s even more incredible is that these guys are operating on a 30bbl brew kit, producing 15,000bbls a year. This is a fraction of the output when compared to some of the other top American breweries – Stone are getting out over 200,000bbls a year!
Keeping production low has ensured a very high level of quality, several of their beers that we have in the shop are the most asked after. That we are able to get their beers over in the UK is very fortunate – it’s a testament to some of our distributors! What’s also great is the range of beer styles that they produce to a high level, whether it’s an ESB, IPA, stout or, in this case, a Belgian golden strong ale.
First brewed in 1998, this beer won a silver award in the 1998 World Beer Cup. It is brewed to be very true and consistent with the Belgian golden style. It uses a Trappist yeast strain, Belgian candi sugar and coriander seeds. The Trappist yeast gives the beer a more lively carbonation than is usually possible from standard ale yeast. Candi sugar raises the ABV of the beer without increasing its body or making it too big whilst the coriander seeds contributes citrus notes to the beer.
Together, these all combine to produce a recognisably Belgian style beer. It has spicy fruit aromas that you would expect with a light body a dried fruits flavour that makes this beer soft on the palate. Despite it’s high ABV, 10.0% should never be sniffed at, it’s very easy drinking. The only hint of booziness comes towards the end when the beer has warmed up a bit. Until then you won’t realise just how dangerous what you’re drinking is!
If you like the Horny Devil, check out the below beers:
For a traditional Belgian golden ale – Delirium Tremens Brouwerij Huyghe
For another American style golden ale – PranQster North Coast Brewing Co.

Crooked Stave St. Bretta – 5.5% ABV

Wow wow wow, I can not describe how excited I was to get this beer in the shop. From the minute I looked at the distributors list and saw this beer, I began pestering James to order it. Crooked Stave, based in Denver, Colorado, are a brewery who limit themselves almost exclusively to sour and wild beers. Whilst I had never been able to try their beers before, I’d heard a lot about them from their reputation, and I was looking forward to cracking one open!
St. Bretta is a series of beers that Crooked Stave produce with a seasonal variation. The basic beer is a witbier and every season has a new citrus fruit added. The witbier is a Belgian style wheat beer which generally gives a creamier, silky texture. This beer is then generally spiced with coriander and orange peel. In this case the orange type used is ever changing. The way that Crooked Stave make this beer their own is to then pitch with Brettanomyces yeast and age it for six weeks in oak foeders – essentially wooden barrels.
Brettanomyces (brett) is a strain of yeast that differs significantly to Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, the typical ale yeast, in the flavours and characteristics it imparts upon beer. In fact, this flavour is so different to that which comes from ale yeast that in the 19th century, brewers would put a lot of effort into ensuring there was no brett in their brews. However, people are now starting to use brett because, if controlled properly it can impart awesome flavours – and that’s what craft beer is about, discovering the new.
The most commonly used phrase to describe brett infused beer, is that they’re funky. There are woody, muted fruit flavours that come from the yeast, slightly musky with softer flavours. This works incredibly well with the sharp citrus, keeping it juicy but just giving it a bit of je ne sais quoi. If you want a beer that takes the traditional and stretches and takes it to its limits, then this is the beer to go with.
If you like the St. Bretta, check out the below beers:
For a traditional Belgian wheat beer – Wit St. Bernardus