35A – Belgian Specialty

Entering Specialty-Type Beers

Since additional information must be furnished with every entry in a Specialty-Type Beer category, it is critical that entrants closely examine the Entry Instructions section of each style description. This section describes the information that judges will expect. Don’t assume that judges will be able to recognize your beer without any additional information; some might, but most won’t. You will almost certainly receive a lower score if you omit this information than if you specify it properly. Put yourself in the position of the judge; write down the useful information needed to properly judge the beer. Judges won’t care if you picked the cherries in your grandmother’s yard, so don’t put down useless information – tell them the variety of cherry or how they taste.

When specifying a base beer style, read the Entry Instructions for the style carefully. Some may say that a Classic Style is required – this means that the beer should be listed as one of the styles in the guidelines (including historical beers, or beers with enumerated alternatives). Some may say that a base style must be described, but that it does not have to be a Classic Style – this is free license to describe the beer style in any way you want. If your base is loosely a porter, but wouldn’t score well as an English, American, or Baltic Porter, then don’t be overly specific – simply call it a porter. Some beers that are designed to showcase the specialty ingredient will often have a fairly neutral base.

When specifying the specialty ingredient, keep in mind that the more specific you are, the more judges will look for a signature characteristic. So be sure to taste your beer and decide how specific you need to be. If you are showcasing an unusual or expensive ingredient, that may be a good time to be specific. However, if the ingredient seems somewhat generic, then just use a generic name. If you use a combination of ingredients, such as spices, you can refer to the blend by a common name (e.g., pumpkin pie spice, curry powder, etc.). If you list every individual ingredient, judges will expect to detect each one. But if the nature of a mixture of ingredients is that the specific character of each ingredient contributes to a greater character, then just describe the resulting character. Understand how judges will use the information you provide.

Deciding where to enter a Specialty-Type Beer is often difficult for entrants. Be sure to reach each style carefully, as some styles will specify where to enter a beer with a certain combination of ingredients. We have arbitrarily defined some ingredients as taking precedence over others (in order of highest precedence: wild, smoke, wood, fruit/spice, grain/sugar), but that only applies if you can perceive that ingredient. When seeking a place to enter your Specialty-Type Beer, look for the best fit with the style description in a style where the combination is allowable. Entering a beer as a specific style will be a signal to judges that your beer will have certain identifiable components. If you added an ingredient, but it cannot be detected, then do not enter it in a style that requires the ingredient. If judges cannot perceive it, they will believe it is absent and deduct points accordingly.

Judging Specialty-Type Beers

Overall balance is the key to a successful Specialty-Type Beer. The entry should be a harmonious marriage of the beer and the special ingredients, with neither overpowering the other. The special ingredients should complement and enhance the underlying beer, and the resulting product should be pleasant to drink. The entry should be recognized as belonging in the entry category, or at least not clearly belonging elsewhere.

Some experienced judges will do take a quick hedonistic pass at a Specialty-Type Beer prior to digging deep at the particulars. The quick assessment is designed to judge whether the combination works or doesn’t (i.e., if flavor clashes exist). If the combination is a bad idea, it doesn’t matter how well the product is brewed; it simply won’t be enjoyable. Judges should keep an open mind, however; some unexpected flavor combinations can be surprisingly delicious.

Judges should not be overly pedantic about seeking the full character of a specified base beer style. After all, the base beer does not usually contain the special ingredient, so its character will not be the same. There can be interactions of flavor that produce additional sensory effects. Likewise, judges should understand that the fermentation process can transform some ingredients (particularly those with fermentable sugars), and that the ingredient character may not be the same as the unadulterated specialty ingredient. Therefore, judges should look for the overall pleasantness and balance of the resulting combination, as long as the beer suggests both the base beer and the specialty ingredient or process.

Creating and judging Specialty-Type Beers can be very rewarding. Judges should keep in mind that a creative element exists in these styles, and that something unusual and delicious should generally be rewarded. Keep an open mind when evaluating these styles, and do not look to judge them as rigidly as Classic Styles.

Effects of Added Ingredients on Balance in Beer

The ingredient character should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial and inappropriately overpowering (considering the character of the ingredient), and should not have brewing, fermentation, or handling defects. Aroma hops, yeast by-products and malt components of the underlying beer may not be as noticeable when additional ingredients are present. These components (especially hops) may also be intentionally subdued to allow the ingredient character to come through in the final presentation. If the base beer is an ale then a non-specific fruitiness and/or other fermentation by-products may be present as appropriate for warmer fermentations. If the base beer is a lager, then overall less fermentation by-products would be appropriate. Some malt aroma may be desirable, especially in dark styles. Hop aroma may be absent or balanced with the added ingredients, depending on the style. The added ingredients should add an extra complexity to the beer, but not be so prominent as to unbalance the resulting presentation.

 


 

35A – Belgian Specialty

Aroma: Variable. Most exhibit varying amounts of fruity esters, spicy phenols and/or yeast-borne aromatics. Aromas from actual spice additions may be present. Hop aroma may be none to high, and may include a dry-hopped character. Malt aroma may be low to high, and may include character of non-barley grains such as wheat or rye. Some may include aromas of Belgian microbiota, most commonly Brettanomyces and/or Lactobacillus. However, be advised that these may fit better in new category 28A Brett Beer, or one of the Belgian sour categories. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Variable. Color varies considerably from pale gold to very dark. Clarity may be hazy to clear. Head retention is usually good. Generally moderate to high carbonation.
Flavor: Variable. A great variety of flavors are found in these beers. Maltiness may be light to quite rich. Hop flavor and bitterness may be low to high. Spicy flavors may be imparted by yeast (phenolics) and/or actual spice additions. May include characteristics of grains other than barley, such as wheat or rye. May include flavors produced by Belgian microbiota such as Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus. However, be advised that these may fit better in new category 28A Brett Beer, or one of the Belgian sour categories. May include flavors from adjuncts such as caramelized sugar syrup or honey. May include flavors from specialized techniques such as wood-aging.
Mouthfeel: Variable. Some are well-attenuated, thus fairly light-bodied for their original gravity, while others are thick and rich.  Most are moderately to highly carbonated. A warming sensation from alcohol may be present in stronger examples. A “mouth puckering” sensation may be present from acidity.
Overall Impression: Variable. This category encompasses a wide range of Belgian ales produced by truly artisanal brewers more concerned with creating unique products than in increasing sales.
History: Unique beers of small, independent Belgian breweries that have come to enjoy local popularity but may be far less well-known outside of their own regions. Many have attained “cult status” in the U.S. (and other parts of the world) and now owe a significant portion of their sales to export.
Comments: This is a catch-all category for any Belgian-style beer not fitting any other Belgian style category.  Please note that with the expanded categories, some of the beers traditionally lumped in here now have distinct categories. The category can be used for clones of specific beers (e.g., La Chouffe); to produce a beer fitting a broader style that doesn’t have its own category; or to create an artisanal or experimental beer of the brewer’s own choosing (e.g., strong Belgian golden ale with spices, something unique). Creativity is the only limit in brewing but the entrants must identify what is special about their entry. This category may be used as an “incubator” for recognized styles for which there is not yet a formal BJCP category. Some styles falling into this classification include:

  • Artisanal Blonde
  • Artisanal Amber
  • Artisanal Brown
  • Belgian-style Barleywines
  • Trappist Quadrupels
  • Belgian Spiced Christmas Beers
  • Belgian Stout
  • Fruit-based Flanders Red/Brown

The following styles should NOT be entered here and instead should be entered in their respective categories:

  • Blond Trappist table beer – Use Cat 26A Trappist Single
  • Belgian IPA – Use Cat 21B Specialty IPA
  • White IPA – Use Cat 21B Specialty IPA
  • Strong and/or Dark Saison – Use Cat 25B Saison which now includes dark and strong variants.

The judges must understand the brewer’s intent in order to properly judge an entry in this category. THE BREWER MUST SPECIFY EITHER THE BEER BEING CLONED, THE NEW STYLE BEING PRODUCED OR THE SPECIAL INGREDIENTS OR PROCESSES USED. Additional background information on the style and/or beer may be provided to judges to assist in the judging, including style parameters or detailed descriptions of the beer. Beers fitting other Belgian categories should not be entered in this category.
Ingredients: May include herbs and/or spices. May include unusual grains and malts, though the grain character should be apparent if it is a key ingredient. May include adjuncts such as caramelized sugar syrup and honey. May include Belgian microbiota such as Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus. Unusual techniques, such as blending, may be used through primarily to arrive at a particular result. The process alone does not make a beer unique to a blind judging panel if the final product does not taste different.
Vital Statistics:
OG: varies
IBUs: varies
FG: varies
SRM: varies
ABV: varies
Commercial Examples: De Dolle’s Arabier, Oerbier, Boskeun and Stille Nacht; La Chouffe, McChouffe, Chouffe Bok and N’ice Chouffe; Ellezelloise Hercule Stout and Quintine Amber; Unibroue Ephemere, Maudite, Don de Dieu, etc.; Minty; Zatte Bie; Caracole Amber, Saxo and Nostradamus; Silenrieu Sara and Joseph; Fantôme Black Ghost and Speciale Noël; Dupont Moinette, Moinette Brune, and Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont; St. Fullien Noël; Gouden Carolus Noël; Affligem Nöel; Guldenburg and Pere Noël; De Ranke XX Bitter and Guldenberg; Poperings Hommelbier; Bush (Scaldis); Moinette Brune; Grottenbier; La Trappe Quadrupel; Weyerbacher QUAD; Bière de Miel; Verboden Vrucht; New Belgium 1554 Black Ale; Cantillon Iris; Lindemans Kriek and Framboise, and many more.

28A – Brett Beer

Overall Impression: Most often drier and fruitier than the base style suggests. Funky notes range from low to high, depending on the age of the beer and strain(s) of Brett used. Funkiness is generally restrained in younger 100% Brett examples, but tends to increase with age. May possess a light acidity, although this does not come from Brett.

Aroma: Variable by base style. Young Brett-fermented beers will possess more fruity notes (e.g., tropical fruit, stone fruit, or citrus), but this is variable by the strain(s) of Brett used. For 100% Brett beers heavily hopped with American hop varieties, the fermentation-derived flavors are often difficult to tease from the hop aromatics. Older 100% Brett beers may start to develop a little funk (e.g., barnyard, wet hay, or slightly earthy or smoky notes), but this character should not dominate. If the beer is fermented with a brewer’s yeast in addition to Brett, some of the character of the primary yeast may remain. A faint sourness is acceptable but should not be a prominent character.

Appearance: Variable by base style. Clarity can be variable, and depends on the base style and ingredients used. Some haze is not necessarily a fault.

Flavor: Variable by base style. Brett character may range from minimal to aggressive. Can be quite fruity (e.g., tropical fruit, berry, stone fruit, citrus), or have some smoky, earthy, or barnyard character. Should not be unpleasantly funky, such as Band-Aid, fetid, nail polish remover, cheese, etc. Light sourness is acceptable with the beer being lightly tart, but should not be truly sour. Always fruitier when young, gaining more funk with age. May not be acetic or lactic. Malt flavors are often less pronounced than in the base style, leaving a beer most often dry and crisp due to high attenuation by the Brett.

Mouthfeel: Variable by base style. Generally a light body, lighter than what might be expected from the base style but an overly thin body is a fault. Generally moderate to high carbonation. Head retention is variable.

Comments: The base style describes most of the character of these beers, but the addition of Brett ensures a drier, thinner, and funkier product. Younger versions are brighter and fruitier, while older ones possess more depth of funk and may lose more of the base style character. Wood-aged versions should be entered in the Wild Specialty Beer style. The Brett character should always meld with the style; these beers should never be a ‘Brett bomb’. Note that Brett does not produce lactic acid.

History: Modern American craft beer interpretations of Belgian wild ales, or experimentations inspired by Belgian wild ales or historical English beers with Brett. 100% Brett beers gained popularity after the year 2000; Port Brewing Mo Betta Bretta was one of the first celebrated examples.

Characteristic Ingredients: Virtually any style of beer, fermented in any manner, then finished with one or more strains of Brett. Alternatively, a beer made with Brett as the sole fermentation strain.

Style Comparison: Compared to the same beer style without Brett, a Brett Beer will be drier, more highly attenuated, fruitier, lighter in body, and slightly funkier as it ages. Less sourness and depth than Belgian ‘wild’ ales.

Entry Instructions: The entrant must specify either a base beer style (Classic Style, or a generic style family) or provide a description of the ingredients/specs/desired character. The entrant must specify if a 100% Brett fermentation was conducted. The entrant may specify the strain(s) of Brettanomyces used.

Vital Statistics: Variable by base style.

Commercial Examples: Boulevard Saison Brett, Hill Farmstead Arthur, Logsdon Seizoen Bretta, Russian River Sanctification, The Bruery Saison Rue, Victory Helios

26D – Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Overall Impression: A dark, complex, very strong Belgian ale with a delicious blend of malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements. Complex, rich, smooth and dangerous.

Aroma: Complex, with a rich-sweet malty presence, significant esters and alcohol, and an optional light to moderate spiciness. The malt is rich and strong, and can have a deep bready-toasty quality often with a deep caramel complexity. The fruity esters are strong to moderately low, and can contain raisin, plum, dried cherry, fig or prune notes. Spicy phenols may be present, but usually have a peppery quality not clove-like; light vanilla is possible. Alcohols are soft, spicy, perfumy and/or rose-like, and are low to moderate in intensity. Hops are not usually present (but a very low spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma is acceptable). No dark/roast malt aroma. No hot alcohols or solventy aromas.

Appearance: Deep amber to deep coppery-brown in color (dark in this context implies more deeply colored than golden). Huge, dense, moussy, persistent cream- to light tan-colored head. Can be clear to somewhat hazy.

Flavor: Similar to aroma (same malt, ester, phenol, alcohol, and hop comments apply to flavor as well). Moderately malty-rich on the palate, which can have a sweet impression if bitterness is low. Usually moderately dry to dry finish, although may be up to moderately sweet. Medium-low to moderate bitterness; alcohol provides some of the balance to the malt. Generally malty-rich balance, but can be fairly even with bitterness. The complex and varied flavors should blend smoothly and harmoniously. The finish should not be heavy or syrupy.

Mouthfeel: High carbonation but not sharp. Smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. Body can range from medium-light to medium-full and creamy. Most are medium-bodied.

Comments: Authentic Trappist versions tend to be drier (Belgians would say more digestible) than Abbey versions, which can be rather sweet and full-bodied. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle). Sometimes known as a Trappist Quadruple, most are simply known by their strength or color designation.

History: Most versions are unique in character reflecting characteristics of individual breweries, produced in limited quantities and often highly sought-after.

Characteristic Ingredients: Belgian yeast strains prone to production of higher alcohols, esters, and sometimes phenolics are commonly used. Impression of a complex grain bill, although many traditional versions are quite simple, with caramelized sugar syrup or unrefined sugars and yeast providing much of the complexity. Saazer-type, English-type or Styrian Goldings hops commonly used. Spices generally not used; if used, keep subtle and in the background.

Style Comparison: Like a larger dubbel, with a fuller body and increased malt richness. Not as bitter or hoppy as a tripel, but of similar strength.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.075 – 1.110

IBUs:  20 – 35

FG:  1.010 – 1.024

SRM:  12 – 22

ABV:  8.0 – 12.0%

Commercial Examples: Achel Extra Brune, Boulevard The Sixth Glass, Chimay Grande Réserve, Gouden Carolus Grand Cru of the Emperor, Rochefort 8 & 10, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Westvleteren 12

26C – Belgian Tripel

Overall Impression: A pale, somewhat spicy, dry, strong Trappist ale with a pleasant rounded malt flavor and firm bitterness. Quite aromatic, with spicy, fruity, and light alcohol notes combining with the supportive clean malt character to produce a surprisingly drinkable beverage considering the high alcohol level.

Aroma: Complex bouquet with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop aromas. Generous spicy, peppery, sometimes clove-like phenols. Esters are often reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges, but may sometimes have a slight banana character. A low yet distinctive spicy, floral, sometimes perfumy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy and low in intensity. The malt character is light, with a soft, slightly grainy-sweet or slightly honey-like impression. The best examples have a seamless, harmonious interplay between the yeast character, hops, malt, and alcohol.

Appearance: Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Long-lasting, creamy, rocky, white head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades.

Flavor: Marriage of spicy, fruity and alcohol flavors supported by a soft, rounded grainy-sweet malt impression, occasionally with a very light honey note. Low to moderate phenols are peppery in character. Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit such as orange or sometimes lemon, and are low to moderate. A low to moderate spicy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and low in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness lends a dry finish with a moderately bitter aftertaste with substantial spicy-fruity yeast character. The grainy-sweet malt flavor does not imply any residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest. Highly carbonated. The alcohol content is deceptive, and has little to no obvious warming sensation. Always effervescent.

Comments: High in alcohol but does not taste strongly of alcohol. The best examples are sneaky, not obvious. High carbonation and attenuation helps to bring out the many flavors and to increase the perception of a dry finish. Most Trappist versions have at least 30 IBUs and are very dry. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle).

History: Originally popularized by the Trappist monastery at Westmalle.

Characteristic Ingredients: Pilsner malt, typically with pale sugar adjuncts. Saazer-type hops or Styrian Goldings are commonly used. Belgian yeast strains are used – those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols – often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures. Spice additions are generally not traditional, and if used, should be a background character only. Fairly soft water.

Style Comparison: May resemble a Belgian Golden Strong Ale but slightly darker and somewhat fuller-bodied, with more emphasis on phenolics and less on esters. Usually has a more rounded malt flavor but should never be sweet.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.075 – 1.085

IBUs:  20 – 40

FG:  1.008 – 1.014

SRM:  4.5 – 7

ABV:  7.5 – 9.5%

Commercial Examples: Affligem Tripel, Chimay Cinq Cents, La Rulles Tripel, La Trappe Tripel, St. Bernardus Tripel, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Val-Dieu Triple, Watou Tripel, Westmalle Tripel

26B – Belgian Dubbel

Overall Impression: A deep reddish-copper, moderately strong, malty, complex Trappist ale with rich malty flavors, dark or dried fruit esters, and light alcohol blended together in a malty presentation that still finishes fairly dry.

Aroma: Complex, rich-sweet malty aroma, possibly with hints of chocolate, caramel and/or toast (but never roasted or burnt aromas). Moderate fruity esters (usually including raisins and plums, sometimes also dried cherries). Esters sometimes include banana or apple. Spicy phenols and higher alcohols are common (may include light clove and spice, peppery, rose-like and/or perfumy notes). Spicy qualities can be moderate to very low. Alcohol, if present, is soft and never hot or solventy. Low to no spicy, herbal, or floral hop aroma, typically absent. The malt is most prominent in the balance with esters and a touch of alcohol in support, blending together for a harmonious presentation.

Appearance: Dark amber to copper in color, with an attractive reddish depth of color. Generally clear. Large, dense, and long-lasting creamy off-white head.

Flavor: Similar qualities as aroma. Rich, complex medium to medium-full rich-sweet malt flavor on the palate yet finishes moderately dry. Complex malt, ester, alcohol and phenol interplay (raisiny flavors are common; dried fruit flavors are welcome; clove or pepper spiciness is optional). Balance is always toward the malt. Medium-low bitterness that doesn’t persist into the aftertaste. Low spicy, floral, or herbal hop flavor is optional and not usually present.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium-high carbonation, which can influence the perception of body. Low alcohol warmth. Smooth, never hot or solventy.

Comments: Most commercial examples are in the 6.5 – 7% ABV range. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle).

History: Originated at monasteries in the Middle Ages, and was revived in the mid-1800s after the Napoleonic era.

Characteristic Ingredients: Belgian yeast strains prone to production of higher alcohols, esters, and phenolics are commonly used. Impression of complex grain bill, although traditional versions are typically Belgian Pils malt with caramelized sugar syrup or other unrefined sugars providing much of the character. Saazer-type, English-type or Styrian Goldings hops commonly used. No spices are traditionally used, although restrained use is allowable (background strength only).

Style Comparison: Should not be as malty as a bock and should not have crystal malt-type sweetness. Similar in strength and balance as a Belgian Blond, but with a richer malt and ester profile. Less strong and intense as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.062 – 1.075

IBUs:  15 – 25

FG:  1.008 – 1.018

SRM:  10 – 17

ABV:  6.0 – 7.6%

Commercial Examples: Affligem Dubbel, Chimay Première, Corsendonk Pater, Grimbergen Double, La Trappe Dubbel, St. Bernardus Pater 6, Trappistes Rochefort 6, Westmalle Dubbel

26A – Trappist Single

Overall Impression: A pale, bitter, highly attenuated and well carbonated Trappist ale, showing a fruity-spicy Trappist yeast character, a spicy-floral hop profile, and a soft, supportive grainy-sweet malt palate.

Aroma: Medium-low to medium-high Trappist yeast character, showing a fruity-spicy character along with medium-low to medium spicy or floral hops, occasionally enhanced by light herbal/citrusy spice additions. Low to medium-low grainy-sweet malt backdrop, which may have a light honey or sugar quality. Fruit expression can vary widely (citrus, pome fruit, stone fruit). Light spicy, yeast-driven phenolics found in the best examples. Bubblegum inappropriate.

Appearance: Pale yellow to medium gold color. Generally good clarity, with a moderate-sized, persistent, billowy white head with characteristic lacing.

Flavor: Fruity, hoppy, bitter, and dry. Initial malty-sweet impression, with a grainy-sweet soft malt palate, and a dry, hoppy finish. The malt may have a light honeyed biscuit or cracker impression. Moderate spicy or floral hop flavor. Esters can be citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit), pome fruit (apple, pear), or stone fruit (apricot, peach). Light to moderate spicy, peppery, or clove phenolics. Bitterness rises towards the crisp, dry finish, with an aftertaste of light malt, moderate hops and yeast character.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Smooth. Medium-high to high carbonation, can be somewhat prickly. Should not have noticeable alcohol warmth.

Comments: Often not labeled or available outside the monastery, or infrequently brewed. Might also be called monk’s beer or Brother’s beer. Highly attenuated, generally 85% or higher.

History: While Trappist breweries have a tradition of brewing a lower-strength beer as a monk’s daily ration, the bitter, pale beer this style describes is a relatively modern invention reflecting current tastes. Westvleteren first brewed theirs in 1999, but replaced older lower-gravity products.

Characteristic Ingredients: Pilsner malt, Belgian Trappist yeast, Saazer-type hops.

Style Comparison: Like a top-fermented Belgian/Trappist interpretation of a German Pils – pale, hoppy, and well-attenuated, but showing prototypical Belgian yeast character. Has less sweetness, higher attenuation, less character malt, and is more hop-centered than a Belgian Pale Ale. More like a much smaller, more highly hopped tripel than a smaller Belgian Blond Ale.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.044 – 1.054

IBUs:  25 – 45

FG:  1.004 – 1.010

SRM:  3 – 5

ABV:  4.8 – 6.0%

Commercial Examples: Achel 5° Blond, St. Bernardus Extra 4, Westmalle Extra, Westvleteren Blond

25C – Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Overall Impression: A pale, complex, effervescent, strong Belgian-style ale that is highly attenuated and features fruity and hoppy notes in preference to phenolics.

Aroma: Complex with significant fruity esters, moderate spiciness and low to moderate alcohol and hop aromas. Esters are reminiscent of lighter fruits such as pears, oranges or apples. Moderate to moderately low spicy, peppery phenols. A low to moderate yet distinctive perfumy, floral hop character is often present. Alcohols are soft, spicy, perfumy and low-to-moderate in intensity. No hot alcohol or solventy aromas. The malt character is light and slightly grainy-sweet to nearly neutral.

Appearance: Yellow to medium gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Massive, long-lasting, rocky, often beady, white head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades.

Flavor: Marriage of fruity, spicy and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character. Esters are reminiscent of pears, oranges or apples. Low to moderately low phenols are peppery in character. A low to moderate spicy hop character is often present. Alcohols are soft and spicy, and are low-to-moderate in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness leads to a dry finish with a low to moderately bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Very highly carbonated; effervescent. Light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest. Smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. No hot alcohol or solventy character.

Comments: References to the devil are included in the names of many commercial examples of this style, referring to their potent alcoholic strength and as a tribute to the original example (Duvel). The best examples are complex and delicate. High carbonation helps to bring out the many flavors and to increase the perception of a dry finish. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle).

History: Originally developed by the Moortgat brewery after WWI as a response to the growing popularity of Pilsner beers.

Characteristic Ingredients: Pilsner malt with substantial sugary adjuncts. Saazer-type hops or Styrian Goldings are commonly used. Belgian yeast strains are used – those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols – often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures. Fairly soft water. Spicing is not traditional; if present, should be a background character only.

Style Comparison: Strongly resembles a Tripel, but may be even paler, lighter-bodied and even crisper and drier; the drier finish and lighter body also serves to make the assertive hopping and yeast character more prominent. Tends to use yeast that favor ester development (particularly pome fruit) over spiciness in the balance.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.070 – 1.095

IBUs:  22 – 35

FG:  1.005 – 1.016

SRM:  3 – 6

ABV:  7.5 – 10.5%

Commercial Examples: Brigand, Delirium Tremens, Dulle Teve, Duvel, Judas, Lucifer, Piraat, Russian River Damnation

25B – Saison

Overall Impression: Most commonly, a pale, refreshing, highly-attenuated, moderately-bitter, moderate-strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish. Typically highly carbonated, and using non-barley cereal grains and optional spices for complexity, as complements the expressive yeast character that is fruity, spicy, and not overly phenolic. Less common variations include both lower-alcohol and higher-alcohol products, as well as darker versions with additional malt character.

Aroma: Quite aromatic, with fruity, spicy, and hoppy characteristics evident. The esters can be fairly high (moderate to high), and are often reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons. The hops are low to moderate and are often spicy, floral, earthy, or fruity. Stronger versions can have a soft, spicy alcohol note (low intensity). Spicy notes are typically peppery rather than clove-like, and can be up to moderately-strong (typically yeast-derived). Subtle, complementary herb or spice additions are allowable, but should not dominate. The malt character is typically slightly grainy in character and low in intensity. Darker and stronger versions will have more noticeable malt, with darker versions taking characteristics associated with grains of that color (toasty, biscuity, caramelly, chocolate, etc.). In versions where sourness is present instead of bitterness, some of the sour character can be detected (low to moderate).

Appearance: Pale versions are often a distinctive pale orange but may be pale golden to amber in color (gold to amber-gold is most common). Darker versions may run from copper to dark brown. Long-lasting, dense, rocky white to ivory head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades. Clarity is poor to good, though haze is not unexpected in this type of unfiltered beer. Effervescent.

Flavor: Medium-low to medium-high fruity and spicy flavors, supported by a low to medium soft malt character, often with some grainy flavors. Bitterness is typically moderate to high, although sourness can be present in place of bitterness (both should not be strong flavors at the same time). Attenuation is extremely high, which gives a characteristic dry finish essential to the style; a Saison should never finish sweet. The fruity character is frequently citrusy (orange or lemon), and the spices are typically peppery. Allow for a range of balance in the fruity-spicy characteristics; this is often driven by the yeast selection. Hop flavor is low to moderate, and generally spicy or earthy in character. The balance is towards the fruity, spicy, hoppy character, with any bitterness or sourness not overwhelming these flavors. Darker versions will have more malt character, with a range of flavors derived from darker malts (toasty, bready, biscuity, chocolate, etc.) that support the fruity-spicy character of the beer (roasted flavors are not typical). Stronger versions will have more malt flavor in general, as well as a light alcohol impression. Herbs and spices are completely optional, but if present should be used in moderation and not detract from the yeast character. The finish is very dry and the aftertaste is typically bitter and spicy. The hop bitterness can be restrained, although it can seem accentuated due to the high attenuation levels.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body. Alcohol sensation varies with strength, from none in table version to light in standard versions, to moderate in super versions. However, any warming character should be fairly low. Very high carbonation with an effervescent quality. There is enough prickly acidity on the tongue to balance the very dry finish. In versions with sourness, a low to moderate tart character can add a refreshing bite, but not be puckering (optional).

Comments: Variations exist in strength and color, but they all have similar characteristics and balance, in particularly the refreshing, highly-attenuated, dry character with high carbonation. There is no correlation between strength and color. The balance can change somewhat with strength and color variations, but the family resemblance to the original artisanal ale should be evident. Pale versions are likely to be more bitter and have more hop character, while darker versions tend to have more malt character and sweetness, yielding a more balanced presentations. Stronger versions often will have more malt flavor, richness, and body simply due to their higher gravity. Although they tend to be very well-attenuated, they may not be perceived to be as dry as standard-strength saisons due to their strength. The Saison yeast character is a must, although maltier and richer versions will tend to mask this character more. Often called Farmhouse ales in the US, but this term is not common in Europe where they are simply part of a larger grouping of artisanal ales.

History: A provision ale originally brewed in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, for consumption during the active farming season. Originally a lower-alcohol product so as to not debilitate field workers, but tavern-strength products also existed. Higher-strength and different-colored products appeared after WWII. The best known modern saison, Saison Dupont, was first produced in the 1920s. Originally a rustic, artisanal ale made with local farm-produced ingredients, it is now brewed mostly in larger breweries yet retains the image of its humble origins.

Characteristic Ingredients: Not typically spiced, with the yeast, hops and grain providing the character; but spices are allowed if they provide a complementary character. Continental base malts are typical, but the grist frequently contains other grains such as wheat, oats, rye, or spelt. Adjuncts such as sugar and honey can also serve to add complexity and dry out the beer. Darker versions will typically use richer, darker malts, but not typically roasted types. Saazer-type, Styrian or East Kent Golding hops are commonly used. A wide range of herbs or spices can add complexity and uniqueness, but should always meld well with the yeast and hop character. Brettanomyces is not typical for this style; Saisons with Brett should be entered in the American Wild Ale category.

Style Comparison: At standard strengths and pale color (the most common variety), like a more highly-attenuated, hoppy, and bitter Belgian blond ale with a stronger yeast character. At super strength and pale color, similar to a Belgian tripel, but often with more of a grainy, rustic quality and sometimes with a spicier yeast character.

Entry Instructions: The entrant must specify the strength (table, standard, super) and the color (pale, dark).

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.048 – 1.065 (standard)

IBUs:  20 – 35

FG:  1.002 – 1.008 (standard)

SRM:  5 – 14 (pale)

15 – 22 (dark)

ABV:  3.5 – 5.0% (table)

5.0 – 7.0% (standard)

7.0 – 9.5% (super)

Commercial Examples: Ellezelloise Saison, Fantôme Saison, Lefebvre Saison 1900, Saison Dupont Vieille Provision, Saison de Pipaix, Saison Regal, Saison Voisin,  Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale

25A – Belgian Blond Ale

Overall Impression: A moderate-strength golden ale that has a subtle fruity-spicy Belgian yeast complexity, slightly malty-sweet flavor, and dry finish.

Aroma: Light earthy or spicy hop nose, along with a lightly grainy-sweet malt character. Shows a subtle yeast character that may include spicy phenolics, perfumy or honey-like alcohol, or yeasty, fruity esters (commonly orange-like or lemony). Light sweetness that may have a slightly sugar-like character. Subtle yet complex.

Appearance: Light to deep gold color. Generally very clear. Large, dense, and creamy white to off-white head. Good head retention with Belgian lace.

Flavor: Smooth, light to moderate grainy-sweet malt flavor initially, but finishes medium-dry to dry with some smooth alcohol becoming evident in the aftertaste. Medium hop and alcohol bitterness to balance. Light hop flavor, can be spicy or earthy. Very soft yeast character (esters and alcohols, which are sometimes perfumy or orange/lemon-like). Light spicy phenolics optional. Some lightly caramelized sugar or honey-like sweetness on palate.

Mouthfeel: Medium-high to high carbonation, can give mouth-filling bubbly sensation. Medium body. Light to moderate alcohol warmth, but smooth. Can be somewhat creamy.

Comments: Often has an almost lager-like character, which gives it a cleaner profile in comparison to many other Belgian styles. Belgians use the term Blond, while the French spell it Blonde. Most commercial examples are in the 6.5 – 7% ABV range. Many Trappist or artisanal Belgian beers are called Blond but those are not representative of this style.

History: Relatively recent development to further appeal to European Pils drinkers, becoming more popular as it is heavily marketed and widely distributed.

Characteristic Ingredients: Belgian Pils malt, aromatic malts, sugar, Belgian yeast strains that produce complex alcohol, phenolics and perfumy esters, Saazer-type, Styrian Goldings, or East Kent Goldings hops. Spices are not traditionally used, although the ingredients and fermentation by-products may give an impression of spicing (often reminiscent of oranges or lemons). If spices are present, should be a background character only.

Style Comparison: Similar strength as a Dubbel, similar character as a Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Tripel, although a bit sweeter and not as bitter.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.062 – 1.075

IBUs:  15 – 30

FG:  1.008 – 1.018

SRM:  4 – 7

ABV:  6.0 – 7.5%

Commercial Examples: Affligem Blond, Grimbergen Blond, La Trappe Blond, Leffe Blond, Val-Dieu Blond

24C – Bière De Garde

Overall Impression: A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal beer with a range of malt flavors appropriate for the color. All are malty yet dry, with clean flavors and a smooth character.

Aroma: Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate intensity toasty-bready-rich malt character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy, peppery, or herbal). Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. Generally quite clean, although stronger versions may have a light, spicy alcohol note as it warms.

Appearance: Three main variations exist (blond, amber and brown), so color can range from golden-blonde to reddish-bronze to chestnut brown. Clarity is brilliant to fair, although haze is not unexpected in this type of often unfiltered beer. Well-formed head, generally white to off-white (varies by beer color), average persistence.

Flavor: Medium to high malt flavor often with a toasty-rich, biscuity, toffee-like or light caramel-sweet character. Malt flavors and complexity tend to increase with beer color. Low to moderate esters and alcohol flavors. Medium-low hop bitterness provides some support, but the balance is always tilted toward the malt. Darker versions will have more of an initial malty-sweet impression than paler versions, but all should be malty in the palate and finish. The malt flavor lasts into the finish, which is medium-dry to dry, never cloying. Low to no hop flavor (spicy, peppery, or herbal), although paler versions can have slightly higher levels of herbal or spicy hop flavor (which can also come from the yeast). Smooth, well-lagered character, even if made with ale yeast. Aftertaste of malt (character appropriate for the color) with some dryness and light alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-light (lean) body, often with a smooth, creamy-silky character. Moderate to high carbonation. Moderate alcohol warming, but should be very smooth and never hot.

Comments: Three main variations are included in the style: the brown (brune), the blond (blonde), and the amber (ambrée). The darker versions will have more malt character, while the paler versions can have more hops (but still are malt-focused beers). A related style is Bière de Mars, which is brewed in March (Mars) for present use and will not age as well. Attenuation rates are in the 80-85% range. Some fuller-bodied examples exist, but these are somewhat rare. Age and oxidation in imports often increases fruitiness, caramel flavors, and adds corked and musty notes; these are all signs of mishandling, not characteristic elements of the style.

History: Name literally means “beer which has been kept or lagered.” A traditional artisanal ale from Northern France brewed in early spring and kept in cold cellars for consumption in warmer weather. It is now brewed year-round.

Characteristic Ingredients: The “cellar” character commonly described in literature is more of a feature of mishandled commercial exports than fresh, authentic products. The somewhat moldy character comes from the corks and/or oxidation in commercial versions, and is incorrectly identified as “musty” or “cellar-like.” Base malts vary by beer color, but usually include pale, Vienna and Munich types. Darker versions will have richer malt complexity and sweetness from crystal-type malts. Sugar may be used to add flavor and aid in the dry finish. Lager or ale yeast fermented at cool ale temperatures, followed by long cold conditioning. Floral, herbal or spicy continental hops.

Style Comparison: Related to the Belgian Saison style, the main difference is that the Bière de Garde is rounder, richer, malt-focused, and lacks the spicy, bitter character of a Saison.

Entry Instructions: Entrant must specify blond, amber, or brown bière de garde. If no color is specified, the judge should attempt to judge based on initial observation, expecting a malt flavor and balance that matches the color.

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.060 – 1.080

IBUs:  18 – 28

FG:  1.008 – 1.016

SRM:  6 – 19

ABV:  6.0 – 8.5%

Commercial Examples: Ch’Ti (brown and blond), Jenlain (amber and blond), La Choulette (all 3 versions), St. Amand (brown), Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts (blond), Russian River Perdition