Beer is one of those great things that just seems to be universal. Most every country has their own signature brew, but that doesn’t mean things are the same wherever you go. The pale lagers of China have their own certain unique distinction, just as the pale lagers of Japan have theirs. And if you find yourself in a legitimate Irish pub, God help you if you tell the bartender that the Guinness he just poured you tastes a lot like the kind they serve up in London. International brews are like soccer teams, they all have their fierce followers and storied rivalries, and no two nations prove that more than Germany and Belgium.
These two neighbor nations take their brewing very seriously. Centuries of high standards and deep tradition can be tasted in every beer they pour, and the aforementioned rivalry has only helped these brews get better and better.
So that begs the question: What’s the difference between their beers?
When we say German brewing is steeped in tradition, we’re not just blowing smoke. In fact, way back in 1516, Germany enacted the Reinheitsgebot law, which set forth strict standards for how German beers are made. It originally stated that barley, hops, and water are the only ingredients to be used in the brewing process, but over time the law was altered to include malted grains and yeast.
These tight parameters led to Germany’s production of some of the best lagers and wheat beers in the world. However, the ancient purity law has held them back in modern times, as the craft brew craze has become a worldwide phenomenon, and innovation and experimentation have led to some great new advancements in brewing. Germany’s hands are tied by tradition, and while their lagers and wheat beers often reign supreme, they fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to the many other beer styles.
The country of Belgium took awhile to gain its independence. France, Austria, and Holland each served as their ruling nations at various points in Belgian history, which has left an influence still felt to this day. While the Germans seemed to always know what it means to be German, the Belgians had a long period of a kind of adolescence. They’re not quite French, and they’re not quite German, but rather a little of both. You can see this hybrid culture in their streets, food, and even their names. (We’re looking at you, Jean-Claude Van Damme.)
Centuries of an uncertain identity also meant that shifting rulers were never able to establish a “purity law” such as Germany’s 500-year-old Reinheitsgebot. They are free to throw anything at the wall and see what sticks, and while they seem to do many styles well, their ales seem to be the big standout. Ales are a type of brew that allows for a bit more variety anyway, and its led to some barroom mainstays in the form of saisons, lambics, red ales, dark ales, and more.
So to sum up, the key ingredient in German beers is tradition, while Belgian beer’s key ingredient would have to be innovation. It’s led to some major differences; however, that doesn’t change the fact that these two nations both know how to brew some pretty awesome beers.
You don’t need to book a flight to Europe to try the difference for yourself, by the way. Stop by our craft beer bar at either our Fort Worth or Lewisville locations today and try our killer selection of German and Belgian beers. In fact, why not bring a taste of Europe to your next get together and fill up a growler?
See you soon, beer lovers. Auf Wiedersehen!
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