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Glossary of Belgian Beer Terms

Abbey Beer

Beer which, though not brewed by monks, is nevertheless associated with a particular abbey (possibly due to being brewed to an old abbey recipe, or more often a simple commercial licencing of the name). Leffe is the most well-known example - most Leffe beer is brewed at the Interbrew plant in Leuven nowhere near the Abbaye de Leffe.

Belgian hangover

The unexpected absence of any ill-effects after a heavy night.
- Some state you were in last night. I called round this morning but you must've still been sleeping it off.
- Au contraire! I woke up with a Belgian hangover so I went out for a run.


Style of dark beer. Many breweries (especially the Trappists) brew a dubbel and tripel version of their beer, the tripel being lighter and stronger. Some monasteries also brew a single which is the monks' house beer and not commercially available.

Gueuze (Geuze)

This sour and refreshing beer style is a blend of old & young lambics and comes in a corked bottle. Some breweries do a mass market, sweetened version: For the authentic product, look for the term Oude Geuze and avoid bottles without corks.


The lambic process involves brewing beer in open tanks, the fermentation being due solely to contact with airborne yeast. It is subsequently matured in oak casks for three years. Many lambics are fruit flavoured (mainly cherry or raspberry), though not all fruit beers are necessarily lambic.
Beer has been brewed in the Payottenland region to the west of Brussels using this process since the 16th century. Cogan & Mater's Lambicland is an excellent guide to the breweries and (mostly rudimentary) cafés offering lambic beers.


Bottom-fermented beer relatively low in alcohol content (e.g. 5%). Examples are Stella Artois, Jupiler, Maes and Primus. Although this style represents most Belgian beer production in terms of volume, this website generally covers top-fermented beers, which are far more interesting and diverse in style.

Refermentée en Bouteille

The majority of Belgian bottled beers are refermented in the bottle, and the by-product of this is a layer of yeast sediment which if the beer is poured carefully should remain in the bottle. Generally, the bottle should have been allowed to settle in an upright position for some time beforehand, but if, even after careful pouring into the correct glass , the beer is still cloudy then it doesn't matter, the taste will be affected a bit but the yeast is quite nutritious.

Trappist Beer

Beer brewed by Cistercian monks. There are only seven Trappist breweries in the world and six are in Belgium. These are Chimay, Westmalle, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren and Achel.
The Dutch Koningshoeven brewery (whose beers go under the La Trappe name) had their Trappist status reinstated in 2005 six years after it was withdrawn due to major commercialisation.
Trappist beers always bear the hexagonal 'Authentic Trappist Product' symbol.


Strong beer, often from one of the Trappist or abbey breweries. Usually the top-of-the-range beer in terms of alcohol content. Tripel is almost invariably blonde but more complex than a simple blonde ale.

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