Beer Knowledge

USA vs. Belgium - Who makes better beer?

Published July 1st, 2014

While today’s afternoon matchup between Team USA and Belgium is all about soccer, it’s hard to ignore the pride both countries display for their beer. So much so, in fact, that the Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo offered a “beer bet” with President Obama over the outcome.

So while we hope and pray you’ll be betting for Team USA on the pitch, we’re wondering where your allegiance lies when filling up your pitcher? Is it Team Belgium or USA when it comes to beer? 

The Belgians

Both countries boast a unique claim to beer fame: they claim to have no “style.” Both countries strive for individuality, and it shows in their beer. However, with the type of history that Belgium has with its beer, it’s nearly impossible for this small country not to look toward its roots in beer making. And when you look toward the history of Belgian beer, you need look no further than the Trappist breweries. Trappist monks have been brewing beers for centuries, namely seven styles: Westmalle, Chimay, Koningshoeven, Rochefort, Orval, Achel and Westvleteren. In fact, Westvleteren 12 is one of the highest rated beers in the world, and caused quite a stir in 2012 when it was briefly imported here. 

When looking for a common thread among Belgian beers, some qualities that stand out are the phenol aromas. These aromas are often classified as clove-like, spicy, herbal or even, at times, medicinal. Belgians also like to add a touch of fruity aroma to some of their beers, including banana and fresh citrus. Another common attribute of many Belgian-style beers is that they are bottle-conditioned, or re-fermented in the bottle. This causes an increased level of effervescence during a pour. 

The Americans

The Americans may not have the type of history in beer making that the Belgians have, but what they lack in roots they make up for with innovation. In a country as vast and varied as the USA, it’s no wonder that there are dozens upon dozens of American-style beers to choose from. The Rockies of Colorado produces an entirely different style of beer from the beaches of SoCal. Pennsylvania (home to the oldest operating brewery in the country - Yuengling) produces beers that taste and look nothing like what you’ll find in Oregon. 

So what does America do so well that can help it compete against beer veterans such as Belgian? American brewers have excelled in the art of taking existing work, and refining it to the point of perfection. American brewers aren’t shy about finding inspiration from their fellow brewers overseas, then reinventing these styles into an Americanized twist. Even Belgian-style ales, sour beers and saisons are retouched, reworked, and refined here in the States, to provide drinkers with a taste of Europe, with a hint of modernity. 

So, when it comes to the game this afternoon, where will your taste buds be sitting in the stands? With the Belgians, or with the Americans? 

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