What is a Belgian IPA? A Guide to the Belgian-Style India Pale Ale

Belgian IPA

Belgian IPA is a beer style that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is a unique combination of two distinct beer styles: Belgian ale and American IPA. This style is known for its complex flavors and aromas that are a result of the blend of Belgian and American brewing techniques.

The Belgian IPA is characterized by its hoppy bitterness, fruity and spicy Belgian yeast flavors, and a dry finish. The beer has a medium to high alcohol content, usually ranging from 6% to 9% ABV. This beer style is a perfect example of the fusion of two different brewing traditions that have come together to create something new and exciting.

Belgian IPA Characteristics

Flavor Profile

A Belgian IPA is a unique beer style that combines the hoppy bitterness of an American IPA with the spicy and fruity notes of a Belgian ale. This creates a complex flavor profile that is both refreshing and satisfying. The hops used in a Belgian IPA are typically American, but they are balanced by the use of Belgian yeast and malt, which adds a spicy and fruity character to the beer.

The flavor profile of a Belgian IPA can vary depending on the specific ingredients used, but it typically has a medium to high level of bitterness with a moderate to high level of alcohol content. The beer can also have a dry finish with a slightly sweet aftertaste.


A Belgian IPA is typically a hazy, golden color with a thick, white head. The beer can be cloudy due to the use of Belgian yeast, which does not settle as quickly as other yeasts. The head of a Belgian IPA is often long-lasting and can leave lacing on the glass as you drink it.

The appearance of a Belgian IPA can also vary depending on the specific ingredients used. Some brewers may add fruit or spices to the beer, which can affect the color and clarity of the beer.


The ingredients used in a Belgian IPA are similar to those used in an American IPA, but with the addition of Belgian yeast and malt. The hops used in a Belgian IPA are typically American varieties, such as Cascade or Centennial, which provide a citrusy and piney flavor.

The Belgian yeast used in a Belgian IPA is typically a strain that adds spicy and fruity notes to the beer. The malt used in a Belgian IPA can vary, but it is typically a pale malt that provides a clean and crisp base for the beer.

Some brewers may also add fruit or spices to a Belgian IPA, such as coriander or orange peel, which can add complexity to the flavor profile of the beer.

History of Belgian IPA

The Belgian IPA is a relatively new beer style that emerged in the early 21st century. It is a hybrid of two classic beer styles, the American IPA and the Belgian Tripel. The Belgian IPA combines the hop-forward bitterness and aroma of the American IPA with the fruity and spicy yeast character of the Belgian Tripel.

The Belgian IPA was first brewed in the United States in the early 2000s, as American craft brewers began experimenting with different beer styles and ingredients. The first commercial example of the Belgian IPA was brewed by the California-based brewery, Russian River Brewing Company, in 2004. The beer was called Pliny the Elder, and it quickly became a sensation among beer enthusiasts and critics.

As the popularity of the Belgian IPA grew, it began to spread to other parts of the world, including Belgium itself. Belgian brewers, who had long been known for their unique and complex beer styles, embraced the new style and began experimenting with their own versions of the Belgian IPA.

Today, the Belgian IPA is a popular beer style among craft beer enthusiasts and is brewed by breweries all over the world. It is known for its complex flavor profile, which combines the bitterness and aroma of American hops with the fruity and spicy character of Belgian yeast. The Belgian IPA is a testament to the creativity and innovation of the craft beer industry, and it continues to evolve and grow in popularity.

Brewing Belgian IPA


The first step in brewing a Belgian IPA is the mashing process. This involves mixing crushed malted grains with hot water in a mash tun to convert the starches into fermentable sugars. For a Belgian IPA, a combination of Pilsner and specialty malts are typically used to give the beer its unique flavor profile.

During the mashing process, the temperature is carefully controlled to ensure that the enzymes in the malted grains are activated and the starches are broken down into simple sugars. This typically takes around 60-90 minutes, depending on the recipe.


After the mashing process is complete, the liquid (now called wort) is transferred to a brew kettle and boiled for around 60-90 minutes. During this time, hops are added at various intervals to impart bitterness, flavor, and aroma to the beer.

For a Belgian IPA, a combination of European and American hops are typically used to create a balance between the spicy, fruity notes of Belgian yeast and the citrusy, piney notes of American hops.


Once the boiling process is complete, the wort is cooled and transferred to a fermenter, where yeast is added to begin the fermentation process. For a Belgian IPA, a Belgian yeast strain is typically used to create the fruity, spicy flavors that are characteristic of the style.

The fermentation process typically takes around 1-2 weeks, depending on the recipe and the temperature at which the beer is fermented. During this time, the yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide.


After the fermentation process is complete, the beer is transferred to a bottling bucket or keg and carbonated. For a Belgian IPA, the beer is typically bottle conditioned, which means that a small amount of sugar is added to the beer before bottling to create natural carbonation.

Once the beer is carbonated, it is ready to be enjoyed! Belgian IPAs are best served chilled and paired with spicy or flavorful foods.

Serving Belgian IPA

Belgian IPA is a complex and flavorful beer that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Here are a few tips for serving and enjoying this unique brew:

  • Temperature: Belgian IPAs are best served at a temperature between 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow the flavors to come through without being too overpowering.
  • Glassware: A tulip glass or snifter is the best choice for serving Belgian IPAs. These glasses will enhance the aroma and allow you to fully appreciate the complex flavors.
  • Food Pairings: Belgian IPAs pair well with spicy foods, such as Thai or Indian cuisine. The hoppy bitterness of the beer can help cut through the heat and balance out the flavors. They also pair well with strong cheeses, such as blue cheese or aged cheddar.
  • Serving Size: Belgian IPAs are typically served in 12 oz. bottles or cans, but can also be found on tap in some craft beer bars. They are a strong beer, with an ABV ranging from 6-9%, so it’s best to enjoy them in moderation.

Overall, Belgian IPAs are a unique and flavorful beer that can be enjoyed on their own or paired with a variety of foods. By following these tips for serving and enjoying, you can fully appreciate the complex flavors and aromas of this delicious brew.

Food Pairings with Belgian IPA

Belgian IPAs are known for their complex and intense flavors, making them a great pairing for a variety of dishes. Here are a few food pairing suggestions to enhance your Belgian IPA experience:

  • Spicy Foods: The hoppy bitterness of a Belgian IPA can help cool down the heat from spicy dishes. Try pairing a Belgian IPA with spicy Thai or Indian cuisine for a delicious combination.
  • Strong Cheeses: The bold flavors of a Belgian IPA can stand up to strong cheeses like blue cheese, gouda, and cheddar. These cheeses can also help bring out the fruity and spicy notes in the beer.
  • Grilled Meats: The caramelized flavors of grilled meats like steak, burgers, and sausages can complement the maltiness of a Belgian IPA. The hop bitterness can also help cut through the richness of the meat.
  • Seafood: Belgian IPAs pair well with seafood dishes like grilled shrimp or fish tacos. The citrus and floral notes in the beer can bring out the flavors of the seafood.

When pairing food with Belgian IPAs, it’s important to consider the intensity and complexity of the beer. Look for dishes that can stand up to the bold flavors of the beer without overpowering it. Experiment with different food pairings to find the perfect combination for your taste buds.

Popular Belgian IPA Beers to Try

If you’re interested in trying out some Belgian IPAs, here are a few popular options to consider:

Beer Name Brewery ABV
La Chouffe Houblon Brasserie d’Achouffe 9%
De Ranke XX Bitter Brouwerij De Ranke 6%
St. Feuillien Belgian Coast IPA Brasserie St. Feuillien 7.5%
Orval Brasserie d’Orval 6.9%

La Chouffe Houblon is a popular Belgian IPA that has won several awards. It has a hazy golden color and a fruity aroma with notes of citrus and herbs. The taste is complex, with a balance of sweetness and bitterness, and a dry finish.

De Ranke XX Bitter is another highly regarded Belgian IPA. It has a light amber color and a hoppy aroma with hints of floral and citrus. The taste is bitter and spicy, with a dry finish.

St. Feuillien Belgian Coast IPA is a newer addition to the Belgian IPA scene, but it has quickly gained popularity. It has a golden color and a fruity aroma with notes of grapefruit and pine. The taste is balanced, with a mix of sweetness and bitterness, and a dry finish.

Finally, Orval is a unique Belgian IPA that is brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, which gives it a distinct flavor. It has a hazy amber color and a spicy aroma with notes of fruit and earth. The taste is complex, with a mix of sweetness, bitterness, and sourness, and a dry finish.

Dan Specht

Dan has been homebrewing beer for 8 years and holds a level 2 certifiication as a Cicerone.

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