Belgica is a “Belgian-Style India Pale Ale” from Great Divide Brewing Company, a brewery based in Denver, CO since 1994. I have had a couple of other GDBC beers before and enjoyed them, and I was just catching up on some Craft Beer Radio episodes from the past couple months while driving today and they reviewed another company’s Belgian IPA, so when I spotted this at Gomer’s in Midtown I decided to try it.
The beer uses the ancient Roman name for the Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands) and is made with Belgian pilsner malt, European and American hops, and of course, Belgian yeast, to make for a pretty unique beer.
Belgian beers, as a whole, are generally known for the character that comes from the use of unique and, sometimes, wild yeasts. India Pale Ales, or IPA’s, tend are highly hopped ales that tend to be a bit higher in alcohol. This is the first time I’ve had a beer with both traits merged in one.
Belgica pours an almost neon-yellow, maybe a bit more toward a bright gold, color. To my surprise, unlike a lot of Belgian beers, this was filtered and not bottle conditioned, so it poured clear and with a small soft frothy head.
The aroma is unmistakably Belgian. I don’t know how to explain that better, so if you don’t know what I mean, grab a few Belgian beers and you will soon… the yeasts give off a characteristic aroma that is earthy in a very pleasant way. Interestingly, I get almost no hop character in the aroma at all, which is what would normally dominate a normal IPA’s aroma.
The hops come through much more in the flavor, though, especially toward the second “half” and aftertaste of a sip. To me, the initial sip is really dominated by the Belgian yeast and malt, along with what I originally thought was very forward alcohol flavors, then as those flavors mellow the hops come forward and linger in a long aftertaste.
Belgica’s hop character seems to lean more toward the earthy, piney, resiny side of the hop flavor spectrum, rather than the floral or citrusy end of things. I think this aspect of hop flavor pair well with the earthiness of the Belgian yeast.
I think what I originally thought was alcohol, coming very forward mid-sip, is actually the overlap of the yeast and hops as the flavors transition. This beer does weigh in at 7.2%, so it isn’t a lightweight, but I don’t think what I thought was alcohol really was.
Belgica is a good beer and very different from anything I’ve ever had. Because of its complexity it is not the easiest drinker, although it has a nice mouthfeel and perfect carbonation to pair with the flavors in the beer. This is definitely the type of beer you will want to sip and ponder, rather than use as a summer thirst-quencher, although it does have a pretty dry finish overall. Great Divide recommends Thai curry mussels (yum!), roast turkey or pheasant, and Taleggio or Epoisses cheeses as good food pairings for Belgica.