Level 4: Honorary Trappist Monk
Put your money (and your passport) where your mouth is: head to Belgium. At the airport, celebrate by drinking a giant blonde for the price of a happy-hour beer in New York. Visit ancient breweries and medieval pubs where each beer has an assigned drinking vessel and its own rules (to get the above giant beer, I had to sacrifice a shoe as a deposit). Ask the locals what they're drinking. Gaze groggily at the architecture. Write a list of everything you drank, scribbled in increasingly indiscernible writing. Visit different regions, chat with monks, and never drink the same beer twice. And don't fall in the canal. That's such an American thing to do.
Keith says: "I would highly encourage any level of craft beer drinkers interested in Belgian beers to visit Belgium and experience them firsthand. The masters could appreciate something along the lines of Gulden Draak. Again, brewed by our friends at Brewery Van Steenberge, this beer is offered as a true dark tripel or quadruple. The taste sensation is very rich and complex and enjoyed by advanced beer drinkers. Coming in at 10.5% ABV, it’s best to sip and savor these strong beers.
"Some other styles I’d recommend to masters include Belgian IPAs, sour reds and sour browns, Trappist singles, and Belgian seasonal beers. Belgian IPAs -- IPAs with a Belgian twist -- typically are fermented with a Belgian yeast, resulting in a spicy yeast character. These can be found at artisanal breweries around Belgium.
"Sour reds and sour browns can be found in the Flanders region of Belgium. They have intense sour flavors balanced by rich, malty flavors. Trappist singles are generally found only in Trappist breweries, but small amounts are known to be sold to the public. These have a lower amount of alcohol (around 5% ABV) and are made for the monks. Belgium is a Catholic country so you will find Christmas and Easter beers as part of the Belgian seasonal mix. These styles are stronger and filled with seasonal spices that pair well with holiday food and are widely available in Belgium."
Andy Kryza is a senior editor on Thrillist's Food & Drink team. During his trip to Belgium, he didn't make a single Van Damme joke... that he remembers. Follow him to ill-advised splits via @apkryza.