Because the style has been growing in popularity, we thought it would make sense to answer a question that’s probably on many people’s minds: what is table beer?
If you were Belgian (and the year was 1900) there’s a good chance the first beer you’d ever sipped would have been a tafelbier. Also translated in French as bière de table, table beers—as we Americans call them—are a low-ABV, malty, Belgian tradition. Back in the height of their popularity around the turn of the 20th century, table beers were viewed as the perfect mealtime sipper; they were low enough in alcohol that you could have a couple, yet still flavorful enough to accompany a robust dish.
There are a couple particular features that make up the table beer style. The most striking would be the style’s low (low) alcohol content: 1.5 – 3.0% ABV. They’re also generally malt forward—hops are mostly a background player. Traditional table beers are also surprisingly varied in color, ranging from light blonde to midnight black.
We brew a table beer called River Trip that comes from this tradition, but is by no means defined by it.
So what is River Trip? In taste, the beer’s flavors of stone fruit mix with notes of grapefruit and citrus. Its light malt and silky texture—thanks to the addition of Maine-grown oats—are balanced out by a pleasantly hoppy finish. As far as tafelbier standards go, its 4.8% ABV doesn’t fall as low as tradition would demand. It also contains coriander and has a notable hop profile (featuring Nugget, Cascade, Comet, Azacca) which are all slight departures from the style. So it’s not exactly a table beer. However, it’s less in the ingredients and more in the intention that we feel like River Trip finds the surest common ground with its Belgian brethren—meaning, you can enjoy a couple during a meal.
Cheers and santé!