What is Table Beer?

Jan 18, 2017

What is Table Beer?

Brett Willis, Allagash Brewing Company

Today’s rapidly expanding beer landscape has had the excellent effect of introducing American beer drinkers to new styles of beer. One of these lesser-known styles is table beer. In honor of Allagash’s most recent release—Hoppy Table Beer—we thought it would be a good idea to answer the question: 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. There’s also generally some sweetness—hops are mostly a background player. Traditional table beers are also surprisingly varied in color—ranging from light blonde to midnight black.

Allagash Brewing Company’s Hoppy Table Beer comes from this tradition, but is by no means defined by it.

So what is Hoppy Table Beer? 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 bitter, 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 is hop-forward (featuring Comet, Cascade, Azacca, and Chinook) which are both 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 Hoppy Table Beer finds the surest common ground with its Belgian brethren—meaning, you can enjoy a couple during a meal. Cheers and santé


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