Don is the editor of Thirst magazine.
There's an old joke that says it's impossible to name four famous Belgians, but when it comes to beer, the roll of honour is almost infinite.
Belgium's beers are among the best in the world and I was lucky enough recently to sit through a special tasting at the Belgian Beer Cafe in Ponsonby. General manager Bart Muylle invited me in to try three insanely expensive and astonishingly good Trappist beers from the Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren monastery in Flanders.
Westvleteren beer is hard to get, hence the price (between $112 and $132 for a 330ml bottle), with small amounts released to the public each year by the silent order of monks who make it. Clearly God has a hand in it too, because it tastes divine.
The Westvleteren Blonde (5.8 per cent alcohol) is a rich, honey-coloured ale with a sweet malt nose and a lively hop bitterness underpinning the honey characters on the palate. It has a gorgeous finish - long, rich and yeasty and a million miles away from your average beer.
The Westvleteren 8 (8 per cent alcohol) was my favourite, packed with sweet brioche notes on the nose, backed by rich stewed fruit, like a Christmas cake. On the palate it was like vintage port, full of ripe fruit and bready notes.
The 12 per cent version was the colour of dark oak and packed with aromas of fruit, bread, malt, yeast and even coppery notes. It was huge on the palate, far too complex to describe in a few words, but the alcohol level made it a bit too big for my taste. Nevertheless, a stunning beer, in more ways than one.
If you can, check out the range at the Belgian Beer Cafe in Ponsonby, you won't be disappointed.
$12.99 for four-pack
Glorious nose of cloves and nutmeg that doesn't quite follow up on the palate, but a lovely beer nonetheless, with flavours redolent of everything from creaming soda to stone fruit.
$14.99 for four-pack
Sweet, spicy aromas with a touch of honey and clove. Sweet on the palate, reflecting the stronger alcohol content, developing a malty cereal character.