Erik's Highlights: The stars of the brewing kettle
Author: Erik Verdonck / Published: 2013-09-12 06:44:34 +0200 / Last Updated: about 1 year ago
Take an unbranded glass and taste a blond, an amber, a bruin or a rood. I’d like to know if you can guess the beer and the brewery every single time. This gets even harder if the test comprises some lesser known or hard to find beers. But today I’m not here to discuss quality. I’d rather see this as one of the side-effects of a lively and rich beer culture.
Some brewers have just started up and will take years to create their perfect beer; some will never really manage it. There are visionaries who put new beer styles on the map or add a Belgian touch to foreign beer types. There are also creative brewers who veer off the well-trodden paths and develop ‘bastard’ styles.
These don’t always work out but are often interesting. Then there are the gourmets who strive for a happy marriage between chocolate and beer or develop a herbal beer with an eye towards gastronomy.
Microbreweries are in a world all of their own. There’s plenty of freedom, especially for the very smallest ones, who don’t need to obey the strict laws of economics. “I don’t want to grow, brewing is my hobby, I want to follow my own path,” is what the microbrewers say.
They can stay small, unless and until the consumer has a different opinion, embraces the beer and the brewer feels obliged to come out of the shadows and enter the well-known growth spiral of investment, investment and... investment.
This is how the small players can grow big. Just take a look at Brasserie d’Achouffe, they started 30 years ago in a cattle barn and are now a player on the international stage.
A Modest Attitude
The brewing virus strikes mercilessly. It is just like cooking. Chefs who have been called to the stove from a young age, always busily wielding their pots and pans, helping out left and right, doing a few bits on the side, then get trained professionally and make it thanks to their talent and drive. In the same way, ambitions vary in the beer world.
Some are aiming for the premier league and achieve this status by conquering the export market. Look at the success of some geuzestekers – mixers of lambiek beers -, modest as it may be by some standards.
“American beer freaks consider me a rock star these days,” says Armand De Belder of 3 Fonteinen on television. He can see the humour in it: how to become the latest trend through talent, passion and years of tenacity.
Would he have imagined it in his wildest dreams? Just to remind ourselves: 30 years ago the trade of geuzesteker had almost vanished from the face of the Belgian earth.
Armand and a number of kindred spirits decided to continue the profession. These days, production of oude geuze can barely keep up with demand. Around 10 established Belgian geuzestekers keep the tradition alive while German, Japanese and American fans have all left their imprint.
Fashion also plays a part. Hops have made a comeback and sweet is not trending any more. Tomorrow, sour will be in. These fashions create a culture of copies, from a strong blond beer to IPA. Marketing efforts are translated into snazzy packaging or a retro look.
In some cases beer assumes the elegance of wine, marketed in a bottle fit for a table in one of the the better restaurants.
You may even find a few words of explanation on the beer menu. If you’re in luck you will find out who poured his or her heart and soul into that bottle.
Or you discover a brewer who is not very well known at home but a star abroad, or perhaps not, and you can start your own quest for the perfect beer for you. Cheers!
Recent Blog Posts
BASECLES - You may not have heard of this little village, halfway between Tournai and Mons. Its former quarries are now filled with water where the black marble that adorns Cologne Cathedral was once ... [ read more ]
MELLE - Alain De Laet, CEO and owner of Brouwerij Huyghe, is a firm believer in the power of the Belgian beer brand around the world. The success of the brewery speaks for itself, with Huyghe ... [ read more ]
SOIGNIES - Belgians drink their beer from the correct glass. An abbey beer tastes so much better from a traditional chalice, a pils beer from a pils glass... Only in Belgium, will you come across such ... [ read more ]
WESTMALLE - Time appears to stand still in a Trappist abbey like Westmalle. However, appearances can be deceptive - even here the latest technologies are quietly creeping in. The abbey has an up-to-da ... [ read more ]
VAL-DIEU - Those monks certainly picked some beautiful spots for their abbeys. The rumble of the busy motorway lies far behind me as I swap the flat northern Belgian landscape for the gently rolling ... [ read more ]
You must be logged in to leave a comment
INGELMUNSTER - Brewing always involves just a little bit of magic. One brewer expressed it as follows: “We put the ingredients together and wait for the result”. But we think there is more to it than that. As a brewer, ... [ more ]
INGELMUNSTER - Hans Mehuys has been wielding the mashing stick at the Van Honsebrouck brewery for over a quarter of a century. Six years ago he was appointed as Brewmaster and Head of Production. ... [ more ]
THE GAUME - Deep in the South of Belgium, hidden amongst the pine forests, nestles the Orval Trappist abbey and brewery. This famed locale marks the s... [ more ]
BOKRIJK/HERKENRODE - On Sunday, 15th September Bokrijk Open Air Museum will host a special event at which you can discover everything edible and drinkable in the wild world of flora and fauna. You’ll witness demonstr... [ more ]
Kasteel Rouge is principally a “blend” of two artisanal, quality products, Kasteel Donker and a cherry liqueur. The beer was launched in 2008 and is the “fruitiest” offering within... [ more ]
Beer Tourism Newsletter Signup
Enter your name and email address on the right and click "SignUp" to join.