ANTWERP - 'Modeste' was the first name of the man who spent half a century at the helm of Antwerp Brewery De Koninck. The eponymous beer festival, now held for the third time, is meant to be a homage to ‘father’ De Koninck.
‘Modest’ also indicates that this is a small-scale festival. Modesty is the hallmark of the bigger brewers. No-one is putting up a grand show here. The glass will do the talking for each of them..
I see a remarkable number of microbreweries. Well over thirty of them heeded the call this year. Newcomer Bertingchamps from Gembloers, barely four months old, is the latest addition. Dochter van de Korenaar, known for its stout matured in whisky barrels, attracts a wide audience with its niche beers.
Classics such as Brouwerij Bosteels, Duvel-Moortgat, Palm Breweries and Timmermans also gave acte de présence as well as the Antwerp monuments De Koninck and ‘t Pakhuis.
It is surprising to find so many young microbreweries as well as smaller traditional breweries. In other words: how different worlds manage to find one another. Time to make my way to the bar for a chat and another beer.
Pierre-Alex Carlier of Brasserie de Blaugies manages to tell me that business is booming in his brewery, in between pouring the umpteenth Moneuse. Colleague Luc Pirot of Kempisch Vuur can look back on a good summer.
The terrace of his brewery in Zandhoven was rarely empty. He is another one who has been able to pour his beers without interruption. I am chatting to a Canadian-Belgian beer fan and an American tour operator.
Evidently, international visitors also manage to find their way to the former depot of De Koninck brewery.
In the meantime the Antwerps Bier College (ABC) is guiding visitors through the brewery. The tour includes the equipment of cheese affineur Michel Van Tricht in the former bottling plant.
We catch a glimpse of the old brewing hall, which will soon make way for the new De Koninck visitors’ centre, "this will be the ideal place to enjoy a bolleke De Koninck" I hear myself thinking.
Now and again a call comes through on the broadcasting system for a presentation by hop professor Denis De Keukeleire or Sofie Van Rafelghem with her new book ‘Vrouwen en bier’ (Women and beer). But if you are having a good time and are meeting lots of people you know, time flies.
And before you know it you have missed another presentation. Better luck next time...? At any rate I am not here to do a lot of tasting.
My focus is on the camera. Just like every other beer festival I am coming across beer fans who attend each and every event, familiar figures, forever in thrall to beer. Some of them may indulge a little too much. Is the truth hidden at the bottom of the glass?
The atmosphere is lively. A Dixieland brass band provides the musical wallpaper. And now the sun has come out, so the party is a guaranteed success.
Who shone by their absence? Artisanal lambic brewers and geuzestekers, trappist beers... It could be that they don’t really need this extra attention. Or was there no space at the festival? It couldn't have crammed in many more brewers.
And the public? Very varied and of all ages. In the beer loving city of Antwerp and from further away they are happy to make a trip out for a good glass of Belgian beer. And who could, or would, disagree?