ANTWERP/OSTEND - It was just one year ago that BeerTourism.com, the first project of the Belgian Beer Company, was launched with plenty of ambition. Its mission? To establish an international online community, and communication channel, focused on the Belgian regions, beer, gastronomy and tourism.
BeerTourism.com intends to build bridges between the best of these diverse, but overlapping, worlds. But it's beer that is the angle by which we take our alternative view on Belgium's history and tourism. And it's beer that carries our message, viewed always through our Belgian-tinted lenses.
All the hard work and great efforts of the last 12 months were rewarded, a few days ago, when we received the title of 'Best Belgian Beer website', at the digital “Beer Awards” in Belgium. The Beer Awards are an online competition that asks the beer-loving public to vote for their favourite Belgian beers over the past year, and includes many various categories.
As this is a public vote, we are hugely proud of our first award. And, partly because of this crowning success, we thought the time was ripe for a review of our first year.
One year on, where are we now? Beertourism.com has attracted over 100,000 visitors and is continuing to grow. Who visits the website? Three quarters of visitors are from three countries – Belgium, the USA and Britain – with the rest hailing from Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Ireland, France and Italy.
Through our social media outreach, we are connecting to over 150,000 people every week. The site now also offers the most detailed (and insightful) brewery and beer listings to be found on the web.
Wilderen, Duvel, Liefmans, De Koninck, Bockor, Van Honsebrouck, Bosteels (and more) are all included, as are listings for beer firms such as Coccinelle, La Cresse, Harlekijn and Poppolou. And there's lots more to come.
We're planning to expand on this, over the coming months, with detailed information on, amongst others, all of the Belgian Trappists. In addition to this regular content, we will be publishing, on a weekly basis, the latest beer and tourism news straight from Belgium.
We will also continue to keep our readers informed through our monthly newsletter. Last but not least, we will continue to update and expand our city guides, keeping them packed with scintillating background stories, and useful information.
BeerTourism.com is, however, far more than just an online project. Ostend, on the Belgian coast, saw the launch of the first Beer Tourism Café. We intend to set up beer cafés in every Belgian tourist city, but fear not. This won't be the first in a long chain of identical branded venues. Like the best in the Belgian beer scene, we have a much more idiosyncratic vision than that.
A guided tour of our first beach-head in Ostend will show you where we're coming from. Café Manuscript remains its name, and it's still one of those typical brown cafés where you feel at home straight away.
That's all down to the approach of affable owner, Glenn Rotsaert, and his lovely girlfriend and partner Vanessa Demeij. They are the sort to put their best feet forward seven days out of seven.
So what, exactly, has changed since Beer Tourism got involved? First and foremost, the range of speciality beers has grown from twenty to seventy-five.
Opposite the bar there is now a large blackboard, taking pride of place, where dozens of beer names have been chalked up, ranged by beer style: ‘Belgian dark beer’, ‘Belgian tripel’, ‘wheat beer’, ‘IPA’… All the main Belgian beer styles are represented here.
A diverse, and wide-ranging coverage is the key to our menu. So if you want to try something different from your normal brew, this is the address for you. And a small Belgian beer-themed events room has been created, on the first floor, which is now a venue for regular beer tastings.
The Manuscript took its love for the barley-brew one step further, and commissioned its own Poppolou beer, in co-operation with Brouwerij Anders! from the Flemish province of Limburg. And another frontier was broken in our first year – you can now enjoy this beer in the brand new BeerTourism.com degustation glass,
This specially-commissioned glass can hold up to 51cl (!). On the outside you will find markers for different measures: 12cl, 25cl and 33cl; on the inside, at the bottom of the glass, a fine pearlisation point. It all makes for an ideal tasting glass for beers strong, as well as light.
Our beer glass is currently distributed exclusively through Horeca Totaal, in Ostend and Bruges, and it can also be purchased from the Beer Tourism Café Manuscript in Ostend.
Now, we are busy making plans for 2014. Plenty will be happening in Belgium, on both the beer and tourism fronts. After all, 2014 marks the centenary commemoration of the start of the First World War.
One thing is certain: we will do our very best to keep you posted on all that's beer and Belgian, over the exciting year to come! Thank you for your continuing support!