ZONHOVEN/HASSELT - Drinks specialist Prik & Tik "Marlou" in Zonhoven near Hasselt is the type of shop that will feature in the dreams of any beer lover. “We have 1,000 Belgian beers in store, 400 in large bottles; that is unique,” manager Linda proudly tells us. Her father started up the wholesale business in 1967 and she took over in 1986.
“We were the first wholesaler of specialty beers in the province of Limburg,” Linda informs us. “To begin with, the business was contractually tied to the Haacht brewery. At that time we were selling mainly pils and specialty beers. Over the last 10 years we have increased our range substantially.”
Cousin Frank knows all about this. Twice a week he does the 'Tour of Belgium', reaching the farthest corners to track down the most obscure beers. No microbrewery escapes his all-seeing eye. “I’ve just come back from a trip to Millevertus in the Orval area,” he smiles.
“When I go that way, I will visit the breweries in the Ardennes and the Gaume. I’m quite well known to most of the brewers.” In Limburg, Marlou is an institution. For years, the store has been co-operating with the 'Limburgse Biervrienden', the Limburg Beer Friends. They know exactly where they can find their beloved beers. “We want to introduce new beers from all over Belgium,” Linda explains.
“Our clients are individuals as well as cafés and restaurants. We are proud to count Hilaire Spreuwers, the chef of beer restaurant BitterZoet here in Zonhoven amongst our clients. His drinks menu offers over 100 beers and all of these come from our shop.”
At Marlou’s they keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the beer world. They attend trade fairs and tastings, visit the annual Zythos beer festival in Leuven and are present whenever a brewery has an open day.
“Specialty beers are on the way up, also in the café and restaurant trade,” Linda says. “It used to be ‘not done’ to order a beer in a restaurant or an upmarket brasserie but this is more and more accepted nowadays. A beer gift basket makes the ideal present. People will surprise each another with little-known beers.
A great way to discover the huge riches on offer in our beer country of Belgium. People are also drinking in a different way. For example, we sell quite a few large bottles - 75cl to 150cl. These are great for sharing. Put them on the table with small tasting glasses on the side and it won’t be long before you discover a world of taste.”
A Christmas beer tasting was organised on 30 November. You we're able to take your seat at the long bar where Linda, Frank and their team we're serving the beers and providing explanations when required.
On the last Sunday in March, Marlou will be staging a ‘beer carousel’, with some 60 breweries taking part in the festival. You will be charged €1 per tasting (15cl). The last time around, 5,000 people took part. The profits will be donated to charity.
The Verhuisbrouwerij has already made an appearance with its mobile brewing installation, there was once a robot pouring Duvel... in other words, there is always something going on at Marlou’s. Beer fans already know the way here, travelling from the Netherlands or Wallonia.
Microbrewers such as Brasserie de Bouillon, Millevertus, Brunehaut or Dochter van de Korenaar value their collaboration with Marlou. “We were already familiar with Dochter van de Korenaar before the brewery was featured in the television series Tournée Générale (televised by the Dutch language national broadcasting company in Belgium). We stock this beer even though it has now become quite trendy.”
Many beer lovers are also collectors. If they like the beer, they will want to collect the appropriate glass, the label and/or the bottle top. “There are many connoisseurs amongst our customer base,” Linda confirms. “They want to know who is brewing their beer. All this forms part of the experience.”
Linda’s son Davy is lugging around crates of beer. At my request he lifts a mega-bottle of Saint-Feuillien. From looking at him you can tell that he is used to all kinds of heavy lifting. Marlou has the charm of a family business. Mother, son, cousins, nephews and nieces: all work together to support the business.
Marlou delivers across the region of Tongeren-Maasmechelen-Diest. Looking for a hidden pearl? Come down and you won’t be disappointed. Here you will also find all the classic beers. Cheers!
Prik & Tik Zonhoven - Drankenhandel Marlou
Telephone: +32 (0) 11 51 01 20