OSTEND - One year ago, the Manuscript café in Langestraat, Ostend, outed itself as a Beer Tourism Café. At first glance not a lot has changed since then. Regular customers remain loyal to their cosy local.
But wander past the piano at the entrance, just around the corner from the bar, and you will come face to face with a large blackboard on which, categorised by beer style.
The names of around 80 Belgian specialty brews are displayed in an elegant script so there’s plenty here to keep beer aficionados happy.
“Beer lovers from Belgium and further afield find us via BeerTourism.com. Some pass by and are intrigued by the neon Beer Tourism sign – it really stands out,” says café owner Glenn Rotsaert.
“We see far more visitors from Britain and the USA now, and we welcome plenty of other nationalities."
"We have made our name as a café that serves speciality beers. Even our regular customers, those who pop in most days for their usual pint, are tempted to try a speciality beer or our house beer, the PoppoLou, with its hint of the North Sea."
“Really, it’s all gone the way I hoped it would. I wanted my café to offer more than just the main brands. I’m a beer lover myself and I saw plenty of untapped potential in the market of Belgian speciality beers. We gradually expanded our beer menu, from 17 to 30, then up to 80...”
Glenn’s life- and business partner Vanessa agrees: “Word of mouth advertising didn’t take long to have an impact and we see quite a few new faces now. And our longstanding customers are excited to try a new brew from time to time."
"Now and then we feel like beer sommeliers or advisers. We like to explain what taste the customer can expect in their glass and tell them about beer styles.”
Glenn insists that he will only sell beers that he has tasted and approved personally. “You have to support your product 100 per cent,” he says. Take this professionalism, add a smile and perfect service, and you’ll know what to expect at the Manuscript.
A British couple is relaxing on the terrace, enjoying a glass of good beer. They too have found their way to the café via the website. “It’s a candy store for us,” confirms Glenn. “So many varieties of beer, so many styles! I never knew that Belgium has such a rich beer culture.”
Glenn’s dream is to offer around 100 different beers. “That is going to have to be the limit,” he smiles. “After all, the Manuscript is not a supermarket!” He initiates a client into the wonderful world of oude gueuze: “Try this one! It is a great one for beginners. Very well balanced.
Later on, have a taste of a more extreme oude gueuze. It’s so important to develop your taste.”
Here, all but a few beers are served or poured into their own characteristic glass. Belgian consumers attach a lot of importance to having the correct drinking vessel.
After all, you wouldn’t drink an Orval Trappist beer from a Chimay glass or – God forbid! – from a pint mug. Talk about blasphemy!
“We use the elegant Beer Tourism degustation glass,” Vanessa tells us. “Some of our regulars request it specially.”
As the evening comes on, the café has a real buzz. The regulars are buying rounds at the bar. When you’ve finished your work for the day, you come here to order your aperitif. Customers from all walks of life receive the same warm welcome.
Newcomers pore over the endless beer menu on the wall and cast a glance towards the bar, calling for some advice. “Any new beers around?” a regular wants to know. I wonder if he has tasted all 80 of them, or is it 83 now…?
Telephone: +32 (0) 478 54 28 17