Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon, beers with a soul
Author: Erik Verdonck / Published: 2016-02-02 10:45:32 +0100 / Last Updated: about 2 years ago
ARLON/AARLEN - Beer trader and sommelier Christophe Gillard of Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon in Aarlen (Arlon) isn’t one for beating around the bush: “I only sell beers that have my complete support, usually from brewers I know personally.” We are not talking about your average beer shop.
This is where you go for something special, advice or to get a more personal service.
Christophe’s face is well-known in the world of artisan micro-and-craft breweries in Belgium. “Plenty of people are looking for something different from supermarket beers,” Christophe feels.
“They are after authenticity and want to know who is brewing their beer. This personal relationship with the brewer is very important, I feel. Most of the brewers I work with are also my friends. I sell ‘beers with a soul’ crafted by brewers who have my full respect”.
I point at several beers on the shelves that are brewed by beer firms. “I don’t have a problem with beer firms provided they state clearly where the beer is brewed,” is Christophe’s reaction.
“I am not in the business of selling hot air or lies.” As a sommelier he insists on the technical quality of the beer. “I won’t sell any beer that has been compromised.”
This sommelier will recommend a beer based on the customer’s taste profile. “I try to convince people to choose a beer that is not immediately obvious to them,” he explains.
“If you are not keen on sweet dark beers, why not give a dry dark beer a go? You will either love the beer or not like it at all. If people say they can ‘take or leave’ a particular beer, it won’t stay on my shelves for long.”
3000 Beers a Year
Christophe makes a plea for increased respect of the Belgian brewing tradition. Our brewers must embrace the traditional beer styles and refine them even further. “What is the point of a Belgian brewer copying American IPAs?” he wonders.
“To brew a balanced beer, that is where our strength lies. Real saisons, tripels, red-brown beers… Let’s focus on that so we distinguish ourselves even more from ‘Belgian style’ beers.
Christophe always knows what he is tasting, and, on a yearly basis, this amounts to about 2,500 to 3,000 beers. He makes a special point of never taking notes on the beers he has tasted.
In this way, he is testing his taste memory. If he is unable to remember anything about the beer, it probably has not much to offer in the way of character.
His innate Belgian expects balance in the glass. He feels that many new microbrewers are too generous when adding hops or other ingredients, resulting in a beer that is ‘out of balance’. If that is the case, one glass is enough.
“There is not much of an art to making an impression with a single batch,” is Christophe’s opinion. “But the best brewers manage to build a consistent range."
"Take a look at the Zennebrouwers, De Ranke, Rulles or Cantillon. They have a basic range with a stable, consistent quality. Besides, they give themselves room to experiment.”
"Double Blondes & Black IPA's"
Christophe Gillard is busy paving the way for beer gastronomy. In his home region he is responsible for the food pairings at the Hostellerie Du Peiffeschof, La Grappe d’Or and L’Espelette. In Brussels he is collaborating with La Buvette, Le Café des Spores and Hopla Geiss.
How does he view the profession of a beer sommelier? “A beer sommelier is no different from a wine sommelier,” he responds. “The job entails making a recommendation for the best food pairing, whether it is with beer, wine or another beverage."
"Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that the knowledge of beer often leaves something to be desired when it comes to traditionally educated sommeliers."
"For that reason I am striving to improve education on beer and to put the status of beer on a par with that of wine in restaurants.”
For several years now, the sommelier has been working with Jean Le Chocolatier in Habay-la-Neuve.
Together they have developed pairings between several different pralines and beers from Brasserie de Rulles, Sainte-Hélène and Cantillon, amongst others. “Belgian beer offers a wealth of possibilities at the table,”
Christophe confirms. “All good Belgian beers are complex. They re-ferment in the bottle and their taste deepens. Our beautiful beer styles have developed throughout the years.
We are talking about a piece of heritage that we need to cherish. I am all for creativity. But if I come across a ‘Double Blonde somewhere, I have to ask myself a question. Per definition, a Belgian ‘Double’ is a dark beer. It really is a contradiction in term, just like a ‘Black IPA’.” Duly noted.
Recent Blog Posts
At the BeerLovers’ Café just behind Liège’s City Hall we get together to taste the limited edition Chimay Grande Réserve Fermentée en Barriques 2018, a Trappist beer aged in whisky barrels. ... [ read more ]
LIESHOUT/STEENHUFFEL - Since 2016 the Palm, De Hoorn and Rodenbach breweries have been owned by Bavaria, a Dutch-based brewer. Two years after the takeover, Bavaria has been re-named Swinkels Family ... [ read more ]
BRUSSELS - To be authentic is not a competition and neither is it a fashionable attitude. You either are an authentic brewer or you are not. You are driven, you make great beers that have a soul, you ... [ read more ]
LEUVEN - 12,500 fans made their way to Leuven for what was already the 15th edition of the Zythos beer festival. Many fans travelled a long way to get to Belgium. They flocked here from many European ... [ read more ]
MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE - “Their cuisine is on a par with that of the French and the portions are generous...” When people discuss the Belgian art of living, it won’t be long before the term ‘Burgundian’ ... [ read more ]
You must be logged in to leave a comment
BRUSSELS - With its fragrant name, Délices & Caprices is a destination not to be missed by any beer lover travelling to Brussels. What’s the secret? Everyone feels at home with Ann and Pierre Zuber who are happy to b... [ more ]
OOSTAKKER/GHENT - Beer lovers need no introduction to Dranken Geers, a wholesaler and retailer in Oostakker, a village in the vicinity of Ghent. The shelves here are groaning under the weight of... [ more ]
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; ... [ more ]
ANTWERP/BRASSCHAAT - For over 30 years Ben Vinken has been a tireless champion of Belgian speciality beers: as a beer sommelier, beer lover, organiser of the annual Bierpassieweekend beer festival ... [ more ]
RULLES - The Gaume region is situated between the forests of the Ardennes and the French region of Lorraine. But here, around Orval and Virton in the far south-eastern corner of Belgium, the sun ... [ more ]
Brewer Grégory Verhelst swapped his home town of Doornik (Tournai) for the Gaume region at the southernmost tip of Belgium. Now his regional beers, made in the artisan way, have m... [ more ]
Beer Tourism Newsletter Signup
Enter your name and email address on the right and click "SignUp" to join.