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BRUGES - Eleven years ago it all started off on quite a modest scale in the medieval town hall of Bruges, under the imposing gaze of the Belfry. Now, in 2018, the Bruges Beer Festival has spread its wings and encompasses most of Expect the unexpected
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the central market square, the Markt, as well as neighbouring Burg square.

Not only is it one of the largest beer festivals in Belgium, it is highly ranked amongst the major European beer festivals. Many beer lovers use it to kick off the new 'beer season'. As in: tasting, testing and generally having fun with beer.

In Bruges you will come across the entire range of Belgian beer styles but you will also be able to enjoy limited editions and seasonal beers. Choose from over 500 beers from 88 Belgian breweries and small distributors.

And now for the classics. The Trappist beers from Achel, Chimay and Westmalle remain as popular as ever. The Lambic beers from Timmermans are still in high demand and the same goes for a Pauwels Kwak, a Karmeliet or a Deus made by the Bosteels brewery.

As ever before, people are flocking towards a Duvel, De Koninck or Liefmans. Brasserie d’Achouffe is handing out a free Chouffe hat when you order their Cherry Chouffe, a dark fruit beer, or one of their other ‘gnome beers’. Lindemans
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Meanwhile, the craft beer movement continues to infiltrate Belgian beer culture, albeit drip by drip. Belgian brewers like to take craft beers as a source of inspiration, rather than copying them.

After all they hold their own tradition in high esteem and would not like to be copycats.

However, we would like to showcase several new developments. The rise of the lighter but tasty ‘session beers’, the up-and-coming ‘new sour ales’ made with the addition of wild yeasts (Brett); the increased popularity of imperial stouts, pale ales, IPAs and saisons plus a wide range of wood-matured beers. And Belgium would not be Belgium without its strong blonde triples.

Chouffe lover
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What’s in a name?

Several surprising creations with intriguing names to match have prompted the curiosity of many a beer lover. Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery unveils its Tungri Walk on the Wild Side, a dark dubbel matured Davy Daniëls, Amburon
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in bourbon barrels purchased from The Belgian Owl, a Belgian whisky distiller.

It also launches its Tungri Perfect Day: a blonde that has spent time in barrels used by the Belgian chateau of Genoels-Elderen to produce its chardonnay. Bourgogne des Flandres draws you in with its Love Potion n°1 session beer and if that does not work, you can try its malty, wood-matured Killing In The Name.

King Mule is the latest IPA from the Cornelissen brewery; its Kriekenbier Wheat gives a clear indication as to its origins of fruit beer brewed with white beer whereas its Luxury Lager is an upmarket pils with a full-mouthed taste. Bruges brewery De Halve Maan faces the competition at home with its Straffe Hendrik Heritage 2016 Rum Oak Aged.

Ypres brewery De Kazematten has produced a worthy successor to its Wipers Times 14. It has introduced the Wipers 16, brewed with elderflower and elderberries, as well as the Saison Tremist. Dupont welcomes the spring tide with its dry and bitter amber saison L’Hirond’Ale. Bertinchamps remains true to its farming roots with their Hiver winter beer. Het Anker has added to its well-known family of Gouden Carolus beers. The latest member is called Gouden Carolus Indulgence Botanic and is made with barley and wheat and four natural herbs.

The bottom line: all of these breweries continue to surprise us with variations on a tried and trusted theme.

Kompel
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Working magic with tastes

Kompel, the new kid on the block, pays homage to Belgium’s mining past with its kriek, based on a lambic, and with its Bellefleurs honey beer. Well-known lambic brewery Lindemans has expanded its range of zesty ‘botanicals’. The Brave, Arthur's Legacy
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After the SpontanBasil and Blossomgueuze it has now also launches a Gingergueuze: a blend of lambic and fresh Thai ginger.

Lupulus, an Ardennes-based brewery, has added to its range. Taste its Lupulus Blanche wheat beer with its zesty taste of herbs. Meanwhile, Omer Vander Ghinste is keeping the name of its ‘special edition’, only available from the tap, close to its chest.

Palm Belgian Craft Brewers has concocted a new brew in the kettle of its De Hoorn microbrewery. Their Arthur’s Legacy The Brave has elements of a stout, a scotch and even a porter.

Roman invites you to lounge around the wood fire with a glass of its Adriaen Brouwer Winterwood, matured in whisky barrels.

No contest - Brasserie de Silly wins the prize for the longest name: Yard House Anniversary Amber Triple Aged in Cognac Barrels. Putting it just a little bit shorter, this is an amber triple matured Hats are optional
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in cognac barrels, specially developed for the American Yard House chain of restaurants.

Last but not least, Van Steenberge has spoilt us with a range of new beers. Not only is there Baptist Blond, a top-fermented blonde beer relatively low in alcohol.

We can now also enjoy Baptist Wit, a wheat beer, as well as Monks Grand Cru, an old brown beer matured in the tank.

Wood maturation is also evident in Gulden Draak Brewmaster, aged in whisky barrels or else the Gulden Draak Calvados, aged in barrels bearing the name of this apple brandy, or else the Piraat Rum aged in rum barrels. Who said that the Belgian beer front is running out of ammunition?

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GENVAL - It’s 1909 when John Martin, a Brit, makes his home in Antwerp, earning his living by provisioning sailing vessels. Before long John’s deliveries are heading onto the ships of the Red Star Line, Anthony Martin with the current Duke of Wellington
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a passenger carrier used by the millions of people who set sail from the City on the Scheldt to the metropolis of New York across the water.

One hundred years later, Anthony Martin’s Finest Drinks is the oldest global distributor of the world’s most famous Irish dry stout, the legendary 'Black Stuff'.

“Did you know that we produce a stronger Guinness Export especially for the Belgian market?” asks the company’s CEO, Anthony Martin, with a laugh.

From first importing and bottling beers, the company diversified into brewing. In 1993 they took over Timmermans in Dilbeek, the oldest lambic brewery in the world.

“With the assistance of our brewer, Willem Van Herreweghen, we have restored traditional lambic to its rightful position of honour,” says Anthony.

“We brew lambic in the traditional way with the use of a koelschip or cooling basin where the wort undergoes spontaneous fermentation before the lambic is transferred into the oak barrels where it will mature.” The barrelroom at Timmermans
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After getting the taste for brewing at Timmermans, Anthony Martin’s next established a microbrewery and distillery in the historic Ferme de Mont St Jean on the site of the Battle of Waterloo. Anthony also set up a microbrewery in the heart of historic Bruges where now Bourgogne des Flandres flows from the tanks.

Antwerp is next in Anthony’s busy schedule where his company will found a brewery in a former bottling plant in the city’s Seefhoek quarter.

The business will join a family, but remain an individual says Anthony: “Each brewery is a separate business, with its own beers and its own story to tell. You can taste a piece of history; it’s important to have that experience.”

All smiles when visiting Bourgogne des Flandres...
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In the Can!!

Anthony Martin takes advice from specialists in each beer style his company takes on. “We aim high,” says Anthony’s son, brewer-distiller Edward Martin, telling us that he plans to go to Scotland for Edward Martin at the Waterloo distillery
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more education and training. While he keeps learning, the first whisky distilled at Waterloo is maturing on wood until it is ready to launch in 2020. “Our gin is already on the market,” he tells us proudly.

His brother Jonathan, who is also in the international drinks business, keeps a close watch on the latest trends. “Each market is different,” he tells us. “Scandinavia was quick to cotton on to the trend for IPAs whereas southern Europe took a while longer. We drew inspiration from craft brewers to produce our own accessible and balanced Martin’s IPA.”

You can tell that this is an international company. Anthony and his sons had no problem pioneering the sale of specialty beers in a can, a very unfamiliar concept to Belgian drinkers. Jonathan explains: “Canned beer enjoys a higher protection from light, the packaging weighs less and it is recyclable.

What’s more, the metallic taste that you used to get from a can is no longer there. However, we still advise you to pour the beer into a glass to let the excess carbon dioxide escape.” So tradition is honoured, but not allowed to stand in the way of innovation.

Martin's - canned - IPA
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Brewed in Belgium

Anthony Martin supports the need for better legal protection of lambic, like the rules that safeguard old gueuze by highlighting its regional Waterloo Récolte
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origins and the specific way it is brewed. “This also applies to the denomination of ‘Belgian beer,”, he says.

“Labels such as ‘Belgian style beer’ only add to the confusion."

"We must lay a stronger claim to what is being brewed in Belgium following Belgian tradition.”

The Anthony Martin’s Finest Drinks beer range now includes more than 50 different brews, including Guinness and the Gordon brand. The company sells a big variety of Belgian beer styles.

The popular Waterloo Récolte, for example, was inspired by a saison, and the Waterloo range also includes a tripel as well as a dark beer.

And when the Waterloo whisky comes onto the market we can expect to see Waterloo beers matured in Waterloo whisky barrels following it.

With so much already delivered who can wait to see what spells these brewing magicians can weave over the tanks in Antwerp.

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NAMUR - At the 6th edition of the Brussels Beer Challenge, hosted this year by the city of Namur, Belgium once again lived up to its cast-iron reputation as one of the most important beer countries in the world. A tasting room with class...
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“Belgium still reigns when it comes to classic Belgian styles including Abbey/Trappist Style Blond ales, Tripels, Strong Blonde ales, Saison, Flemish red-brown, Gueuze...,” Luc De Raedemaeker, the organiser, assures us. “Large as well as small family-owned breweries have scooped awards.”

With 58 entries, the classic Belgian Tripel remains immensely popular. IPAs from all corners of the globe were also strongly represented and so were wood-matured beers, 60 of which were submitted for judging. The new kid on the block is Italian Grape Ale; the missing link between beer and wine.

No fewer than 85 internationally renowned beer connoisseurs spent three days tasting 1,512 beers from 37 countries. Around one fifth of the beers originated in Belgium whereas the USA accounted for one sixth. Other participating countries included Germany, the Netherlands, France, Hungary and Italy in the company of more exotic beer countries such as Japan, Chile and Brazil. All of the beers submitted to the contest were divided into categories based on origin, typical characteristics and style. Blind tasting sessions were held to allow the jury to carefully ponder the fates of all the entrants. At the end of the three tasting days the best beers in each category were given a gold, silver or bronze award or a Certificate of Excellence.

It's all in the nose...
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A Strong Performance

Not only did Belgian brewers and beer firms put in a strong performance in their own traditional beer styles, they also scored well when it came to innovative brews. Belgium topped the rankings for blonde abbey beers Namur City Centre
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with a gold for Troubadour Blond (The Musketeers), a silver for Affligem Blond (Alken-Maes), a bronze for Leffe Blond (AB Inbev) plus a Certificate of Excellence (COE) for Brugse Zot Blond (De Halve Maan).

Lupulus Brune (Lupulus) gained a COE in the Abbey/Trappist Style Dubbel category. Palm Belgian Craft Brewers once again demonstrated its mastery of the craft in the Amber Ale category. Its Palm scooped the gold. The bronze also went to Belgium for La Roublarde from Brasserie du Renard. Haacht was awarded a silver for its Super 8 IPA, brewed in the English IPA style, whereas the Pirlot brewery achieved a bronze with its Kempisch Vuur Hoppergod, a Belgian style IPA. Mobius Dry Hopping (Mobius) gained a COE for its American IPA (> 6.5% ABV).

When it comes to Tripels (Belgian Style), no other countries can reach the heights achieved by Belgium. The Belgians swept the board with a gold for Rangsken (Den Houten Molen) and a silver for La Guillotine (Huyghe). The bronze was shared by Tripel Kanunnik (Wilderen) and Triple d’Anvers (De Koninck) and a COE went to St Feuillien Triple (St Feuillien). Waterloo Récolte (Waterloo) is a relatively new beer but it managed to take away the gold for its Traditional Saison. Keep 'em coming
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The Double Saison was another triumph for Belgium and especially for Brasserie Dupont, cementing its reputation with a gold for Bons Voeux and a bronze for Moinette Bio as well as a COE for the Double Saison Triple Hop made by Abbaye de St Ghislain. One of the best bitters amongst the pale and amber ales is Aubel Pure (Grain d’Orge), which came away with a bronze.

Houppe (Brasserie Artisanale de Namur) was awarded a silver in the Bitter Blond/Golden Ale division. And when it comes to Light Bitter Blond/Golden Ales, Belgium once again put in a convincing performance. The gold went to Grandgousier (Brasserie de la Lienne) and the silver went to Korus (Les Fleurs du Malt). The Val Dieu Cuvée 800 ans (Val-Dieu) was rewarded with a COE. In the field of Strong Blonde/Golden Ales, Belgium once again made a clean sweep. Gold for Hapkin (Alken-Maes), silver for St Feuillien Grand Cru (St Feuillien) and bronze for Deugniet (Brasserie du Bocq).

All concentration...
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Sour Power

Bruin Mokke (Mokke) scored a silver in the Brown Ale (Dark Ale) category and the bronze went to Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel (De Halve Maan) for its strong dark ale. The best Oud Bruin (Flanders Brown Ale) is made by Liefmans. The final pour...
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Its Liefmans Goudenband scoops a gold with the silver going to Queue de Charrue vielle brune (Vanuxeem). The best Oud Rood (Flanders Red Ale) was judged to be the Rodenbach Grand Cru. Rodenbach Classic won a silver and Vander Ghinste Roodbruin took the bronze position.

Jupiler (AB Inbev) scooped a COE in the International Style Pilsner category. Belgium also had strong contenders in the German ‘Helles’ lager style. Haacht was awarded silver for its Primus whereas Palm’s Estaminet came away with a COE.

Lienne Noire dry stout, brewed by Brasserie de la Lienne, came second in its category whereas Kempisch Vuur Haverstout (Pirlot) did one better: its Oatmeal Stout was crowned with a gold. De Brabandere’s Brewmaster Selection Wild Funky Wit was awarded with a silver in the German ‘Gose’ wheat beer style. Belgian ‘witbier’ also dominated its class; no less than a gold for Blanche de Namur (du Bocq), a silver for Hoegaarden and a COE for St Bernardus Wit. Amongst the stronger DubbelWit/ Imperial White beers, Wipers Times 14 (De Kazematten) was awarded with a bronze.

Zeven Zonden Invidia (Hugel) gained a bronze in the category of chocolate-flavoured beers. Amongst the Old Style Fruit Lambics, Timmermans Oude Kriek took away the gold. The silver went to Schaarbeekse Oude Kriek (Oud Beersel). Tilquin deserves a special mention as it was pronounced the ‘European revelation’ for its Tasting Director Luc De Raedemaeker
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Oude Gueuze Tilquin in the Speciality Beer division: Old Style Gueuze-Lambic. Belgium was predominant in this category. Oud Beersel scooped two silvers with its Oude Gueuze Beersel and Oude Gueuze Vandervelden 135 and, to top it all off, Gueuze Boon Mariage Parfait (Boon) was awarded a COE. Oud Beersel scooped a silver with their BZART lambiek in the ‘Brut Beer’ category.

Moving on to the Other Sour Ales (specialty beer) category, the new GingerGueuze made by Lindemans is now tinged with gold. Petrus Aged Pale (De Brabandere) is good for a silver and Cazeau Sour Session I (Brasserie de Cazeau) deserved its COE. In the category of Flavoured (Fruit) Beers, the gold was awarded to Liefmans Kriek Brut with Wilderen kriek scooping a bronze. Newcomer Kompel won a gold award for its Bellefleurs flavoured (honey) beer and Piccolo (De Circus Brouwerij) was awarded a silver for its beer flavoured with herbs and spices (> 6% ABV). Winter Bie (De Bie) was pronounced the best winter ale with Waterloo Récolte Hiver scooping a bronze in the same category. Finally, Rebelse Strop (Roman) won the award for the best light specialty beer (< 7% ABV).

Here is an overview of all the 2017 results or for more information on the event visit the official Brussels Beer Challenge website.

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STEENHUFFEL - The annual hop harvest at Palm Belgian Craft Brewers is truly a festival of and for the people. We survey the busy crowds on the last Sunday in August in the hop field in the shadow of the "Hop Belles"
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brewery, looking across to Diepensteyn Castle, home to the stud farm where the famous Brabant draft horses – a Belgian equivalent of the British shire horse – are bred.

The hop field covers 0.35 hectares (0.86 acres) on which around 3,000 hop vines, all of the Hallertau mittelfrüh variety, have been grown since 2012.

The thirsty hop pickers pause to enjoy a Palm Hop Select, Palm, Palm Royale or alcohol-free Palm - those in the know are aware that the Palm Hop Select is brewed with freshly picked hop cones from these very fields.

Under a blistering sun, brewery staff drag hop vines that can be several metres long to the 800 hop pickers who join the harvest to scrape the cones off the vines.

Overflowing baskets are emptied into bags and transferred just around the corner to the De Hoorn microbrewery. There the hop flowers are immediately dunked in a bath of boiling water.

Brewer Fons treats himself to a glass of Palm Hop Select. “Well, now you get a feel for what it’s like to brew in this weather,” he says. “Around here what would you need a sauna for?”

The private hop field
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Fresh Hop Cones

Palm Hop Select, a hoppier version of the classic Palm amber beer, was developed with these fresh Hallertau mittelfrüh hop flowers from the brewery’s own field.This beautifully balanced degustation beer is hopped in three stages. Brewer at work...
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The brewers traditionally add the first dosage of hops to the brewing kettle in the brewhall.

The second stage sees the introduction of Hallertau mittelfrüh, a variety with a very delicate, hoppy and fresh aroma.

It is added at the end of the boiling stage in what the brewers call ‘late hopping’.

The hop story does not end though as the finishing touches still need to be applied.

More hops are added at the end of the main fermentation, the so-called ‘dry hopping’.

This gives the beer an extra boost to reinforce its hoppy flavours and aromas.

The beer then goes into the warm room to re-ferment, making it even more complex and giving it a longer shelf life. And what about the result? Ask the hop pickers, who will be the first to taste ‘their’ beer when they are invited back in the autumn.

Crisp as can be...
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An Ode to Craftsmanship

Jan-Renier Swinkels, CEO of Bavaria NV, the new owners of Palm Belgian Craft Brewers, is impressed by the harvest scene. “A wonderful event!” he enthuses. “For a brewer, this ranks Jan-Renier Swinkels
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amongst the best. Just seeing people enjoy our beers!”

Bavaria, a Dutch brewery, acquired Palm and Rodenbach in May 2016, as Jan-Renier explains: “It was the best day of my life! Two famous names in the beer world enhanced our portfolio with several new tastes and traditional, typically Belgian beer styles.” These beers are now distributed to over 120 countries around the world.

Jan-Renier has beer running through his veins. “All this craftsmanship makes me feel quite emotional,” he tells us. “Just look at the foeder hall at Rodenbach’s, think of the coopers that are still capable of crafting foeders such as these! Where in the world do you still find that?”

Once the beer bug has a hold on him there’s no stopping him. He lets slip that not long ago he replaced his entire wine cellar with one full of beer. “There are so many great beers, styles, aromas and tastes. I’d be a fool not to do it!”

Palm Belgian Craft Brewers can look confidently to the future with Bavaria behind it and already promising to invest €25 million euros into its new Belgian acquisitions.

Visit Brouwerij Palm

Brouwerij Palm
Steenhuffeldorp 3
B-1840 Steenhuffel
Belgium

Website: www.palm.be
Facebook: Brouwwerij Palm

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VLEZENBEEK/DILBEEK - It is often said that lambics are only for those with an experienced palate. At Brouwerij Lindemans, one of Belgium’s favourite brewers of this traditional style, they beg to differ. Cuvée René Deluxe
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Helping them make this popularising point are their Lindemix beer cocktails.

These accessible drinks go down well even with non-beer drinkers.

And should those non-beer drinkers take a look under the bonnet of what they are drinking then they’ll be introduced to the rich world of aromas and tastes that are hidden behind the simple name, ‘beer’.

The range was on show at the Toer de Geuze this year; a weekend-long celebration of gueuze country, to the west of Brussels, during which several breweries open their doors to the public.

As well as some of the best lambics and gueuze’s in the country, drinkers at the Toer’s cocktail bar could enjoy an immense variety of cocktails like Mojito Kriek, Golden Apple and Cuvée René Deluxe.

It’s a colourful range with a wide choice of tastes and aromas. Mojito Kriek, for example, is made with Kriek Lindemans, white rum, lime, fresh mint and cane sugar syrup. Mixing it up with Lindemans at Bar Lio
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There’s no need to take a mixology course to prepare these simple but sophisticated drinks, they can be shaken up at home in the blink of an eye.

Golden Apple is simply Apple Lindemans, vodka, cane sugar and apple syrup.

Cuvée René Deluxe is easy to spot from the hazy yellow colour it shares with the Lindemans Oude Gueuze Cuvée René that is its base.

But don’t mix up the two drinks, the cocktail, with its Lindemans Premium Distilled Clear Gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and cane sugar, packs quite a punch.

A stone's throw away from the brewery is the recently opened 'Lio Bar' with its wonderful summer terrace serving all of the Lindemix beer cocktails as well as the Lindemans gins, should you fancy a gin and tonic. If you want try Lindemix'ing in the comfort of your own home you can download the complete cocktail recipe book.

The "Mojito Kriek"
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Lambic Blender for a Day

"We brew our lambic from October until early spring depending on the outside temperature,” Geert Lindemans, the brewer, explains. "In late spring and throughout the summer "Open kettles" at Toer de Geuze...
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the air does not cool down enough for our purposes."

"This exposes our lambic beers to undesirable influences and we can’t afford to run that risk. After all, genuine lambic beers can only develop their layered, rich taste thanks to the spontaneous fermentation."

"We respect tradition and allow nature to do her work under the best possible conditions.”

The brewing magic of spontaneous fermentation takes place when hot wort is poured into an open cooling basin, or koelschip.

As the wort cools down, atmospheric yeasts (from the brettanomyces family) land in the basin, kicking off spontaneous or wild fermentation. The beer is then transferred to wooden foeders where it continues to ferment.

On the Toer de Geuze, beer lovers got the opportunity to blend lambics of various vintages. Mixed by these amateur geuzestekers, these lambics continue to ferment Blending lambic..
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in the bottle before emerging as sparkling gueuze.

Lindemans beers were served to visitors from an improvised terrace at the brewery, where beer lovers were enticed by the Lindemans Oude Gueuze and Oude Kriek Cuvée René.

Both of these lambic beers have similarities to wine.

They ferment and mature in the same way and their taste development is also comparable, evolving in the bottle for years after they’re sold.

Just try a young kriek and then an old one and straight away you’ll experience the effect of years of maturation on the beer.

Lindemans SpontanBasil at Toer de Gueuze
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Fruit, Herbs & Gin

Lindemans has had considerable success with its popular lambic fruit beers, Pecheresse, Framboise, Apple and Kriek. But they have also been moving towards the other end of the taste spectrum Dirk Lindemans
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with the launch of a range of lambic Botanicals.

Lindemans SpontanBasil, developed in collaboration with Danish beer architect Mikkeler, pairs lambic with basil. Lindemans BlossomGueuze is produced with added elderflower.

Herb-enriched lambic beers like these are finding their way into gastronomy. Not only do these sour aperitif beers stimulate the appetite, they are also an excellent and affordable alternative to wine.

“We plan to surprise our customers from time to time with our new fruit and herb beers,” CEO Dirk Lindemans explains. “But they are all based on lambic. After all, we are a lambic brewery. Lambic has always formed part of our DNA. We stay true to tradition but this does not stop us from interpreting lambic in a creative way.”

Lindemans Premium Distilled Clear and Red Gins are further examples of this type of innovation. And lovers of gastronomy will be sharpening their taste buds to test out this new innovation.

Visit Lindemans

Brouwerij Lindemans
Lenniksebaan 1479
B-1602 Vlezenbeek (Sint-Pieters-Leeuw)
Belgium

Website: www.lindemans.be
Facebook: Lindemans

Lio Bar

Lio Bar
Rollestraat 130
B-1701 Itterbeek
Belgium

Website: www.lio-bar.be

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KORTRIJK/BELLEGEM - It was in 1892 that Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste opened for business in Bellegem, a village near Kortrijk in West Flanders, close to the French border. Since then, Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge
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countless glasses of classic Flemish red-brown ale have flowed out of the company’s oak foeders, the big wooden barrels that are so characteristic of traditional Belgian brewing.

But Omer Vander Ghinste hasn’t just preserved a tradition, it’s expanded both in size and in the variety of beers it produces. In 2010 the brewery pumped out 5 million litres of beer; this year it will be 9 million. In the same seven-year period, turnover more than doubled to €23 million euros.

It’s a brewery with a strong connection to its home region, managing 250 cafés around Kortrijk, Ypres and Ghent, while exports, at 10% of production, are quite modest. The favourite brews of its local customers are Bockor pils, and traditional foeder beers such as Cuvée des Jacobins, Kriek des Jacobins and VanderGhinste Roodbruin.

“Craft brewing has run through our veins from the very beginning,” says owner and CEO Omer-Jean Vander Ghinste. “Just take our Cuvée des Jacobins, a spontaneously fermented beer that matures in oak foeders for 18 months. We have been making this beer for 125 years.”

Omer Vander Ghinste, a house-hold name...
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Slow Brewing

Omer Vander Ghinste first stepped onto the national beer map in the 1990s, when its Kriek Max, an accessible, light fruit beer was perfectly timed to catch a trend towards sweeter flavours. Brasserie LeFort
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In 2008 the brewery launched a top-fermented strong blonde called OMER. Traditional Blond. It was the result of a three-year development process.

“We take plenty of time to develop new beers,” Omer-Jean tells us. “You can call us ‘slow brewers’ if you like - a beer has to be perfect in every way before it is launched.”

And releasing a beer doesn’t end the assessment process. When the flavour of the on-tap version of OMER proved too different from the bottle re-fermented version, the draught beer was withdrawn.

In 2013, Brasserie LeFort was released, a dark, top-fermented beer named after a former Kortrijk brewery owned by Omer Vander Ghinste. The strong blonde Tripel LeFort was launched three years later, this time both bottled and from the tap. “We are using a new yeast for this tripel,” Omer-Jean explains.

“This strong blonde is vastly different from OMER. Tripel LeFort is a complex beer whereas OMER owes its success to its simplicity; it is a robust thirst-quencher that makes you reach for another glass.”

Omer-Jean in his vintage copper brewhall
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No Hype

After 125 years the brewery is gearing up for a vast expansion. Brewing capacity will double in April 2018 when a new brew hall, with a maximum capacity of 18 million litres, becomes operational. Omer, the brewery's absolute flagship-beer
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Then a second phase will see additional investments in logistics, bottling, fermentation and re-fermentation.

“We will have five brewing kettles” says Omer-Jean. “We’ll be able to carry out tests more quickly, and work more flexibly,”

Omer Vander Ghinste has developed into an all-round master, producing a wide, quite comprehensive range of Belgian beer styles, from sour ,foeder beers and red-brown beers to fruit beers, pils, dark beers, and strong, blonde top-fermented beers.

Amid all that variety consistency of quality is important, and is guaranteed with a brewery lab that employs four full-time staff.

“A good product is, and always will be, at the basis of everything we do,” Omer-Jean Vander Ghinste says emphatically.

“In that respect, we do not tolerate any compromises. And we want to stand out by offering genuine brands with a strong, authentic story, and that seems to appeal to customers.”

Over a century-and-a-quarter, the quality of the beers hasn’t needed too much embellishment - in Bellegem hype is shown the door.

More info on Brewery Omer Vander Ghinste

Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste
Kwabrugstraat 5
B-8501 Bellegem (Kortrijk)
Belgium

Website: www.omervanderghinste.be
Facebook: Omer Vander Ghinste

125 years Omer Vander Ghinste - YouTube
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WESTMALLE - If you order a Westmalle you’re likely to be served with a Tripel. This is no coincidence as this strong blonde Trappist beer now accounts for 75% of the beer output of this abbey brewery. It used to be The "old" copper brew hall
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exactly the other way around. You would order a ‘Trappist’ and expect a dark Dubbel. Both of these beer styles have a long heritage.

Would you like to join us on our time travels? This story commences in 1836 when Westmalle had just gained abbey status.

The monks just got by on the results of their manual labour. Agriculture and cattle farming provided their main source of income.

Originally the monks were allowed to consume one single measure of wine according to the rules of St. Benedict, a 7th century saint who was born in Italy.

However, the poor soil of the Kempen region in combination with the inclement Belgian climate meant that a good grape harvest was almost impossible to obtain. And thus, the monks’ focus shifted to beer.

On 1 August 1836 the monks started brewing their first dark and sweet table beer. Twenty years on they were selling a witbier meant for the table as well as a stronger, dark beer. They were inspired by the commercial success achieved by the Trappist beers produced at Chimay.

During the First World War the German occupier requisitioned the copper brewhall. Brewing resumed in 1922 with the production of ‘extra gersten’ (extra barley) and ‘dubbel bruin’ (double brown). A new brewhall was inaugurated in 1934. This is now referred to as the ‘former’ brewhall.

Head brewer Jan Adriaensen
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More...Is More...

For the current dark Dubbel – meaning: a much larger amount of ingredients is being used – was created in 1926. Initially the beer was only available in hand-filled bottles with a content of three quarters of a litre. Pouring like a "pro"...
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Sand-blasted 33cl bottles came onto the market in 1934.

All of the beer information was printed on the crown cap until labels were introduced in 1987. These days, connoisseurs order a Dubbel either bottled or on tap.

If you would like to taste a Dubbel freshly poured from the tap, you have to visit one of 180 carefully selected cafés. All of these establishments are equipped and trained to a high standard and serve a perfect glass of this barrel re-fermented beer. It pays to compare both versions.

A Dubbel from the tap tastes full in the mouth and less fruity compared to the bottled version. However, it is sweeter and maltier with hints of coffee and caramel. A bottled Dubbel gives impressions of ripe banana but comes across as fairly dry and slightly bitter.

If you find yourself in café De Trappisten, located just opposite the abbey, why not order a ‘half and half’? Half a bottle of Tripel is poured into the glass and Dubbel is added from the tap.

The best of both worlds, Dubbel and Tripel? The verdict of course is yours. Pair your ‘half and half’ with a chunk of young or mature Westmalle cheese too if you like.

The impressive abbey
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The Tripel Standard

Velling back in time to 1934 when the inauguration of the new brewhall coincided with the launch of a new super beer, Westmalle Tripel. Up to this day, this beer is considered ‘the Mother of all Tripels’. Visiting Westmalle
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This strong blonde Trappist beer was developed from an existing blonde table beer.

In its day it was considered an exceptionally strong beer.

The brewers had discovered the proverbial ‘gap in the market’ after the implementation of the Vandervelde Law that aimed to curtail the excessive consumption of spirits, jenever in particular.

The brewers were offering an alternative by producing stronger beers.

However, Westmalle Tripel is not just about alcohol.

This blonde Trappist beer is beautifully balanced, delicately hoppy and, at the same time, mildly malted with a long, dry, slightly bitter finish.

Add the lovely creamy collar and the bubbly champagne-like pearls and you will understand why Westmalle Tripel has topped world rankings for many years.

More info on Westmalle

Brouwerij Westmalle
Abdij Westmalle Antwerpsesteenweg 496
B-2390 Malle
Belgium

Website: www.trappistwestmalle.be
Facebook: Westmalle

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RONGY - In Rongy and all around it, spring is in the air. The fruit trees are in bloom and nature has put on its most beautiful face. I’m on my way to Brasserie de Brunehaut, a brewery surrounded by orchards. The farmhouse brewhall
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Here you can sense the rhythm of the seasons. It is no coincidence that rural breweries are great supporters of their ‘terroir’.

The link with agriculture, the village and the region is never far away. You often hear brewers make a case for sustainable development, using locally grown barley, hop, herbs or other flavourings wherever possible.

At his farm, the Domaine de Graux, Marc-Antoine De Mees is also in tune with nature.

He has sown organic barley. Marc-Antoine is working in close co-operation with the agricultural faculties of the universities of Louvain-la-Neuve and Gembloux.

One of their experiments includes permaculture, which involves leaving the soil unploughed so it does not get depleted.

“As much as we can, we work with nature instead of against it,” the brewer assures us. “All of our beers are now 100 per cent organic”.

Pomfraiz at the "Bierodrome" in Tournai
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Going with the natural flow?

Would often attract suspicious looks. Not entirely without reason, apparently. “Take the first organic wines for example, they were really undrinkable,” Marc-Antoine laughs. “Their quality has now come along Marc-Antoine in his barley field
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in leaps and bounds and this goes for the beers as well. Organic beers like our Pomfraiz taste just as good as ordinary ones these days”.

Saint-Martin is one of the very few organic abbey beers. These go back to their roots as after all, herbicides and anti-mould products are fairly recent innovations.

However, it remains a challenge to brew an organic beer as the supply of organic hop, barley and malt is still limited. Specific aroma hops are a case in point.

You are allowed to use up to 5 per cent of non-organic ingredients if you are unable to track down the organic equivalent.

“It also involves quite a lot of administration,” Marc-Antoine De Mees tells us. “And we have to pay for the compulsory certificate issued by a neutral inspection body.”

This means that the brewer is incurring additional expense but he still sells his beers at market price. His sustainable business model is reflected in the use of solar panels and energy-saving LED lighting. The bostel left over from brewing is used to make fertile organic compost. And so the circle is complete.

The gluten-free Brunehaut range
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Gluten-free!

rs a range of organic and gluten-free beers. “We have managed to produce gluten-free beers using traditional ingredients,” Marc-Antoine De Mees explains. “Instead of sorghum or maize, we work on the basis of Saint-Martin Blonde at Le Bouchon
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organic barley or malt. We make beers for people who suffer from gluten intolerance. They taste just like ordinary beers”.

The brewer removes the gluten from the malt using a process developed in-house. The malt is then filtered mechanically.

“I have to admit, the beer tastes less full in the mouth but we compensate that with aroma hops,” comments Marc-Antoine De Mees.

At any rate, we can’t hear your average beer lover complaining. Brunehaut and Saint-Martin are swiftly making their way towards the bars and the terraces of Tournai cafés.

Aux Amis Réunis, a ‘brown’ café, serves its pasta carbonara with a Brunehaut Blonde or Saint-Martin Blonde. At La Fabrique and Le Bouchon, beer contributes to a lively discussion about local politics.

At Bierodrome it serves as the inspiration for brewers-to-be attending a workshop and at Le Cornwall it heralds the start of the local night life. Beer as a social lubricant? It has been this way ever since…

Visit the Brewery and Domaine de Graux

Brasserie de Brunehaut
Rue des Panneries 17
B-7623 Rongy
Belgium

Website: www.brunehaut.com
Facebook: Brunehaut Brewery / Domaine de Graux

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LEUVEN - The ritual is well established by now. Thousands of beer lovers from across the globe pour into the city of Leuven to enjoy the Zythos beer festival held annually at the last-but-one weekend in April. Bertinchamps
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The 2017 edition has drawn in visitors from China, Australia, Japan, Singapore, the USA, Brazil, Mexico, India, Malta, Israel, Canada and 20 other countries to boot.

From its modest start at Sint-Niklaas market square, Zythos has grown into a leading beer festival on a global scale. All aspects of Belgian beer culture are represented here. Around one hundred breweries and beer firms showcased over 500 beers. Whatever their size, they are all treated the same.

Everyone, large or small, has a booth of modest proportions or even shares one with a colleague. The dynamics of this sector ensure that new names crop up every year. Brouwerij De Feniks, the Hemelbrouwers and the Keukenbrouwers spring to mind.

Zythos is generally known as a connoisseurs’ festival which is why many breweries take the opportunity to launch specialty beers brewed as a limited edition or produced just for the occasion. Nevertheless, the classics from well-known breweries always do well here. Just think of the success achieved by the Trappist and lambic beers.

Sven Gatz, Flemish Minister for Culture
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UNESCO World Heritage

“Belgian beer unites the wold,” Zythos President Freddy Van Daele tells us with justified pride. “We welcome many importers from abroad. They come over to find out what is happening in the Belgian market.” Jean Louis Van de Perre
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Sven Gatz, the Flemish Minister for Culture and, in a former life, President of the Belgian Brewers, agrees: “Belgian beer culture is now recognised by UNESCO as intangible world heritage. This beer festival is a reflection of that typical culture which has risen above the product itself, beer.

It is about our passion for beer, how we deal with it, the hotel, café and restaurant trade, collectors of beer-related items, training and education, the expertise of our brewers… It is important that our beer culture continues to evolve and Zythos is living proof of that. Belgian beer culture represents a unique blend of diversity, tradition and balance; in other words, balanced beers.”

Jean-Louis Van de Perre, the current President of the brewers’ federation, contributes to the discussion: “Above all, our brewers have to remain consistent and pair creativity and innovation with tradition and balance."

"Today’s consumer expects variation but he does not want to make concessions to quality.” Zythos is a national consumer union that is comprised of 40 local federations originating primarily from Flanders. Correct and transparent information is of the essence. This is why they only recognise breweries and beer firms who state clearly where their beer is brewed, so beer lovers can have full confidence in the origins of their beer.

A thirsty visitor...
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A Diverse Landscape

So, what goes into your glass at Zythos 2017? “If you are after more extreme beers, you are more likely to find them with the beer firms,” comments festival organiser Mark Van Pee. “Zythos remains a beer festival with a low Gulden Draak by Van Steenbergen
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threshold where every type of beer lover can find something to their liking.

Naturally, international trends are filtering through even here. Think of saisons with fruit, sour beers, wood-matured beers, light ‘session beers’ with taste and character.” The number of Belgian breweries grows by the year. But the landscape is very heterogeneous.; besides the well-known medium-sized and large breweries, there is a whole host of nano and pico breweries. The volumes produced are small and these breweries are owned by part-time ‘weekend brewers’.

Only last year, Belgium saw the launch of 33 new breweries. Another significant trend is the focus on the whole beer experience. The locations chosen by the newcomers provide a clue.

Novice brewers may set up in former tram sheds, old brickworks, workshops etc… in other words, locations that have their own stories to tell. These fledgling brewers are also proud to show where the beer comes from their own neighbourhood, village, town or region. This is how you develop a local alternative to the world players.

Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery
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Beer Beside the Seaside at NSBF17

Don’t forget to put one of the most well attended outdoor beer festivals in Belgium in your diary for the summer. Held in the extraordinary location of Leopoldpark in Ostend, the 2017, and third edition, NSBF 2016
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of the ‘North Sea Beer Festival’ will take place on the 25th, 26th and 27th August.

This laid back and family friendly beer extravaganza at the Belgian coast also has delicious offerings from food trucks and musical entertainment, to complement the beer and wonderful setting.

Ostend can easily be reached from every major Belgian city by direct train, Brussels is around 90 minutes away, from Bruges it is only 15 minutes!

With more than 30 confirmed breweries in all shapes and sizes, this year's edition promises to offer a wide variety of Belgian beer styles from unfiltered lambics, to saisons and some of our iconic Belgian Trappists too.

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TONGEREN - After a fifty-year wait the moment has finally arrived. Once again, the city of Tongeren can boast its own brewery and city beers. The story commences with the 2009 Brewer Bert Housen
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Coronation Celebrations, a festival that is held every seven.

To mark the occasion, Davy Daniëls and Bart Durlet launched a city beer under the name of Amburon Blond. Both were exclusively involved in contract brewing with the Anders brewery. Anders has now been sold and Davy has founded the Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery.

His Tungri Blond owes much to the Amburon Blond. Davy Daniëls is very fond of his city. And with good reason: Tongeren is synonymous with history. Here you walk from the Roman era straight into the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment and the 21st century.

Parts of the Roman and medieval walls have been preserved and the Moerenpoort is the jewel in the crown. As you are ambling through the medieval beguinage, admire the imposing Basilica with its splendid cloisters before coming eye-to-eye with Ambiorix, the leader of the Eburones.

This local chief made life difficult for the Roman occupiers. The rich history of this city comes back to life in the Gallo-Roman museum, which enjoys an international reputation. And the antiques market, held every Sunday, takes you back to the not-so-distant past. Davy, swelling with pride: “Don’t forget the numerous castles dotted around the region. Follow a trail on foot or by bike and you will come across monuments everywhere.”

Souvlaki paired up with Tungri Blond
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A Full Circle

Tungri represents a family of traditional regional beers with a twist of idiosyncrasy. Three beers are flowing from the tanks; Tungri Blond, Bitter and Dubbel. The brewers are pondering the introduction of a Saison and/or a Witbier. Tungri Dubbel
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Unsurprisingly, these beer styles are in demand in the agricultural Haspengouw region. Davy: “The area around Tongeren, Sint-Truiden and Borgloon is primarily known for fruit growing. Large fruit auctions are found here. You could call us the fruit barn of Europe. Our apples, pears and strawberries in particular are highly regarded.”

This tradition has inspired the brewer to create fruit beers that can only be produced during the season, with kriek, raspberry or blackberry for example. However, Davy has no desire to be the umpteenth brewer to join the queue. This is why he wants to introduce fruit beers that have been cold stored on wood.

And the circle is complete when you use wooden barrels from a nearby vineyard (Genoels-Elderen) and whisky distillers (The Belgian Owl Distillery). Davy: “We also believe in a great future for light beers (2.5% to 3% ABV) with plenty of taste all the same. You can expect that type of ‘session beers’ from us.” Low in alcohol… but full of taste? Bert Housen, the master brewer, is looking forward to the challenge.

Checking up on the fruit beers
© BeerTourism.com

Born Into It

Davy Daniëls is the son of a beer trader and so, as they say, he was born ‘in the beer’. He knows perfectly well what Belgian beer lovers like to see in their glass. Has this wish list changed throughout Future is looking bright...
© BeerTourism.com
the years? Davy: “Yes, it has. Today’s beer world is exceptionally dynamic. Beer is ‘hot’.

Beer lovers are no longer happy with just a few crates of their favourite beer. They want diversity and are more open towards innovation.

However, newcomers like us first have to make sure our basic beers are as good as they can be. They have to be well-known and appreciated. In our own country, we’ve managed that already.”

How about selling abroad? “The ‘Belgian beer’ label opens doors to many countries. Beer importers come to see us and add our regional beers to their range.” The secret of the brewers’ success lies in producing good beers with an equally good back story. Quality is the be-all and end-all.

One final question. Does beer deserve a place in the kitchen or else at the table? Davy: “Beer should be served at the table in a beer country like Belgium. We have invited chefs to taste our beers and to translate them into recipes. Also, we print food pairing tips on our beer labels.” To the delight of gastronomy lovers everywhere.

Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery

Website: www.amburonbelgiancraftbrewery.be
Facebook: Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery

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