I am wandering around the Horecatel in Marche-en-Famenne, an annual trade fair for the catering and hospitality industry, to see for myself. Yes, the Burgundian cliché holds fast. Over here, they use the word ‘convivial’, which needs no translation in English.
Brewers pop over to the booths run by their colleagues and, it goes without saying, have a taste of their beer. Customers from hotels, cafés and restaurants receive an invitation. Bonds are tightened and people taste anything that’s new to the market.
The corridors are buzzing with all kinds of conversation. It can be a small world; I see plenty of familiarity, especially when it comes to the established Belgian breweries. Horecatel is a forerunner of the – larger – Horeca Expo, held in Ghent in the autumn. The Horecatel trade fair goes back 30 years and has built up quite a reputation. Many well-known breweries from the south of the country give acte de présence but those from the north have also found their way here. Although there are not too many product launches, this exposition provides a great overview of what Belgian breweries are planning to offer us this year.
Brasserie de Bastogne has gone one step further. This brewery has taken the surname of its owners, Catherine and Philippe, and will from now on be known as Brasserie Minne. Their brand new brewery is only just around the corner from the trade fair, only 2km away. It will produce 10,000 hectolitres per annum of typically ‘Ardennes’ beers, Rouge d’Ardenne and Ardenne Triple for example.
Chimay is putting the spotlight on its beer as well as its cheese. You can taste the new Chimay Bleue Grande Réserve Vieillie en Barriques, which has matured in Belgian whisky barrels.
Now the 2018 pro cycling season is in full swing, former professional cyclist Nico Mattan is singing the praises of the Kwaremont ‘coureursbier’ (literally, a racers’ or course beer). And De Halve Maan has turned a tiny part of Marche-en-Famenne into Bruges, with their Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik. A bit further on, De Koninck has put the new glass for its Triple d’Anvers on proud display.
Beer cocktails are where it’s at. Lindemans is mixing a Lindemix Mojito Kriek and a Cassis Cooler. At Dubuisson’s you can taste the successful pairing of Bush Ambrée and Jack Daniels whisky. Dupont has just launched Hirond Ale and when you are at the Huyghe stand, admire the new Delirium glass that heralds the re-vamp of the entire range.
Palm and Rodenbach are sharing a booth and the spotlight is on classics like Cornet and Rodenbach Vintage. Brasserie de Silly is making the most of their presence here to announce the recent revamp of their beers in a big way. Verhaeghe likes to bring its Burgundian character to the fore. Their Duchesse de Bourgogne is now also available in a ‘krieken’ version – a beer macerated with krieken cherries, as you can tell from its former name: Echt Kriekenbier.
Anthony Martin Finest Drinks is sporting green for this occasion, to match the green colour of the can that is used for its Martin’s IPA. Val-Dieu showcases its abbey beer and liqueur and has also announced its expansion plans, adding to its site in the grounds of the abbey.
Watch out for the Lupulus wolf. It is gradually gaining ground in Belgium and abroad with a range that is slowly expanding. “All in good time,” laughs Pierre Gobron, the brewer, who is sipping a Lupulus Brune. Pierre once told me that it takes five years to really perfect a beer. Hypes don’t even come into it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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, 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.
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.
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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