Sunday, 8 April 2012

What has Belgium ever done for you?

In my never ending onslaught in the search for perfect SEO you could be forgiven for thinking that the title of this post is baiting the likes of the tory unconsciousness and the fool lawmakers in a vain attempt to  criticise the EU.

It is more likely a clarion call or a symptom of my potential approaching curmudgeon-ness that I feel it is important to fly the tricolour of yellow, black and red and remind any naysayers that the produce of Belgium - a country roughly the size of beloved Yorkshire - is worthy of your full appreciation.

Belgian beers have had a surprisingly rough ride in terms of some beer geek opinion in the last few years and quite often in the trade, possibly because the bigger breweries have been enjoying significant commercial success. More likely because the revolution in craft brewing has come from some very bold revivalism and experimentation overseas involving some groundbreaking hop variants.

Many classic and many new generation Belgian beers are just as immediate as the beers hogging the bylines at present, and it's just one of the best ways in to beer appreciation that I know of. The other week I held a Trappist beer dinner with the help of Mr Ben Hodgkinson at the Cross Keys, it was really good fun and I was struck once again by the real big,  booming flavours of the Trappist oeuvre.

The last two weeks have been North's Lowlands festival and once again I've been rediscovering classics and discovering brilliant new beers. Yes the inclusion of some Dutch beers does point towards a lessening of the Belgian influence in the bar but what we stock regularly and during the festival is unrivalled in quality and complexity. Great Belgian bottled beer still holds pride of place in the first fridge and is the biggest selling bottled beer range we have. The likes of StruiseDe La Senne, De Dolle, De Ranke, the Trappists,  produce beers brimming over with brilliant complexity.

There are poor beers of course but there are more classics and Great Beers than you can shake a stick at, they are held in such mighty reverence across the pond too

Of course all of this without even mentioning any lambics whatsoever.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that something does not become shit just because something different, flashy and new comes along. The very test of a thing is that is can withstand such avant guard onslaughts and come out smiling and twirling its moustache.


  1. Agree 100%. This certainly needed saying. What I like about the Belgian brewers is that they adopt international influences but keep a very Belgian take on them. Big hopped IPAs for example are in danger of becoming almost identikit beers (close your eyes and ignore the label and too often the beer you are drinking could come from anywhere with no local roots) but try a Belgian IPA and you know where it's come from.

  2. A fine,informative post pal. Enjoyed the always

  3. Cheers Matt. Enthusiasm and a balanced appraisal of where the land lies for Belgian beer at present. Couldn't ask for more when it's a beer-set I know next to nothing about. Only wish I'd made it to the cross keys event.

  4. A most excellent name-drop there Matt! The Lowlands festival looked just outstanding, and I love that North is still making such a huge fuss about Belgian beers - They really are the masters when it comes to beer! Nobody else can boast as much history, tradition or heritage when it comes to a brewing fraternity, and the Americans aside, there's nobody else with as much diversity either.

    I like John's point too - Belgian beers really do retain a sense of their roots - or terroir as the wine buffs would call it.

    Actually they'd probably be horrified at that bastardisation of the word, but whatevs! Drink more Belgian beer people.