ANTWERP - The 4th edition of the Brussels Beer Challenge once again put Belgium firmly on the world map. After Brussels, Liège and Leuven, it was Antwerp’s turn to host this internationally renowned beer competition and a record number of 1,103 beers were submitted for entry.
Belgium took the lead with 261 beers entered from 89 breweries (compared with 200 beers from 79 breweries in 2014 and 188 beers from 68 breweries in 2013).
Runner-up was the USA with 257 beers, followed by Italy (165), the Netherlands (84), France (65) and Brazil (53).
A strikingly large number of new breweries took part and there was a great deal of interest from wholesalers, keen to add prizewinning beers to their range.
So, why would you take part in the contest? To win, of course; or just to find out how your beers stand up against the competition.
Let’s take a look at the results. The Belgians scooped eleven golds in the categories of traditional Belgian beer styles, pils and several international styles.
Saison Dupont Biologique from Brasserie Dupont was crowned the best Belgian beer and was awarded a Gold in the ‘Pale & Amber Ale: Saison’ category.
Other Golds went to Kriek Boon Mariage Parfait from Brouwerij Boon, Maredsous Blond from Duvel Moortgat, Rodenbach Grand Cru from Brouwerij Rodenbach, Timmermans Oude Geuze produced by Brouwerij Timmermans and Hoegaarden Grand Cru brewn by AB Inbev.
More gold medals were won by Bavik Pils made by Brouwerij de Brabandere, Inglorious Quad from Inglorious BrewStars, Nonniversaire from HopSaSam, Seefbier made by Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie and Zeven Zonden Invidia from Hugel.
75 beer experts – and not a brewer among them – judge the beers in a blind tasting. The name of the beer or the brewery, the origin, label, bottle or marketing methods don’t play any role whatsoever.
Each juror submits his or her score based on pre-determined criteria that are different for each beer style. No conferring is allowed at the blind tasting stage. Not until all individual ratings are known is the jury allowed to deliberate to reach a final score for each beer style.
In the glass, everyone is equal in the eyes of the law at the Brussels Beer Challenge.
Prizes were won by a wide range of participants: semi-industrial breweries as well as craft brewers, microbreweries and beer firms.
Silver was won by Affligem Blond, Barbar Blonde from Lefèbvre, Bersalis Tripel from Oud Beersel, BIIr Farmhouse Triple from Montaigu, Blanche de Namur from Brasserie Du Bocq, Diôle Brune from Brasserie des Carrières and Keyte Jubileum from Strubbe.
But also Liefmans Goudenband, Lindemans Oude Kriek Cuvée René, Palm, Petrus Aged Pale from De Brabandere, St Feuillien Grand Cru and finally, Steenbrugge Blond from Palm Belgian Craft Brewers took home a silver award.
Bronze went to Broeder Jacob Brut Rosé, Hopruiter from Scheldebrouwerij, Maes Pils from Alken-Maes, Maneblusser from Het Anker, Oud Beersel Oude Kriek, Rangsken from Den Houten Molen, St Paul White from Sterkens, Wild Jo from De Koninck and to 7PK from Anders.
Translating it to the Glass
In the current world of beer world, standing still is going backwards. Successful breweries, both large and small, make continuous investments in the quality of their brews.
The difference lies in ‘state of the art’ technology combined with human expertise. This does not have to stop you from brewing in a very traditional, artisan way.
It is delightful to see that this striving for quality translates to the glass and has been noticed by an independent international panel of experts.
Another factor that affects specialty beers is time.
Many beers are the fruit of expertise that has been accumulated over the years, often by generations of brewers. A beer like this has to grow; it won’t be perfected overnight.
The beer in your glass is often the culmination of weeks, months or even years of work. The glass has spoken and its voice has been heard.
If you want a complete and searchable overview of this year's results just visit brusselsbeerchallenge.com.
Competition organisers Thomas Costenoble and Luc De Raedemaeker were congratulated for the immaculate organisation of the event; the only remaining question... where the Brussels Beer Challenge be held in 2016?
Wherever it may be, we will see you there.