OSTEND - For the last weekend of August, Ostend moves its location to the shores of the ‘beer sea’ as Belgian breweries, local restaurants and food trucks pull out all the stops for the annual North Sea Beer Festival.
The sun clocked in and did overtime for the event, after a summer in which it seemed to be on a break and the green spaces of the Leopoldpark made a great backdrop for the festival.
In Belgium, a mix of tasty beer and good company makes a scintillating, and very moreish, cocktail.
The North Sea Beer Festival was premiered in 2015 but it is already a firm fixture in the busy entertainment calendar of the Belgian seaside, growing into a phenomenon with an international reputation.
The passion of beer fans never ceases to amaze us.
Throughout the three days of the festival you kept seeing the same faces who had come from far and wide to the city by the sea. Did they spend the night in the park?
Ask a random visitor where they are from and you will soon discover that beer lovers from around the world don’t want to miss out on this one. “We have sold out of everything,” says a satisfied organiser at the close of the festival.
Well done and well tasted everyone!
New in The Glass
Twenty-six breweries put their wares on show in Ostend. This might not be the place to try the most extreme or exclusive brews on the beer scene, but there is always something new to enjoy.
The Tungri beers from Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery are a prime example. This Tongeren-based brewery was exhibiting before its official launch in September.
Brasserie de Silly introduced their new Swaf Tripel and Silly Sour. Chimay showcased its Chimay Bleue Barrique, matured in oak barrels.
Visitors to the Omer Vander Ghinste stand could taste the new Tripel LeFort. De Brabandere surprised with its newcomer: Wild by WTK, a white beer based on Wittekerke.
Bertinchamps launched the first of a range of experimental beers: the Bertinchamps B+ with grapefruit flavours. Recently, Bourgogne de Flandres has started to brew again in its home city of Bruges. Each brewery has its own story to tell.
Many other breweries were present at the festival:
Bosteels, Brasserie d’Achouffe, De Koninck, Dubuisson, Duvel Moortgat, Het Anker, Liefmans, Lindemans, Brunehaut, St-Bernardus, Strubbe, Timmermans, Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck, PALM Belgian Craft Brewers, Brasserie de Waterloo, Roman, Rodenbach, Kazematten and Rulles.
This one show takes in a huge variety of beer styles and tastes, and a wide range of aromas and flavours. It’s a perfect microcosm of the wide-ranging and colourful Belgian beer culture.
Ostend’s top restaurants also put their best feet forward to showcase their culinary skills. Inspiration for their tapas and snacks came from the North Sea’s salty sea breeze.
Among the visitors all ages and all nationalities mingled happily. A fine example of how the whole world can unite around a good glass of beer. Throats are lubricated, conversations struck up, and new friendships forged.
The Belgian Beer Book
Finally, this year saw a first for the North Sea Beer Festival with the pre-launch of The Belgian Beer Book (704 p, Lannoo & Rizzoli (USA).
Written by beer writer Erik Verdonck and beer expert Luc De Raedemaeker, the well-known organiser of the Brussels Beer Challenge international beer competition, this book promises to be an indispensable guide to the rich and complex beer culture of Belgium.
The Belgian Beer Book is now available in book stores throughout Flanders and in a couple of months it will be launched worldwide! For those who can't wait you can also order your English or Dutch copy online directly via Lannoo.
One final question remains; where are we planning to go for the last weekend in August next year? No prizes for guessing, we will be making our way to Ostend for North Sea Beer Festival 2017.
big playground of tastes,” Luc says with a smile.
He is also forging ahead with exports. Barcelona, Paris, Lyon, London, Amsterdam are all in his sights. “We are looking for distributors who understand our approach and are able to get our story across.” International Gourmets, watch this space.