OSTEND - The mission was clear. Editor-in-chief and Co-Founder Erik Verdonck had been given the task of assembling a team of true and worthy Belgian “Beer Musketeers”, ready to serve the national beverage of choice to the bitter (or sedimentary) end.
Each Musketeer was to be an experienced professional, able to cut, thrust and parry in his or her specialism.
But they would all have one thing in common: placing the love of beer above all else. All for beer, and beer for all!
And that's exactly how the rounds fell, at our inaugural BeerTourism Team get-together, in Ostend one dreary May morning.
Which was just as well, as the weather did not improve her smile. And all good humour had to come from the tap, the bottle – and of course, the pleasant company.
But who are these brave fellows (and ladies), dedicated to spreading the word of all that's Belgian, or Beer (or preferably both)?
Anneke Rijkers is a qualified hotel manager. The horeca (hospitality business) sector is the natural environment for this beer ambassadress and sommelier. And while there are many clichés where beer is concerned, Anneke is not fazed by any of them. She approaches beer on her own terms, and strongly feels that there is a beer for everyone.
Brewer Bart Durlet gained valuable experience at the world-famous Lochristi, Ter Dolen and Alken-Maes Proefbrouwerij Tasting Brewery. He applied that to good effect in 2011, which saw the birth of his own tasting brewery: Brouwerij Anders. Production commenced in 2012, reaching 500,000 litres in that first year. In 2013, it is expected that the brewery will produce 1,000,000 litres for third parties.
Walter Briers is a zythologue steeped deeply in the brewing arts. He learned all the ins-and-outs of brewing at AB Inbev. To him, the discussion of flow rates, the detecting of faults in the taps, and the art of pouring and serving beer, are all equally good music to his ears. Walter is a contributor to a range of culinary magazines and also runs his own PR business.
Beer chef Hilaire Spreuwers, of the BitterZoet restaurant in Zonhoven (near Hasselt), is a man on a mission: ‘I want to prove that gastronomy and beer are perfect partners,’ he told [me][us].
This chef takes pride in introducing his customers to the noble art of beer tasting. The beer menu in his restaurant lists 120 Belgian beers, many of which are relatively unknown to the general public (for now).
Johan Madelijns is better known in the beer world by his nickname of Wanne. Wanne radiates his love of beer, and many have warmed themselves from his rosy-cheeked good cheer. He is an extremely experienced taster, and as President of De Lambiekstoempers – a beer lovers’ association from the Pajottenland region – his knowledge of lambiek and geuze is unsurpassed.
He once challenged the Duvel-Moortgat brewery to re-start production of its Duvel Tripel Hop. The brewery promptly took up the challenge, so that once again this much-missed beer is back, as a rightful star member in Duvel's range.
Zythologe, master of ceremonies and BeerTourism.com staff member Sofie Vanrafelghem is proud of her newly launched ‘ladies’ beer’ - called 'Eva'. “Ideal for women,” she believes – “light, thirst-quenching, fresh, fruity, aromatic and zesty!”
Eva (6.1%) was brewed at Alvinne, and contains dry Nottingham yeast pellets, Hallertau Hercules and Mittelfrau bitter hops – with Cascade hops for aroma – as well as cara, pale ale and Munich malt.
“My girlfriends – the ‘Evadames’ – and I all had a say in the development of the recipe,” Sofie says. “So far, I have given around 150 presentations on the theme of ‘women and beer’. I always find that women’s taste is not limited to the sweet, quite the contrary, in fact. Women love an elegant beer, full of character with a lovely after-taste.” And who are we to contradict Sofie? In fact, who would dare?
So, on this wintry-spring day, we managed both to keep warm, while getting our creative juices flowing. Naturally, there was a great deal of assistance from a delicious lunch (courtesy of Eetkaffee Poseidon, accompanied by beers from the endless range of beer-shop ’t Koelschip.
Enough, in fact, to help us continue our deliberations, after lunch, at the bar of Café Manuscript.
This is one meeting that will stay in our memories for a long time. Not only did it assure us that our mission – to celebrate and promote the triple joys of Belgium, beer and tourism, was a worthy one. It marked the birth of the Belgian Beer Musketeers.
Time to polish those glasses, sharpen our pens and write new legends in the annals of Beer Adventurism.
Where we're coming from,... and we're we'll take you
The BeerTourism Team has a mission and a vision. Our mission is to strengthen, promote and celebrate the Belgian Beer world with you. To give you the low-down on its highs and lows, the latest news and the beer-soaked histories.
We'd love for you to tell us your tales, to share your pleasures – to hear of your own journeys around the world of Belgian Beer. Success in our mission means readers that are adventurers like us – keen to explore all that the 'beer-country' of Belgium has to offer.
And our vision? We'd like to see BeerTourism.com become the premier international resource for promoting the Belgian regions as the first-class tourist destinations – for visitors from across the world – that they deserve to be.
Success means building bridges between the Belgian regions, drawing strength from their rich diversity of dining and beer culture; their superb regional produce; and their fascinating, ancient and storied heritage.
BeerTourism.com wants to weave all these strengths together on our website; to make it the launch-pad for making real the slogan “Belgium: Beer & Taste Capital of the World”.
If you're already involved in the Belgian beer-tourism scene – as a brewer, entrepreneur, tourist board member or event organiser – we'd also love to hear from you.
Check here for the services we are offering to those partners who share our vision.