Festival Updates and Notes
The Festival's opening featured brewery is Browerij De Brabandare - founded in 1894 is now in its fourth generation of family ownership. Their Wittekerke wit beer is one of their flagship beers along with Bavik Super Pils but it is their aged foeder ales under the Petrus brand that are really taking off for sophisticated craft beer enthusiasts.
Enjoy this video of the brewery :
For more on the history of their brewery, visit BeerTourism.com
Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck is a member of the Belgian Family Brewers. Members of this non-profit organization are Belgian breweries that have been brewing beer continuously for at least 50 years in Belgium. Together they represent 15% of the Belgian beer brewers, with a total of 1500 years of experience in brewing beer the traditional way.
Dubuisson, the maker of the Scaldis line of premium Belgian beers, has been brewing continuously since 1769—before Belgium was a country and longer than the Trappist breweries. Dubuisson is a shining example of the civic brewer and proud protector of the tradition. Hugues Dubuisson is the eighth- generation family member to direct the business, which is thriving. U.S. sales increased at twice the rate of the dynamic domestic craft beer rate. Both Peche Mel and Scaldis earned Gold medals in World Beer Championships this past year. Prestige has maintained perfect 100s on RateBeer.
Dubuisson is in the hamlet of Pipaix, just outside Tournai and in the heart of French-speaking Wallonia. The province where Scaldis is brewed is called Hainaut. The word means “land of groves” and indeed it is the richest agricultural province in Belgium.
Jim Galligan of the Today Show recently published a superb review of Scaldis Prestige de Nuits:
“Prestige de Nuits pours a deep amber red with a lovely cream-colored head. The beer we sampled had lots of small dregs floating about the glass, but it had recently been in John’s car, so things were stirred up a bit. This wouldn’t have been an issue if we had let sit for a while before opening, but none of us wanted to wait. Can you blame us?
The nose is a bit sneaky on Prestige de Nuits, as it reveals only a small part of the beer’s true character. You get a bit of the Burgundy from the barrel, as well as some cherries, a waft of toffee and hint of alcohol, but it doesn’t really prepare you for the rush of flavors that follow.
Take a sip and this beer makes an immediate impression on your palate. The flavor starts off very vinous and slightly sour, evocative of port wine and dark dried fruits. These wine-like characteristics give way to richer notes of chocolate and cherries, with a little oaky vanilla and just a hint of spice dancing in the background. Trust me, your toes will curl in pleasure. As this rich middle recedes, you’re treated to a sweet and dry finish, with flavors of red raspberries and slightly tart grapes. Prestige de Nuits warms your chest as it goes down, but you wouldn’t guess this beer is 13% alcohol by volume, as the booziness is very well masked.
A good beer will have a beginning, a middle and an end that all flow in harmony and offer distinct, individual pleasures. A truly special beer will provide an odyssey of flavor, with each part of its taste being a journey onto itself. Prestige de Nuits falls into the latter category – it is a truly remarkable fermented beverage, one to be savored.”
Dubuisson is a member of the Belgian Family Brewers The members of the non-profit association are Belgian breweries which have been brewing beer in Belgium for at least 50 years non-stop. Together they represent 15% of Belgian brewers, with a total of more than 3,500 years of experience in traditional beer brewing.
Erik Smith compiled a brief video of some of the features of the 2013 ABBF for your viewing and temptation pleasure. The only problem with the video is it makes me want the Festival to get here sooner. We're working on even more special events and features for 2014.
2013 Ashley's Belgian Beer Festival highlight video
Lionel Van der Haegen, sixthSome history on Brasserie de Silly:
Since centuries on the Western side of Wallonia, the large farms of Hainaut were cultivating barley and hops. They all brewed their own beer. Today, the cultivation of hops has disappeared and the brewing activity became an independent activity about 160 years ago. Brasserie, which is the french word for brewery, de Silly is a perfect example of this evolution. Silly is a very small farmer's village that got its name from the little stream, the Sille, flowing through the center of the village. You can find it along the highway between Brussels and Lille (France) on about 25 miles South-West of Brussels.
To give you an idea of the kind of beer-culture that existed in a little village like Silly only one century ago, read this.
For not even 2,000 inhabitants, we found 3 breweries and 29 pubs. Today, only one brewery and a couple of pubs have remained. Silly is a quiet village, living a simple life. Going there on a Sunday afternoon is remarkable, because almost nothing moves. Only the birds and the wind are making noise. The fun-activities, concentrated in the pubs, are arching and "jeux de balle," a strange ball-play where 2 teams are throwing and hand-tennissing a small hard ball. It is only played in a rural area of about 200 villages. Remarkable. This type of ball game goes back to the oldest ball games played by the Celts.
Once a year, farmers from all over Europe compete in Silly with their
land-tractors. It is like stock-car racing but with big, reinforced
tractors. They pull each other, they try to move the heaviest load, and
they race. Strange for city-slickers, but very exciting for the young
farmers. On all these occasions, the beer flows in abundance.
When the war started the brewer painted the copper tuns to hide them from the Germans, who could use this material in their war machine.
But, after a while and some negotiations, the brewery was chosen by the Germans to remain the only brewery of the area during the war. This explains the disappearance of the other breweries in the village.
In between the 2 world wars, the brewery became a dominant player in
the region with 6 top-fermenting beers: a "saison," a "bock," a
"scotch," an "export" and the "Grisette" and the "Belge," two full body
ales. These beers are of course shipped to the larger Brussels area, but
they were already exported to France, where in 1900 the brewery won 2
silver medals in an international competition.
In 1973 the brewery changed its name into "Brasserie de Silly," but keeps the logo of St. Michel, the angel who fights dragons. This Saint has his statue in the Church of Silly, and is also depicted on top of the Brussels City-hall. You do not find the picture of the Saint on the cap of the bottle, but the picture of a land worker.
In 1975, the brewery of Enghien (say 'engine'), a town near Silly, is
bought by the Brewery de Silly. The brewery of Enghien was famous for
its Double Enghien Blonde (Golden) and Brune (Brown). After the take
over, these two beers are brewed in Silly. Interesting to know is that
the name of the former brewery was "Tennstedt-de Croes," and that the
brewery was created in 1880. The brewers were from German origin and
that is no surprise.
The city of Enghien is in fact dominated by the castle and the park of German nobility, who reigned the area for more than 500 years. One of them almost became Pope, but he refused. These Germans ruled the whole city and the surrounding area, since they were the proprietor of most farms.
They created abbeys and churches in the city, and left a lot of items of cultural and historic interest. Most of these German Princes are buried in Enghien, and you can visit their coffins in a lugubrious crypt, protected by monks. The German influences can be tasted in the LA Divine beers. They have a lighter feeling in the mouth, more like lagers, and they have a clearer hoppier taste.
Brasserie de Silly brews about 165 times a year for a total of around 25,000 barrels of beer. The malts come from Belgium and from France. The hops comes from Kent (UK) and from Saaz and Hallertau in Germany. 55 % of the production is top-fermenting ale. This puts the Brasserie de Silly with the top of the Belgian micro-breweries. They brew also a WIT since 1990.a
We partnered with fellow beer fan Erik Smith who manages express package delivery by day but shoots fantastic pictures at night to try and capture some of the feel of the festival in pictures. Let us know how you think he did.
You can find his album, nearly 200 pictures, from the festival on Facebook.
Erik also maintains an active travel blog that has several photo reviews of events at the 2012 Festival. This includes the opening Trappist Beer Dinner and the Lambic Blending Seminar. Enjoy. We sure did.
expert photographer Erik Smith polished up the video on this year's featured
VIDEO WARNING - Viewer discretion advised (may make you lust
after more Belgian beer), MA - mature audiences, N - Nudity (naked,
undressed beer throughout), this programme contains strong language
(Quads, Tripels and more), contains scenes of a sensual nature (beer
The featured brewer for the 2012 Ashley's Belgian Beer Festival is Brouwerij Van Eecke of Watou, Belgium. Van Eecke is a family owned brewery that traces it origins back to 1629. We previously blogged about our visit with the brewery. We met with the owners & brewmasters Hendrik and Philip Leroy - the seventh generation of the brewery's current owners.
As some background on their Kapittel abbey beers we shot a video interview with Pete Larson of Global Importers. We hope you enjoy it. Note - we are an authority on beer, not video so no critiques on production quality please. Although now that I think about it we should have done multiple takes so as to drink more of their great beer.
A local columnist at AnnArbor.Com is out with a beer pairing article for Thanksgiving.
The fooodie web-site Epicurious points out:
Beer may actually be more food-friendly than wine is. Winemakers, after all, have one ingredient to play with: grapes. Two, if you count wood barrel–aging. Beermakers, on the other hand, can experiment with barley (which adds sweetness), hops (which provide bitterness), yeast (which lend that characteristic "bready" flavor), as well as spices, nuts, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables.
Why I'm highlighting AnnArbor.com article is that many of the beers he's recommending are Belgian. Because he didn't provide a full "Belgian Thanksgiving Dinner" pairing, here are some more suggestions for your plans. Just think how much fun you'll have educating family and friends (as well as the 'research' opportunities for you!)
Before dinner: Roman brewery's Sloeber or Bavik Pils will start you off right - light but with some flavor
Appetizers: He mention's Saison Dupont but another option could be Bavik's Wittekerke or Wittekerke Winter White or Kapitel Blonde (a single Abbey Beer).
Salad course: This is where wines will let you down. They don't have the ability to counter the oil and vinegars of the dressing. Suggestions include: The Wittekerkes or Silly Pils (a little harder to find although we have it on draft)
Entree: He's got these covered with either the Westmalle Trappist Tripel or Orval Trappist Tripel although VSB's Piraat or Monk's Cafe Sour could well counterbalance the variety of flavors for a better complement
Dessert: VSB's Gulden Drak would be stunning with any chocolate desert or cherry pie or Bavik's Petrus Dubbel Bruin would also complement a sweet dinner ending.