Ashley's was an early advocate for craft beers starting back in 1986. We remember when Larry Bell of Bell's Brewing would deliver kegs personally from the back of his pick-up truck. What was key was we were willing to give a tap handle to support him in building his business. This was an era dominated by the macro brewers (think Anheuser Busch, Miller, and Coors). Over the past 30 years the craft brew industry has started to make a push back against the bland, mass-produced, colored water promoted as beer to the unknowing.
Although brewing is an ancient industry in Belgium, brewing at the monestaries goes back to the 12th century, currently the macro brewers are working to crowd out Belgium's craft brewers.
From Flanders Today newspaper:
...despite the fact that there are more than 600 different kinds available, beer drinkers in Belgium today overwhelmingly choose bland, mass-produced lagers like Jupiler and Stella Artois.In our search to bring new and special beers to our guests we visited Belgium last fall. What we found as opposed to what we’ve seen available in Michigan shocked us.
Belgium brewers are facing challenges from the macro brewers, particularly InBev the Belgian-Brazilian owners of Budweiser. InBev and others have been buying up small Belgian brewers and closing down their operations and brands. Thus many of their craft brewers are being threatened. We found when we met with brewery owners and brewmasters was the passion for great beer that we see amongst Michigan craft brewers. They are threatened by the macro brewers and realize that they must reach out to markets outside of their country if they are to survive. What we also found he were beers that were being exported to the US but due to size and volume just not yet on the radar screens of most enthusiasts.
What you're not going to see at this Festival are Leffe, Hoegaarden, Plam, DeKonnick etc. as we want to focus on the craft brewers. When we did a blind taste test with some of Friend Of The Owners (FOTO) club members, they voted 8 to 1 Bavik Pils over Stella Artois (an Anheuser-InBev product).
We're still supporting our Michigan brewers (see the upcoming Cask Ale festivals and the Great Michigan Brewery tour in July where we bring the brewers to you rather than you having to travel to the brewers.) Its just that we're also going to highlight great beers where ever we find them. In this case its Belgium. Yummmm, as one might say.