The Belgian people are serious about beer, and they have every reason to be. The country boasts a rich beer heritage which dates back thousands of years, and to this day Belgium is regarded as one of the biggest and most prestigious beer producing countries in the world. Of course, you don’t just have to take our word for it, as the annual Belgian Beer Weekend in Brussels offers the perfect opportunity to sample the many different variations of the hoppy drink from the top brewers in the country.
Kicking off on Friday 4th – 6th September, the free-to-enter festival will be celebrating its 17th year in 2015. The event is organised as a collaboration effort between the City of Brussels and the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Mash staff; one of the oldest professional associations in the world with roots dating back to the 14th century. As a sign of just how highly regarded beer heritage is, the festival takes place in the cultural confines of Brussel’s Grand Place, the main city square which is surrounded on all sides by medieval guildhalls and the Gothic Town Hall.
The festival is steeped in tradition, with the proceedings kicking off with a necessary tribute to the patron saint of beer, Saint Arnold. Many of the people involved in the festival will be adorned with the regalia of the Knights of the Brewers’ Mash staff who use the celebration to appoint new knights and honorary knights, so expect a ceremony full of pomp and flamboyance. Once proceedings are under way, you will be able to sample an enormous selection of beer; in 2014 there were 47 brewers and a mind boggling 350 beers to taste.
Of the brewers appearing in 2015, there are highly regarded beer makers such as Palm and St Bernardus while beer true connoisseurs can explore the range of coveted Trappist beer, courtesy of rock star status brewers Westmalle, Chimay and Orval. The process of attaining your chosen beer is simple, you simply need to purchase some beer tokens, a glass (which you get a refund for upon returning) and you are free to enjoy all the beer your heart desires. Along with a warm, friendly atmosphere live music in the form of a jazz or brass band will entertain the crowd as everyone in sight sips gleefully at the nectar of the gods. The revelry isn’t just confined to main square however, as on Saturday at 10am, a number of historical brewery carts will assemble at the Fish Market and begin a parade through the streets of Brussels, as will several bands on Sunday morning.
A major draw for beer-lovers is the sheer variation of different brews on offer, allowing you to taste everything from a sweet kriek lambic beer to an unpasteurised amber ale. As culturally significant as any museum, the Belgium Beer Weekend provides visitors with a chance to celebrate something that has drawn the country together for generations, beer. Get to know the drink and the proud people that make it by travelling to Belgium with P&O Ferries, if you’re getting the first round, ours will be a Tripel Karmeliet!