Belgian Beer Weekend: The 14th Edition

Back in September, the boys and I journeyed out of Leuven for the 14th edition of the Belgian Beer Weekend in Brussels. I haven’t been to Oktoberfest in Munich yet, but I think this could rival the famous German festival in terms of quality beer.

There were three beer stations set up in Central Brussels; the Grand Place tents, Beer Street and Beer & Food. The location of the festival is charming because it’s in the heart of Brussels, mostly outdoors, and surrounded by unique architecture. Beer lovers from all over Europe come to visit. We met Germans, Dutch, French, as well as some Americans. Most of the Americans were noticeably drunk. Obviously, they have become accustomed to what we folks in Canada call “watered down beer” and they simply can’t handle the intensity of Belgian beer.

The event featured 51 breweries who offered over 350 different beers for one to choose from. The selection was immense; I even tried a “Speculoos Cookie Beer”! The feeling of excitement I had must have been the ‘grown-up’ version of a “kid in a candy store”.

The only disappointment we encountered was at the Beer & Food station. The selection of beer and food trios changed hourly, but when we showed up the trio was terrible. The set included an Arend, a Leffe Ruby, and a Reserva dark stout. We couldn’t finish them and decided to skip on the food pairing because it was simply over priced for the portion sizes. On the bright side, I really enjoyed the Stock Exchange setting and I sincerely hope the rest of the pairings were more tantalizing than what I experienced.

Looking back in my blog archives, I’m happy to see that my beer knowledge has evolved considerably in the past year. After some experiments and research, I can say I know the basics of pairing food with beer.

The general rule for food and beer pairing is to keep sweet with sweet and tart with tart. Of course, there is a lot of playing to be done by offering a contrast. It’s important to experiment because this is fastest way to build your knowledge of flavours. Here are some general rules to get you started:

Blonde Beers compliment dishes with lots of spices and heat; Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and BBQ are all fair game. You and your guests are going to need a cool and refreshing beverage with carbonation to soothe the taste buds. As for cheese, blonde beers compliment those that are nutty, tangy, sharp, or pungent like Gorgonzola or feta.

Amber Ales go hand in hand with pork, poultry, and salads. Try one with a weekend lunch, as Amber beer is great with hamburgers, sausages, sandwiches, and soup/stew. Pizza and Mexican cuisine are also a safe bet. The best cheese would have peppery or sharp flavours like a pepper jack or cheddar.

Dark Beer are great for beef, smoked meat, and BBQs. Try a dark beer paired with a fruit and chocolate dessert or a dark chocolate cake smothered in raspberries and you will be in heaven. As for cheeses, bring out earthy and buttery flavours such as brie, camembert, gouda, havarti, and Swiss.

The Belgian Beer Weekend was one of my most enjoyable events of the summer. I made sure to take a bunch of photos as an added effort to convince beer lovers it’s an event not to be missed. Skip Germany and come Belgium if you are on the hunt for some top quality beer made with passion and tradition.