Billie’s Craft Beer Fest
Before you jump to conclusions, I did not drink 30 full glasses of beer. It was 30 tasters and quite a lot of them I sipped and then about half of them I poured away.
It is not often one has the opportunity to drink quality craft beers – unlimited – and Antwerp’ first craft beer festival two weeks ago was a wonderful occasion to imbibe. In fact, it was absolutely amazing, not just because of the wonderful beers, but I now truly believe that Ginger Tipple is a tremendous brew.
Selection of Breweries
There were 50 breweries from all around Europe and North America, most of which had eight beers on tap, two at a time. As I was there for two hours on Sunday afternoon, this meant that there were about 100 beers available. Which is tremendous.
As to be expected, there were a lot of IPAs. To be honest, some of them were average ales with a lot of hops, very few had that magic word, body. For the first time I experienced a range of different IPAs, West Coast IPAs which are very hoppy, often with very fresh hops from Yakima, Washington. Then there were the black IPAs which are made with toasted malt, the skill here is not to either the hops or the toasted malt to overpower the other. The German IPA used German hops etc.
Quads & Stouts
There was a varied selection of quads and stouts, matured with all sorts of flavours, although the bourbon barrels were the most common. Coffee, vanilla and cocoa were the popular tastes. Particularly enjoyed the Fantastic Voyage, a milk stout from Penrenial Artisan Ales which was infused with coconut flakes while whirpooling.
I missed the Kentucky Breakfast Stout, from Founders Brewing, which is one of the best on the market, and which commands a premium price of $20 per bottle. I had tasted a bottle six months ago, and it is very good.
Voodoo Brewery had a special brew for the show, which was a refreshing old style ale matured in bourbon barrels.
Estonia’a Pohjala brewery delivered an Imperial Coffee Stout called Cocobänger which uses high quality Costa Rican coffee, coconut and Magnum hops. At 12.5% ABV it was seductive.
Tempel from Sweden had a great sour beer with mango called Manu. With an ABV of only 3.5% it must be great to drink on a hot day, although I am not sure how often that happens in Sweden.
My favourite was Norway’s Nogne O‘s Tripel X Farmhouse Ale which is not boiled before fermentation which occurs at a temperature of 39 celsius.
The meads were not my cup of tea.
You can travel the world and find sour beers with or without fruit. At this event there were quite a few, but the best were from Belgium. For me, the stars in this category were the Rodenbach Grand Cru Flemish and Caractere Rouge red-brown ales. Nor can you omit Alvinne‘s Gentleman Sour Ale.
Stéfan Cauwenbergs and his colleagues deserve full praise for arranging the craft beer festival and by setting the entry price quite high it meant that you did not have to by tokens all the time to taste different beers.
Looking forward to next year’s festival.