At the recent International Brussels Beer Challenge the American brewers took 53 gold medals to only 43 for the Belgian brewers. What’s going on? We beat those guys in Brazil during the World Cup football/soccer, but now we are going down in our own game?
Something unique is happening in Belgium, land of chocolate, waffles, frites with mayonnaise (not French fries please) and of course beer. For centuries we were the top of the crop, masters of the beer universe and kings of the amber brew. However, something is brewing (sorry for the pun) on the other side of the Pond. This doesn’t mean that we have lost our brewing touch…we are still making great beers! But it seems we will have to learn to share the limelight on the beer stage with other great brewing nations of the world.
The Belgian brewers inspired the American Craft Beer movement and American brewers embraced our brewing culture with open arms, learned from it and created for many years’ excellent copies and variations of our familiar beer styles. Some of the, what is now commonly known as ‘Belgian-style’ beers, are actually better than the originals back home. But this is America which means that in the true entrepreneur spirit they have taken it a step further, or should I say many steps further.
Once they had mastered the Belgian brewing expertise and were producing equal quality beers they changed them into something new, driven by a new passion and innovation not seen for many moons in the old country. Not only did they transform the traditional brewing methods and techniques, they have also applied new and exciting ways of making beer whilst introducing new brewing ingredients, with the same regard and respect for quality and flavor. The sky is the limit and what we thought wasn’t possible in brewing has been challenged and made America’s own.
So now due to the American Craft Beer Movement the Belgians brewers are inspired, driving them to create new ideas and come up with new beers; we don’t have enough to go around already! Not only do we see an influx of American beers on the continental market, the brewers are actually copying some of America’s ideas and techniques. In the past for example hops were more used to balance out flavors or aromas, but now we are using hops for flavor and added bitterness. We are even taking over American beer language introducing words like Craft, Sours, Funk and Barrel Ageing beers.
Still not sure what a Double Black IPA is in my books, but if the Belgian brewers can open up to America I guess I can as well. We haven’t got our heads round the high IBU’s yet and personally I hope we don’t, but trust me there is something rambling in the European hops and how they are used in our beers. The great news is that we still have the traditional great classics, but now we have America’s crafts beers to look out for and many more new ideas to follow from our own traditional and many new Belgian Craft breweries.
And for this I salute them!