The Future of Brewing in Belgium: A Speculative Exploration
The following is the transcript of the April 2003 on-line e-panel discussiom with Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont. It has been divided into 3 segments, in segment 3 audience participants are in black to ease jumping from question to question. It has been cleaned up a bit, but reflects the actual content of the event with 100% accuracy.
Segment 1:  Opening question to Tim Webb. Follow-ups with Stephen Beaumont
SteveG   I want to say before we start - and I can't believe I missed this Thursday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY! The BBB is 3 years and 3 days old today. I dropped the ball in pointing this out on the day... but what a party today will be! Making the first incision in the cake...Priscilla Estes. Recently back from 2 years in Antwerp where she became well known in beer writing circles, Priscilla will be posing the lead off questions to both Tim and Stephen. To begin the event, a question for Tim, go ahead Priscilla.
PriscillaE  Tim, you maintain that the entire Belgian brewing philosophy has changed--that Belgian brewers now make increasingly mediocre beers that cater to a mass market. You say that the Belgian brewing industry has "taken to exporting increasingly dumbed down products" and that even an in-country classic like Westmalle Triple "is now a beer more suited to the supermarket."
TimWebb  I don't think I said ALL Belgian brewers are dumbing down their beers. There is just an embarrassing richness of once great brand names in the cluster that are.
PriscillaE  But generally speaking, don't you think that this has always been so, in any beer culture: beers that become popular enter mass production to meet consumer demand, standards and quality drop, discerning drinkers notice, and non-discerning drinkers don't? (Don't answer yet--that was rhetorical!) Surely, this evolution has plagued every brewing nation, and while it may temporarily damage Belgium's beer reputation, it probably does not spell doom for the Belgian beer industry. I mean, look at the small, new brewers who are making excellent beers, for example, Ellezelloise (La Quintine Ambree) and Duysters (Loterbol). So my questions are: Don't you think only certain Belgian beers are condemned by success? Why do you say ALL Belgian brewing standards have been lowered? Also, don't you think the good, smaller brewers and beers will eventually rise to the top and start the cycle of excellence all over again?
TimWebb  You have to remember that the Belgian brewing industry is Interbrew plus a few add-ons like Alken-Maes (S&N). Even people like Moortgat (Duvel) and Palm are minnows. The Trappist breweries barely get a look-in in the overall production stakes.
SBeaumont  Tim, if I may interrupt, isn't what you're saying true of every brewing nation, more or less?
TimWebb  My concern is that the likes of Interbrew are either incapable of understanding the specialist beer market or else are scared of it. They need it to disappear because otherwise the emptiness of their products may show. Hence the bit in my book about the Emperor's new clothes. I am seriously concerned that globalized brewing is making the same mistake that American brewing made 30 years ago.
TimWebb  I have stopped - in danger of going off on one! I will answer the bit about whether twas ever thus. It is a great irony that we train people to be highly skilled brewers in order to employ them to cut corners. This was ever so. The point is that it did not matter when there were still lots of reasonably large brewing companies still keeping their place in the market by pumping out good beers - better than the big boys. This is what is changing. The medium sized companies are either being forced out of business (usually through financial muscle) or else are going bland in order to survive somehow. The Westmalle point has been attacked a lot and I have to say that my complaints about Westmalle Tripel have, in my view, the weakest validity. I still stand by my concerns about many other major brews for widely different reasons. I think the Hoegaarden stronger beers are now awful - and as they are the global future of specialty ales Belgium inc. I fear for future intentions. I believe Belgium is a special case because of its major interest in the specialty beer market.
TimWebb  I do not think that specialty beer drinkers are the same breed as 'average beer drinkers'. The specialty beer market consists of people with discerning tastes who want something new and impressive. Plus people who are on a journey from bulk beer to specialty tastes. Sadly I do not believe that the small brewers will rise to the top because the various strangleholds - particularly in Belgium - will stop them. I am currently trying to chase allegations made of a large brewing company lobbying politically to stop new brewery licenses being granted. I got told last week that one provincial government is offering grants to new brewers to shut down and transfer production to an existing independent brewery.
SBeaumont  Where did that news come from, Tim?
TimWebb  The closure of Wolf-Costyns maltings leaves only two sizeable independent maltings in Belgium and if one of these was to close the other would be unlikely to supply the necessary raw ingredients for making quality beers. And that is before you get onto the stuff that happens to stop cafes selling small breweries' beers.
SBeaumont  The provincial government tax incentives, Tim, where did you hear that?
TimWebb  A brewer who had been recommended by the provincial government to take advantage of it.
SBeaumont  That's insane. Any sense of where the feds stand on it all?
TimWebb  This is a country where the ex PM takes a seat on the biggest brewery's board and the Minister of Agriculture chairs a brewing company in his spare time. You North Americans are all the same. Too used to honesty in politics!
SBeaumont  Hey, I'm from Quebec! Different animal entirely...
TimWebb  Are they the same there then?
SBeaumont  I'll resist the temptation to digress into politics and...instead note that my position has shifted towards yours of late. I have met the devil, and his name is Interbrew.
PriscillaE  is that my cue for Stephen's question?
TimWebb  Welcome, friend.
SBeaumont  If you wish
Segment 2:  Opening question to Stephen Beaumont. Follow-ups with Tim Webb
PriscillaE  Howdy! Stephen, you agree that some of the Belgian classics have gone downhill, victims of their own successes. But you maintain that new beers and brewers are rising up to fill the gap with excellent new beers. I say that even if there are good new brewers and beers, a statement some discerning beer drinkers doubt, they are too small to produce enough beer to offset the large quantities of truly bad beer being produced on a regular basis in Belgium today. So my questions to you are: How will the presence of these smaller brewers positively influence the sad, lazy philosophy of the major beer-producing brewers in Belgium? And since these smaller brewers hardly make enough beer to fill their own demand, let alone have enough left over to export, how will they keep world opinion of Belgian beer from tumbling?
SBeaumont  On one hand, I think that the smaller brewers put pressure on the big boys when they export their beers such as Duvel, which is still a great beer, and Westmalle Tripel, likewise, giving the average punter a taste of what Belgian beer can truly taste like. I can still blow people away with either brand, and then sit them down to a Leffe Blonde and have them taste the mundane side of Belgium. As for the part about small breweries not producing enough to export, some, like Achouffe and Fantome, exist specifically because of the export market. I think it's important to remember that ordinary beer (or cheese or wine or...) is always going to appeal to the vast majority. That's why I think it important to raise the profile of TRUE artisanal beers. The best wine is purchased by only a small portion of oenophiles. Perhaps it's time to accept that for beer, too
SBeaumont  Go ahead, Tim
TimWebb  Yes we need to enhance the artisanal brewers. We also need to enhance the idea that there is such a thing as a good beer in the sense that there are good wines, whiskies and cognacs.
SBeaumont  Agreed, 100%
TimWebb  However, where beer drinkers, even experienced beer lovers vary, is that they often refuse to pay a higher price. An oude gueze may contain lambics that started to be brewed four years ago. I doubt a bottle of Bud contains any beers that started being brewed four days ago. Machines run on electricity, people get paid.
SBeaumont  I also agree here. I wrote a column a while back in defense of high beer prices. I think that is important to generate respect for beer.
TimWebb  If we want beers crafted slowly and carefully by people we are going to have to learn to pay more.
SBeaumont  Especially in the US where price and quality are assumed to be directly related
TimWebb  I would like to hear what some of our audience thinks on this one, Steve(s)
SteveG  We can take a quick poll later
SBeaumont  BTW, response to my 'higher beer prices' story was split about 50-50 for and against
TimWebb  My biggest fear for now is that the big companies will freeze out any small competitor that started to get a reputation for quality.
SBeaumont  There is an interesting side to the future of Belgian beer that I would like to touch on, and I think it relates to Tim's point. That side is beer tourism. Belgium has spent considerable effort lately promoting itself as 'The Beer Country'. If all 'The Beer Country' has to offer is Stella and Leffe, then to what end has it all beer done? Might as well be Heineken and Bud.
TimWebb  I think this is a major growth area. The Belgian Tourist Office in England were reckoning at least 50,000 Brits visit Belgium each year claiming 'the special beers' were the most important factor in their visit.
SBeaumont  I've got to believe that someone is taking note of this and thinking that they have to do something to preserve the real specialty beers
TimWebb  I do not believe the tourist gold rush will continue if it involves drinking the same limited list of Interbrew products that you can get anywhere in the western world. Or China. I think beer tourism is taking off generally and the Belgian interest has to be aware it will be competing with the Germans.
SBeaumont  So, as in the past, is it not conceivable that outside influence will once more save Belgium from itself?
TimWebb  And however hard Interbrew go for it they will not be able to take over the German brewing industry for at least twenty years. I think in all seriousness that at present the influence of foreign beer drinkers and importers is the single biggest factor that might improve brewing standards again.
SteveG  In a minute we are going to open the floor to attendee questions,. but before that lets take a quick attendee poll. Attendees, please type Y for 'yea' and N for 'nay' is the question... If we want beers crafted slowly and carefully by people we are going to have to learn to pay more. Especially in the US where price and quality are assumed to be directly related
Kevin  y
ToddA  Y
Chuck_C  Y
Perkeo  Y
Pete&Mel  y
MikeK  Y with qualifications
JohnSturm  y
FrankR  I take it neither of you are in retail
LyleOstrow  neither
SteveH  Y
DrBill  y
Patrick  y
Clark  y&n
Charles  Y
TimWebb  I like Frank R's comment
TimWebb  I think that Belgian specialty brewers are trying to compete on cost. To do so they have to cut corners. When they cut corners the quality goes down. So the appeal goes down. So the market fades.
Segment 3:  Audience questions to panel
SteveG  Wow, a lot of Yeas! Patrick, please pose your question...
Patrick  I get the feeling sometimes that many people think that Belgian beers and their brewers are at a 'crossroads' in these times. Either you stay true to your beers and beliefs by brewing 'world class' beers and risk going out of business due to your inability to compete on a cost/production level, or you make an attempt to appeal to the masses by 'dumbing down' your beers and making a profit. It seems that these 'better' Belgian beers have a cult-type following that could possibly be equated to hardcore punk rock.
TimWebb  I think you are right in your analysis, Patrick
Patrick  Once these punk bands get big and develop a formula that creates a popular following, they are bashed by their hardcore fans for 'selling out'. It seems that the harder-to-find beers and the less mass-appealing beers achieve a certain 'badge of mystique'. Do you think this type of attitude exists with Belgian beer enthusiasts and/or is this healthy for the future of Belgian beer/breweries?
SBeaumont  That's a complex issue, Patrick. I used to be in the punk subculture, so I know exactly what you're talking about
TimWebb  I think like all people obsessed we want to go one step further and never have time to savour our present. (And that's on coffee)
SBeaumont  I think here, though, we have two issues: 1) The natural problems 'outsiders' have with something that becomes popular, regardless of whether or not it changes 2) The way our perceptions change as we are exposed to more and different tastes
TimWebb  I'm still trying to get this image of a punk Steve Beaumont out of my head. I agree we are a difficult audience to please.
SBeaumont  (Think 'mohawk' Tim)
TimWebb  God it gets worse
SBeaumont  Number 2 I believe is very important, especially where North Americans are concerned, because we tend to always go for 'bigger and 'better'. What was once complexly nuanced gets dwarfed by experiences with massive and powerful beers. Okay, I'm done
TimWebb  I am more concerned about the emasculated beers (Julius, Forbidden Fruit) than the tweaked ones (Orval, Westmalle Tripel). Chimay and Rodenbach Grand Cru are somewhere in the middle. I am sure many 'top' brands can bounce back.
SBeaumont  Agreed. Interbrew has kicked the teeth out of Forbidden Fruit
TimWebb  I am told Rochefort has gone back to 100% malt.
SBeaumont  I've found a lot of variation among bottles of Orval
TimWebb  I agree.
SBeaumont  Okay, now I'm really done
SteveG  Go ahead Chuck
Chuck_C  What can Zythos do to convince Belgian specialty beer drinkers of the need for higher prices to save their special brews?
SBeaumont  I'd have to say that the important thing is not so much convincing Belgians that they should pay more for specialty beers, but convincing them that in brands like, for example, Westvleteren and Cantillon, they have beers of extraordinary quality and character. Belgians understand wine well, so perhaps a comparison needs to be made between high-quality Belgian beers and high-quality French wines. If that understanding can be established, then revenue streams should improve for the smaller, artisanal brewers and, through the strength of demand, so should the means of distribution.
SteveG  OK, go ahead LyleO
LyleOstrow  Regarding the roles of small eclectic breweries producing "world class" products vs. main stream "ordinary" "dumbed down" beers, I believe that the MOST important beers to the survival of Belgian brewing fit into neither of these categories. Rather, what is most important to the survival of great beer TODAY is our ability to entice NEW consumers to BECOME Belgian beer-lovers! In our store, we have brews we call "graduating beers"? beers filled with character, without being too much of a shock to a potential NEW beer lover. The idea is that we can send someone home with one of these, they will enjoy them without being overwhelmed, and may decide that they'd like to find out what else is out there! Of course, there aren't our personal favorite examples,
LyleOstrow  But they are beers that seem to encourage potential Belgophiles to explore! My question to each of you ? can you give examples of beers YOU would consider to fit this description? END
SBeaumont  Duvel. Definitely Duvel
TimWebb  Which country is your outfit in Lyle?
LyleOstrow  USA
TimWebb  Duvel agreed - the only mass production beer on the planet to keep its integrity.
SBeaumont  One which a lot of people would fit into that category is Leffe Blonde, and I spend a lot of time arguing with those people. Hoegaarden, maybe, but I'd rather another white beer these days
TimWebb  I think Leffe Blond is one of the few Interbrew beers to have improved in recent years. I think a serious wheat beer from Belgium would be a good idea and would have high hopes for Saint Bernardus Wit.
SBeaumont  Saison Dupont
TimWebb  The whole Saint Bernardus range, if it were to be more widely exported, would encourage interest without putting many people off. Another brewery that should be encouraged to export is Leroy - who actually make a top rate lager.
DrBill  Stephen, I enjoyed sharing a bottle of the Drie Fonteinen Gueuze with you at the Toronado BW festival. What direction do you and or Tim see Lambic production in the Senne valley heading over the next 20 years, will organizations like HORAL be enough to sustain them?
TimWebb  Do you believe in the power of prayer?
SBeaumont  First, I fear for Drie Fonteinen. Cantillon is still riding high, but it has the advantage of government support
TimWebb  The lambic future is the pivotal one for Belgian beer.
SBeaumont  The bottom line vis-a-vis lambics is that getting people to enjoy sour tastes is going to get harder and harder
TimWebb  If beer drinkers globally can come to recognize the legitimacy of oude gueze as a classic beer style then the rest will fall into place.
SBeaumont  So it's more important than ever to make lambic (in the export market at least) a high-prices, elitist beer
TimWebb  For sour read ultra-dry.
SBeaumont  Okay, 'tart'
TimWebb  The people I find are impressed immediate by traditional gueuze are the same sort of people who 'get' champagne.
SBeaumont  That's the reason I always compare gueuze to Champagne
TimWebb  And what's this tart stuff. It has all been pretty civil so far! The problem with gueuze is that it is highly labour intensive.
SBeaumont  Exactly. Roger Mussche's comment from my lambic story: 'If we could charge Champagne prices, we make nothing but traditional gueuze.'
TimWebb  Chuck Cook asked a question a while back about Zythos. Zythos needs to persuade Belgians to rediscover gueuze.
SteveG  Your turn MikeK
MikeK  I'm in favor of paying a healthy price for great beer. I want brewers to thrive. However, Robert Parker, a leading wine critic, has stated that current wine prices are 'a legalized mugging' and has encouraged boycotts. If wine drinkers are being 'mugged,' why should we volunteer to be mugged also?
TimWebb  Wine prices are absurdly absurd at the top end.
SBeaumont  What Parker was talking about were stratospheric prices that are where they are for no reason other than that's what people will pay
TimWebb  We are not talking about elitist costs, but costs that reflect the labour intensity and time taken to make the stuff.
SBeaumont  What I think we're talking about is getting a fair price for an artisanal product
TimWebb  I can see that by the end of this Steve and I are going to be coalescing into a single view expressed in the same words.
SBeaumont  Damn, Tim, we're going to have to stop agreeing. People will want a refund
MikeK  Parker talks about the prices being inflated by hype. It's not all top end. A bottle of wine that costs $30 to make gets sold for $150. It's more about middlemen. What is a fair mark up for the brewers to survive?
SBeaumont  Depends which country, Mike.
TimWebb  Parker is probably right. In Europe wine prices vary from country to country depending on what is fashionable. Outside the English-speaking world, Champagne (sic) is a drink for Brits, Americans and people who just beat Brits and Americans at a Grand Prix.
SBeaumont  The American three-tier system naturally takes more of a bite along the way
TimWebb  Until recently, Armand de Belder at Drie Fonteinen was expected to wholesale his gueuze at the same price as Maes pils.
SBeaumont  I think that it's high time we got used to spending US$20 for a 750ml bottle of excellent beer. That's still half the price of non-vintage Champagne
TimWebb  That is the opposite end of the spectrum. I could justify Drie Fonteinen Gueuze selling for ten times the price of Maes Pils, though with the tax bite four times is probably more realistic.
MikeK  Yes. I agree that we have to pay more for the brewers to survive, just concerned that too much will go to middlemen
TimWebb  Agreed.
MikeK  I live in Pennsylvania, 750 Belgians are already $15 in bars
TimWebb  The debate is made more complex by the tax issues.
TBMike  Tim, you mentioned earlier that Belgian Cafes were being stopped from selling small breweries beers. What is going on here? And thanks again for getting your book to me here in Hawaii so fast!
TimWebb  There are the usual 'loan ties' for cafes that borrow money from breweries in order to do the place up. There are also frequently reported examples of cafe owners being told by breweries or their distributors that if they want to get a supply of product X they should not stock supplies of rival brewer's product Y.
SBeaumont  There's also the issue of distribution. Chris Bauweraerts told me that this is the main reason he sells most of his beer outside of the country. Dany echoed that concern the next day.
TimWebb  At a different level, Interbrew and Heineken are simply buying the means of distribution. We did it again, Steve!
SBeaumont  touche!
SteveG  Ready for another one then?
TimWebb  yep
SteveG  Go ahead Filip
FilipGeerts  As being a local from Belgium (Brugge) I was questioning myself what 'foreign' people like you can do exactly for 'pushing up' the quality of 'our' beers? Which strategy would you imply?
TimWebb  It is down to the importers demanding higher quality standards. This has already happened with lambics.
SBeaumont  Can I turn that question on its head, Filip?
FilipGeerts  ok
SBeaumont  What are Belgians doing to improve the situation for artisanal brewers in your country?
TimWebb  Cuvee Renee is an American beer in the sense that the American importer demanded an oude gueuze if they were going t take Lindemans fruit beers.
SBeaumont  (And I'm not being snide. That's an honest question.)
TimWebb  Ditto De Troch and their UK importer a few years back.
FilipGeerts  I can only encourage foreign people to visit Belgium as much as possible and drink our quality beers in huge amounts !!
TimWebb  More recently Bavik made an Old Petrus 100% oud bruin beer for the US that was never available in Belgium.
SBeaumont  What can be done to make Belgians aware of what's going on in their own backyard?
TimWebb  I agree we need to come in ever increasing numbers to Belgium. Apart from being a really rather nice place with generally friendly locals, the looks on the faces of cafe owners (especially outside the tourist traps) makes me sure that knowledgeable tourists are both a surprise and encouragement to top rate cafe owners
TimWebb  Answering Steve' question. Belgian beer lovers do have a problem.
TimWebb  I toured Chimay last Thursday and the assumption was that we would have wine with lunch. The revamped beer lovers' organization Zythos needs to try to become national and needs to focus on a small number of issues that includes the need to educate regular Belgian beer drinkers about their special beers. People like Filip and the many other Belgian beer lovers who participate in these sites are exceptional. It is the same as we had to do in England 30 years ago with 'real ale'.
SBeaumont  I hope that it can be as successful.
TimWebb  Agreed.
SBeaumont  Which brings to mind another point... Which is that the world's brewers, including Belgium's, are increasingly being polarized into very, very large and small... Some day soon, all the medium beers may fall by the wayside and there will be only Bud/Stella/Heineken or Fantome/Coniston/Schlenkerla
TimWebb  I agree absolutely. A company like Moortgat - successful, profitable with good beers, is constantly in danger from takeover for its brands. If it fights the takeover it becomes so financially weakened that it is taken over. If it does not fight it is taken over. When it is taken over its best beers go - but probably keep the same names.
SteveG  How are we doing on this one?
TimWebb  Next?
SteveG  Sure, GA FrankR
SBeaumont  Next
FrankR  About the 'Devil' Interbrew, what about the breweries they saved (i.e. Rodenbach)? more to come
SBeaumont  Interbrew didn't save Rodenbach. Palm did. Interbrew probably hasn't truly saved any brewery since De Kluis (Hoegaarden)
TimWebb  To get a good idea of what Interbrew intends see their website. It is disarmingly honest. They have no intention of saving anything except a few brands and there are no clear intentions that they will remain at their traditional brewery of origin.
FrankR  Without Leffe and Hoegaarden what beer would be the first Belgian ale that people would try? Cantillon??
TimWebb  Affligem. Ho ho
SteveG  Go Ahead Perkeo
Perkeo  Do you think Terroir should be more strongly appreciated - not just for lambic, but also barley and hops?
SBeaumont  That's an interesting idea...
Perkeo  Even heirloom strains if such things still exist?
SBeaumont  ...But practically difficult. The Brits and some Americans tried it a few years back with hops and it just didn't take
Perkeo  It can make wines extremely valuable!
TimWebb  It won't be long before Belgian brewers are entirely reliant on French malt. And many don't use hops anyway. (I'm being a bit playful there.) It is a serious point though. Each Belgian beer style used to be highly focused in one area.
SBeaumont  But that's the difference between most beers and wines. Wines are born on the vine, beers are created in the brew house
Perkeo  And what about new brewing techniques a la Malheur's champenoise?
SBeaumont  Fully in favour!
TimWebb  Local specialties are valid in my view and part of Belgian brewing's charm. I regret the passing of inconsistencies to style.
SBeaumont  I've presented DeuS at two tastings already and I'm not even certain I like it
TimWebb  New ways of brewing well are always welcome.
Perkeo  Only the 2nd example of champagne beer...
TimWebb  I'll pass on DeuS - can't afford it.
SBeaumont  Whatever brings attention to quality beer is a good thing
Perkeo  WHAT? CAN'T AFFORD??? hehe....
TimWebb  You should know I don't accept freebies.
SBeaumont  (Hey, Tim's only a prof. He doesn't make the big bucks a freelance writer does...)
TimWebb  Admitted at last!
SBeaumont  Next question?
TimWebb  How many big bucks?
SteveH  Does Tim think other Trappists will be at risk of 'dumbing down'? For instance what about the reducing strength of Westvleteren 12?
TimWebb  I was at Chimay on Thursday. They told me Rochefort has dropped the 10* maize from its recipes in the last year or so to return to 100* malt. Mind you, they told me they only used 15* non-malt sugars in their own mash and I am still checking out the discrepancies between that and what den Bierproever were told 3 years ago. Orval I know to have been stung by Michael Jackson's recent criticism of them. I do not at this stage read anything into the fall in abv of Westvleteren Abt. Achel seem intent on improving.
SBeaumont  Tim, true that Orval has moved the Brett into the bottle-conditioning only?
TimWebb  Don't know.
SBeaumont  I heard that from a Belgian brewing scientist in 2001
SteveH  What is the Brett?
SBeaumont  Brettanomyces
TimWebb  I am never clear in my mind how Brettanomyces gets into any beer!
SteveG  Hey, do we have time for one more?
FilipGeerts  The air!
SBeaumont  Sure
TimWebb  I think everyone is controlling their micro-organisms these days.
SteveG  OK, we are already over, so last question goes to Glenn. Go ahead Glenn
Glenn  What do you are think the top 3 breweries are in North American in terms of quality and/or innovation?
TimWebb  Where is North America?
Glenn  US, Canada & Mexico
SBeaumont  That's very tough, since some of the most innovative are also some of the smallest. But among ones large enough to be sold in at least a few states and provinces, I'd have to include...
TimWebb  I think you have 1500 breweries nowadays. I have about 1350 to go before I can give a clear opinion. I know it is not Corona though.
SBeaumont  Unibroue, Dogfish Head, Hair of the Dog, Heavyweight...
Glenn  Then as a follow up, How do you think the effort between New Belgium and Boon on Transatlantic Kriek will affect the market?
SBeaumont  I was just about to type NB. I think this is a wonderful project and refer back to my comment about anything helping to raise the profile of good beer being a great thing. I got news of the NB-Boon effort into Wine Enthusiast, for example
Glenn  As you know Peter B from Rodenbach has done well with La Folie. I hope the Kriek does as well.
TimWebb  I keep annoying Belgian friends by suggesting that if they carry on allowing all the short cuts in brewing that exist right now, there is always another nation across the sea that can be commissioned to brew their decent beers for them.
SteveG  Is there time for one more? Just got a request
TimWebb  Yep
SBeaumont  Quick one?
SteveG  OK Clark - last one go ahead
Clark  Why are we all sitting here talking about BELGIAN beers? What is it about BELGIAN beers in particular that makes them so special? Why not some other small brewers around the world? Is there really something special about a beer that is brewed in BELGIUM that we cannot get from other places? Is it just because we have tried these beers and we decided that we like them and now its all just nostalgia that we are trying to preserve?
TimWebb  Variety. Originality. Excellence. History.
SBeaumont  What I say to students in my Beer Appreciation Class is that Belgian beers just don't fit into handy classifications, and that makes them things to be treasured.
SteveG  Any final words Stephen or Tim?
TimWebb  I'm still trying to picture Steve in a Mohican.
SteveG  Would our guests like to say anything as closing remarks?
FilipGeerts  Tim, about your visit last week at Chimay. Can you reveal something more please (recipe, etc.) !!
TimWebb  I think I have said my piece. If you're ever in Cambridge Steve, mail me.
SBeaumont  Thank you all for the invite, and for the lively discussions that I follow on the BBB when I have the time
SBeaumont  Will do, Tim. Ditto for you the next time through Toronto



Around Bruges in 80 Beers: 2nd Edition

Around London in 80 Beers

Around Brussels in 80 Beers

Babblebelt contributors in attendance: