|A taste of things to come|
To get an overall impression of how the day worked out it is necessary to consider that there was no way in which we could have visited all 22 of the breweries which belong to the Belgian Family Brewers Association. Instead we had four stopping points spread over the course of the day which were arranged so that between six and seven brewers were represented at each halt; with representatives from each company present to talk about their brewery, the beers they brew and to talk us through a tasting of some of their products.
|Travelling in style|
However, in the greater scheme of things, these were just minor irritations, and the day ended up being interesting, educational and jolly good fun; even if it was something of an endurance trip at times! It’s safe to say that we all came away with a much greater knowledge of Belgian brewing in general, and of the special role played by the Belgian Family Brewers in ensuring the methods, traditions and customs associated with some of the country’s best known beers continues to be passed on from one generation to the next.
|A tent in a field on a wet August afternoon|
The coach dropped us just off the road and then, following our guide, we hiked along a track towards a large marquee set up facing one of the aforementioned hop gardens. This was our base for lunch and also for the associated beer tastings and presentations. The marquee was rather an upmarket affair, with a wooden floor, a bar with full catering facilities in the background and a large TV screen to aid with the presentations.
|It's quite a posh tent, mind you!|
To be honest there was rather too much in the way of facts and figures to be taken in; not just with the first presentation, but with all of them, and whilst they all had their own story to say, as the day progressed we all started to suffer from information overload.
|One of many presentations|
|Sampling session at Lindemanns|
We made our way back across the fields to the awaiting coach, and then set off for our next scheduled halt at the Lindemanns Brewery in Vlezenbeek , in the heart of the “Lambic country” of Payottenland. This was when the carefully-timed schedule began to go astray. The fact that the welcoming speeches, beer tastings and the presentations which took place at Lindemanns, also over-ran didn’t help either.
|and the new!|
with its brand-spanking new brewing plant, but we were given a quick look at the maturation room where the beer conditions in large oak vats, or Foeders, many of which date back several decades. Unsurprisingly the emphasis at this stop was on "yeast", and the other Belgian Family Brewers present were: De Brabander, Omer Vander Ghinste, Timmermans and Verhaeghe.
|Sampling session at Dupont|
From what I recall, it was no great distance to the final stop on our tour, namely the Dubuisson Brewery and the home of Bush beers. Here we were treated to something more solid in the form of a sit-down meal in the brewery restaurant. It being Belgium, and this being an excursion organised by the Belgian Family Brewers, we had that most Belgian of meal - Boeuf Carbonnade with chips. It was rather good, and as well as a Dubuisson beer (Surfine - Saison) to drink, we sampled beers from De Koninck, De Halve Maan, Van Hosebrouck and Sint Bernardus. We also met the head brewer from the latter brewery, and it was here that I first heard the tale about the brewery’s claim to be the brewer of the original Sint Sixtus-Westvleteren.
|A Belgian classic for dinner|
I slept for most of the journey back to Brussels, awakening just as we arrived back in the city centre. This was some two hours or so later than scheduled. It had been a long, but interesting day, packed full of all sorts of beery goodies, and there would be more to come the following morning, as the conference proper was due to kick off!
|Maturation cellar at Dubuisson|