The next session, entitled Beer Marketing, was definitely the liveliest and controversial one of the whole conference. Jean Hummler, owner of the renowned Moeder Lambic café, made a scathing attack on what he called the “fake brewers”; gypsy or cuckoo brewers to you and I. His point was they were diluting the impact and, by implication, the chances of success for genuine brewery start-ups, and he was quite vociferous about one well-known Danish brewer in particular. It was probably just as well that no drink had been taken at this stage, as who knows what might have ensued. Let’s just leave it by saying the language was rather colourful at times!
The so-called “Walking Lunch” which followed, paired various Belgian Beers with Traditional Belgian Foods. The lunch was hosted by tourist organisation, and major conference sponsor - Visit Flanders, and featured some typical Belgian and Flemish foods paired with Beers produced in the Flanders region. I have to say there were some excellent pairings; my favourite being that of Fish Soup, with the refreshing and slightly tangy Gruut Wit, from the Gentse Gruut Brewery in Ghent, but the Flemish Meat Stew, matched with Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer, from Het Anker Brewery, came a close second.
|In the Conference Hall|
The session on Beer Blogger & Writer Reports, which followed, was one of the best of the conference, with British and Irish writers to the fore. All presentations were restricted to just five minutes a piece, so there was real pressure to pack as much in as possible, whilst at the same time trying to avoid information over-load. Matthew Curtis, whose website is Total Ales, gave an excellent presentation on how to use photos properly on your blog, with tips on what makes a good photo, and how to compose, take and edit photos for maximum impact. Baron Orm and Chris Routledge, explained how they conduct their Baron Rating live beer ratings, on the Ormskirk Baron Blog. They described the software they use to edit the recordings, post review, before the ratings are published on the blog.
|So Now You Know!|
The final session on Sour Beers, was also one of the most interesting and enlightening, and I am sure we all learnt a lot about how sour beers are brewed and aged. Presented by Petrus Sour Beers, who also provided some excellent beers for us to taste; the session covered both the science and the magic which goes into the creation of these fascinating and refreshing beers.
|Sour Beer Tasting|
Last on the agenda was Saturday evening’s dinner, hosted by Pilsner Urquell at the Hotel Marivaux. The Czechs had brought one of their Tankovar cellar tanks, pumped full of un-pasteurised Pilsner Urquell, across from Pilsen for us to enjoy. Needless to say, the beer was excellent. Before the meal commenced, we were entertained with a talk from company Master Brewer Vaclav Berka. We were also each given the opportunity of having a Pilsner Urquell glass mug engraved with our name.
The main course consisted of a mammoth and rather tasty hamburger with chips and salad, and was followed by a very rich and filling dessert called a “Marriage of Three Belgian chocolate Mousses”. I struggled to finish mine, given the size and richness of this dessert, but the night wasn’t over yet, as there was an Optional Pub Crawl departing from the hotel lobby. The crawl was led by Paul Walsh of Belgian Beer & Food Magazine, although several of us decided to do the tour in reverse.
|"It's all got to be drunk tonight!"|
This meant taking a taxi to La Fleur en Papier Doré; a converted maisonette style house dating from the middle of the 18th century. The pub became famous as the meeting place of the surrealistic scene in Brussels, and included such luminaries as, René Magritte, Marcel Lecomte, and Georges Remi (Hergé) amongst its customers.
Stepping inside, I realised that I had been to the pub before; on the same trip to Brussels which included the visit to Café Delirium. It was a nice traditional Belgian pub, with a nice atmosphere and a good mix of clientele. Our small group of four was soon joined by a couple of other groups, which prompted us to move on and try somewhere else.
|Charcuterie Board with Pilsner Urquell|
|Belgian Chocolate Mousse|