Festival des Bieres Artisanales
17 September 2017, Nivelles, Belgium
The festival is being held for a second year in a row. You can find my last year report here.
Nivelles is in the Wallon-Brabant region of Belgium and its population is almost exclusively French speaking (and they mean it). Its rather small town (28000 people) with a long history. Per the Wikipedia the first settlers started to work here around 4000 bc. Then it suffered from Roman and German invasions.
The important part of Nivelles history starts with a woman named Gertrude, who became first abbes of the monastery founded here by her mother. As the Gertrude was venerated a saint upon her death, the place required space to handle the growing numbers of pilgrims. That’s how the impressive collegiate church of Saint Gertrude was build. The area around the collegiate is the cultural and leisure center of the town until today. In fact, the collegiate itself is worth seeing (on top you can see the sarcophagus of St Gertrude and listen to a famous 49-bell carillon here).
As the festival in Nivelles is concentrated on a regional food and drinks, also the brewers come from the area. Observing them is very interesting – half of the day gives you an excellent opportunity to overview Belgian craft beer scene.
Belgians love blonde beer. Majority of the beer on the festival was blonde. Moreover, I have spotted a few new brewers (new for me) that have offered just blonde beer (see the photos below). If you are surprised why there no reviews of the blonde beers in this post – blonde is the second most boring beer style existing (IMHO) and even after two years of living in Belgium, I am not able to separate good blonde from bad. They are just all boring.
Here beer is the solution... This was the first time I have seen a social project to be supported by selling its own beer. Somehow beer in my mind is still connected with causing social problems rather than resolving them. In Belgium, it is different, Beer is a part of a culture and nobody here would think that it could be bad for a society to drink beer. Btw. I have tried a framboise and it was great fruity, not worse from any framboise of famous brand that I could get in the supermarket. This is the way of support I admire.
Belgians can’t brew… IPA. OK..ok… this clearly is generalization as there are already a few good Belgian IPAs. Still, the clear majority of the local IPA-beers should be put in a box called experiments that failed. This one is no different. Funny earthy aroma, very strange aftertaste, no bitterness. (Hoppy Redskin, Red IPA, Brasserie Hoppy, http://www.brasseriehoppy.be).
The number does not always mean quality. Belgians are considered beer nation. They produce thousands of beers and there are approx. 200 breweries in this small country. If you ask an average Belgian about their beer they think that it is the best thing in the world (maybe after Belgian chocolate).
Let's just say this is very simplistic view. Here some examples.
From the left – two beers of a Brasserie du Renard (www.brasseriedurenards.be). The one on the left – La Roublarde is brewerd with the use of 4 malts and 5 aromatic hops. La Roublarde is very low in aroma of hops, smelling mostly of malt and dried fruits. Taste is clearly malty and sweetish, full body and creamy texture with a metallic aftertaste. Not the first time where adding too much does not result in anything special.
The one in the middle is La Rousse de Poire from the same brewery. This one is supposed to be a fruit beer with an addition of pears. Phew. 3 People in my group have tried and couldn’t smell or taste pears here. Malt, yeast, heavy carbonation. Yes. Pears. Not.
Bisous M’Chou – called a social drink since 2015. I was wondering why would you consider this a social drink and I know it. When people socialize, it is better to avoid controversies. What is the least controversial taste, where it really is hard to quarrel? it is WATER. Well, Bisous is a perfect replacement (www.bisousmchou.com).
Every time I try to be negative there are some beers that are really striking and I must shut up and enjoy. These are few surprises of the festival. Even more because two of them are beers with addition of fruits, that usually will not get my attention.
Who would imagine that the brewery that gave us the Bisous M’chou described above would be able to brew such a kick ass banana beer. There is no sarcasm, it is like eating a banana, not an artificial powder like many banana-taste things on the market. This is amazing, real fruit experience. Minions would love it!
Bertinchamps (http://www.bertinchamps.be/) has delivered another blast. One of the best grapefruit beers I have ever had and a great idea of refreshing the traditional blonde beer. When adding a serious number of grapefruit to a flat blonde, you obtain a sort of grapefruit based refreshing drink. Almost a soft drink not a beer. Hint of ginger and a soda feeling. Overall very nice and fresh. I like the idea and the product. The only worry I have is the timing – this is clearly a summer beer (and only summer), releasing it so late could kill it.
Sorry this time just a photo of the stand. Ambree and Triple Brune from the brewery Elfique (www.elfique.be). Whereas the Ambree was quite OK, with its moderate sweet-bitter taste, caramel and fruity aromas it was clearly above the average. What I loved was triple brune. Really heavy, liquor, sweetness. Aroma of malt and some hops. Could as well be a Belgian answer to English barley wine. Very good beer.
Last, but no least the beer of the festival (at least for me). Belgo sapiens (www.belgosapiens.be) has delivered an amazing Triple. Smooth, nonalcoholic, but well hopped and aromatic. This is the best Triple beer I have had this year and probably the best Belgian Triple. Why, because it is perfect combination of traditional smooth triple and a modern hoppy beer. What is important – it is not American Triple, a triple simply loaded with tons of Citra or Mosaic, the bitterness is subtle, but clear, it does not change the character of Triple style but just adds a new facet. It just knocked me off my socks. Brilliant.
They should be selling that in 2 weeks and I will be standing at the door of the brewery waiting for the sale start.
Last but not least - two extra hoppy (and happy beers)