Beer Birthday: Hildegard Van Ostaden

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Today is the 39th birthday of Hildegard Van Ostaden, brewmaster at Urthel, one of only two female brewers working in Belgium. Inspired by a trip to Alaska’s barleywine festival, she also brewed the first American-style Imperial IPA in Belgium. Her beers are all great, and I love the illustrations on the labels that her husband Bas does. Join me in wishing Hildegard a very happy birthday.

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Hildegard with Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing at the Beer Chef’s Urthel dinner.

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Outside the Falling Rock, fellow GABF judges Carl Kins, from the EBCU (on left), and Hildegard (on right) along with her husband Bas (in the middle) during GABF in 2007.

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Bas van Ostaden, Bruce Paton and Hildegard after their dinner in 2007.

Brussels Beer Challenge To Be Held In Leuven

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2014 will mark the third year for the Brussels Beer Challenge. In its inaugural year it was held in Brussels, in the second year it was in Liege. This year’s competition will be in Leuven, described as a “beautiful historic city with a rich cultural life, countless moments, excellent hotel and conference facilities, and blessed with a noble and ancient brewing tradition.”

From the press release:

During two days a tasting panel of 60 international renowned beer connoisseurs will taste 750 beers from all over the world. The participating beers are divided into categories based on origin, type and style and then evaluated. At the end of the two tasting days, the best beers, in each category, will be awarded a gold, silver or bronze award. This professional beer competition is a unique opportunity for all beer producers to compete with the best international and Belgian brewers.

Why organize this beer competition in Belgium?

Belgium is without a doubt the most unique beer country. Our country has a great expertise and an international reputation. It is only fitting that Belgium has his own professional beer contest. The mixed presence of both national and international specialists ensures that the awarded beers at the Brussels Beer Challenge can count on a huge media interest and international recognition. Dirk Vansina, alderman of tourism: “In the last weekend of October, when the professional beer tasters are judging the beers, the visitor can also enjoy beer in town. Tourism of Leuven is working on an interesting program in which she confirms her title of beer capital. The program will be confirmed later.”

I’m looking forward to going over and judging this fall in Leuven. Should be a great time.

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Here is a chart showing the gold medals awarded at last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge:
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And here is a chart showing the medals awarded to Belgian breweries at last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge:
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Beer Birthday: Pierre Celis

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A true brewing legend, who was treated like a rock star in Belgium where they care about their national beers, Pierre Celis would have been 89 today. Celis single-handedly revived the style witbier in the 1960s when he was a brewer at Hoegaarden. He later moved to Texas to start a microbrewery with his daughter Christine, which was sold to Miller in 1995. More recently, he was making three cave-aged beers under the label Grottenbier at St. Bernardus in Belgium. Unfortunately, Pierre passed away almost three years ago in April. Pierre was a terrific person and his absence is still deeply felt. As I understand it, his daughter Christine is working on a great-sounding project that will honor her father’s memory and also produce some terrific beers, too. Join me in drinking a toast to the memory of Pierre Celis.

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With Pierre at the Craft Brewers Conference in New Orleans a number of years ago.

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At GABF in 2006.

The New Belgian Flag

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The Association of Belgium Brewers recently launched a campaign to celebrate Belgian beer … in Belgium. The marketing push, called “Fiers de nos bières” or “Proud of our Beers,” is trying to persuade the people of Belgium what beer lovers all over the world already know: that Belgian brewers make great beer that they should be proud of.

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There’s also a website, proudofbelgianbeers.com, and a Facebook page (in Dutch). I’m something of an amateur vexillologist, so by far my favorite part of the campaign is the new Belgian flag that the ad agency DDB Brussels created. Such a simple idea, slightly modifying the existing flag to add some angles and a put a creamy head on the middle of the flag. Genius. You can even buy your own Belgian beer flag for €20.

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Beer Birthday: Wendy Littlefield

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Today is Wendy Littlefield’s 58th birthday. Wendy, along with her husband, runs the Belgian export company Vanberg & DeWulf. Their portfolio includes such great beer lines as Dupont, Castelain and Dubuisson (Bush). They were also the original founders of Brewery Ommegang. Two years ago was their 30th anniversary of being involved in the beer industry and bringing great beer to America. Plus, they’re great fun to hang out and drink with. Join me in wishing Wendy a very happy birthday.

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Michael Roper, owner of the Hopleaf, Jonathan Surratt, and Wendy, when we had dinner there a couple of years ago.

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At an Avec beer dinner a few years ago.

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Wendy with husband Don Feinberg in Ghent at a beer dinner with Dilewyns last week.

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Don Feinberg, Anne (from New York’s Ginger Man) and Wendy in Belgium.

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Wendy and Don in 1979.

NOTE: Photos purloined from Vanberg & DeWulf’s website and Facebook.

Beer In Film #47: Orval — Beer Force One

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Today’s beer video, is a short love letter to Orval, a beer which I drank quite a lot of over the past week in Belgium, including a few glasses at the brewery cafe. The name of the video comes from the music used, which is taken from the soundtrack to the Harrison Ford movie Air Force One, and was written by Jerry Goldsmith.

Beer In Film #40: Analyzing American & Belgian Beers

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Today’s beer video, in honor of it being Sour Sunday, is a film of a talk given by Jeff Clawson, who’s the Pilot Brewery Manager at Oregon State University’s Food Science & Technology Department. In the 23-minute video, Clawson “discusses a recent study on sour beers at a Science Pub event at the Calapooia Brewery in Albany, Oregon. OSU is one of the world’s leaders in research on hops and the brewing sciences, and many graduates of the fermentation sciences programs go on to have a huge impact in the industry.”

Beer Birthday: Jean Van Roy

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Today is the 46th birthday Jean Van Roy, who took over the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels from his father a few years ago, though he’d been working there all of his life. Considered a working brewery museum, they make some amazing lambics, and the tour is one everyone should take at least once in their life. Down an unassuming alley in Brussels, and not one you’d feel safe meandering along at night, Cantillon has been located there since 1900, when it was founded. I’ve only met Jean a few times, but he seems like a man with beer in his blood, and a passion for what he’s doing, which makes him a kindred spirit as far as I’m concerned. Join me in wishing Jean a very happy birthday.

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Me and Jean at the Great Lambic Summit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology on June 9 during Philly Beer Week in 2010.

Tom Peters, Frank Boon, Jean Van Roy, Fergie Carey and Armand Debelder
Tom Peters, Frank Boon, Jean, Fergie Carey and Armand Debelder at a Lambic Beer Dinner held at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia a few years ago.

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Jean (on right), Yvan De Baets (center, who plans to open Brasserie De La Senne by the end of the year) and I believe Bernard (on left, also from De La Senne) at Deep Ellum in Boston during CBC in 2009.

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Yvan de Baets, Vinnie Cilurzo and Jean at CBC when it was in San Francisco a few years ago.

The Belgian Kings

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Today’s infographic, De Belgische Koningen, is a chart of Belgium’s six kings, although a seventh was crowned earlier this year. I met King Philippe this past June, when he was still just the crown prince and was leading a trade delegation to San Francisco. Plus, today is last full day in Belgium, though so far we’ve had no sign of the king.

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Click here to see the chart full size.