Brussels Beer Challenge 2015

Last Saturday, the winners of the 4th annual Brussels Beer Challenge were announced. A little over 1,100 beers were judged in 66 categories by 75 judges, of which I was again privileged to be one. This year the competition was held in Antwerp, and there was a 36% increase in the number of beers this year over last year’s competition, which also required an additional 15 judges. After two days of judging, the awards were announced at De Koninck.


For the second straight year, the United States came out on top, winning the most medals. Here are the top medal winners, by country.

Medals Won by Country:

  1. United States = 60
  2. Belgium = 46
  3. Italy = 26
  4. Netherlands = 23
  5. TIE: Germany / Spain = 9
  6. France = 6
  7. TIE: Brazil / United Kingdom = 5
  8. Denmark = 4
  9. TIE: Czech Republic / Malta / Poland = 3
  10. TIE: China / Ireland / Japan = 2


The 2015 Brussels Beer Challenge Winners

Category 1: Dark Ale: Abbey / Trappist Style Dubbel
Gold: Nucis, Kamun srl (Italy)
Silver: Diôle Brune, La Brasserie des Carrières (Belgium)
Bronze: Texels Dubbel, Texelse Bierbrouwerij BV (Netherlands)
Bronze: Moreneta Bruna-Brune, Barna Brew (Brouwerij Anders!) (Spain)
Certificate of Excellence: Terenez Brune, La brasserie du bout du monde (France)
Certificate of Excellence: Bon Secours Brune, Brasserie Caulier SPRL (Belgium)
Certificate of Excellence: Paljas Bruin, Brouwerij Henricus (Belgium)

Category 2: Dark Ale: Brown Ale
Gold: Davy Brown Ale, Figueroa Mountain Brewing (US)
Silver: UnderCover – Brown Ale, Coisbo Beer ApS (Denmark)
Bronze: Jopen 4Granen Bokbier, Jopenkerk Bierbrouwerij (Netherlands)
Certificate of Excellence: Bonfire Brown, Saugatuck Brewing (US)

Category 3: Dark Ale: Dark/Black IPA
Gold: Ebers Hopsfall 2015, Land Food & Beverage Soc. Coop. Agricola (Italy)
Silver: Turmoil, Barley Brown’s Beer (US)
Bronze: Bosuil – Tawny Owl, Brouwerij het Uiltje (Netherlands)
Certificate of Excellence: Black, Lucky Bastard (Czech Republic)

Category 4: Dark Ale: Oud Bruin (Flanders Brown Ale)
Silver: Liefmans Goudenband, Brouwerij Liefmans (Belgium)

Category 5: Dark Ale: Strong Dark Ale
Gold: Inglorious Quad, Inglorious Brew Stars (Belgium)
Gold: Edelhert Donker, De Heidebrouwerij 1 (Netherlands)
Bronze: Jopen Ongelovige Thomas – Doubting Thomas, Jopenkerk Bierbrouwerij (Netherlands)
Certificate of Excellence: Eden Quadrupel, De Lustige Brouwers (Belgium)

Category 6: Flavoured Beer: Chocolate
Gold: Zeven Zonden Invidia, Hugel (Belgium)
Silver: Global Mutt Baltic Porter, Wander Brewing (US)
Silver: Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, Epic Brewing (US)
Bronze: 7 Fjell Morgenstemning Coffee Stout, 7 Fjell Bryggeri (Norway)
Certificate of Excellence: Midnight Ritual, Moylan’s Brewing (US)

Category 7: Flavoured Beer: Coffee
Gold: Breakfast Stout, Barley Brown’s Beer (US)

Category 8: Flavoured Beer: Fruit Beer
Gold: Malagrika, Birrificio B94 SRL (Italy)
Silver: Boysenberry Fruit Puncheon, Wander Brewing (US)
Bronze: Red & White, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (US)
Certificate of Excellence: Mort Subite Oude Kriek Lambic, Brouwerij Alken-Maes NV (Belgium)

Category 9: Flavoured Beer: Fruit Lambic
Gold: Kriek Boon Mariage Parfait, Brouwerij Boon N.V. (Belgium)
Silver: Oude Kriek Cuvée René, Brouwerij Lindemans (Belgium)
Bronze: Oude Kriek Oud Beersel, Oud Beersel BVBA (Belgium)
Certificate of Excellence: Timmermans Oude Kriek, Timmermans (Belgium)

Category 10: Flavoured Beer: Herb & Spice
Gold: Fleur Sofronia, MC77 – Birrificio Artigianale (Italy)
Silver: Zinnbach Kung Fu Beer, Shandong ZinnBach Biotechnology Co., LTD (China)
Bronze: Glezia, Glezia Beer (Belgium)

Category 11: Flavoured Beer: Honey Beer
Gold: Humdinger, Joseph Holt Ltd (UK)
Silver: Barbãr Blonde, Brasserie Lefebvre (Belgium)
Bronze: Samuel Adams Honey Queen, Boston Beer Company (US)

Category 12: Flavoured Beer: Pumpkin ale
Silver: Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Boston Beer Company (US)
Bronze: Samuel Adams Fat Jack, Boston Beer Company (US)
Certificate of Excellence: Saranac Pumpkin Ale, FX Matt Brewing (US)

Category 13: Flavoured Beer: Smoked Beer
Gold: Bax Bier Koud Vuur, Bax Bier Groningen (Netherlands)
Silver: Arsa, Birrificio Birranova (Italy)
Bronze: Roulv, Bryggeriet Frejdahl (Denmark)
Certificate of Excellence: Stray Bird Smoked Porter, Stray Bird Brewery (China)
Certificate of Excellence: Smoked Revolution, Birrificio Birranova (Italy)

Category 14: Flavoured Beer: Sweet/Milk Stout
Gold: Nocturna, Kamun SRL (Italy)
Silver: Steel Toe Stout, Ska Brewing (US)
Bronze: Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing (US)

Category 15: Flavoured Beer: Wood/Barrel Aged
Gold: Black Butte ^ 3, Deschutes Brewing (US)
Silver: Keyte Jubileum, Brouwerij Strubbe (Belgium)
Bronze: Ska Face, Ska Brewing (US)

Category 16: Lager: American-Style Pilsner
Silver: Salamander Hoppy Violet Potato Lager, Browar Stu Mostów (Poland)

Category 17: Lager: Bohemian-Style Pilsner
Silver: Bohemian Pilsner, Brauerei Lemke Berlin (Germany)
Bronze: Maes Pils, Brouwerij Alken-Maes NV (Belgium)

Category 18: Lager: Dark/Dunkel (including Schwarzbier)
Gold: Bamberg Schwarzbier, Cervejaria Bamberg (Brazil)
Silver: Vadia Preta, Cerveja Vadia (Portugal)
Bronze: Premium Dark, Primátor a.s. (Czech Republic)

Category 19: Lager: German-Style Dunkel Bock/Doppelbock
Gold: Ezelenbok, SNAB Bierbrouwers (Netherlands)
Silver: Bokkepruik, Brouwerij Hommeles (Netherlands)
Bronze: Cerveza Apóstol Premium Tipo Bock, Indsutria de Cervezas y Bebidas SAS (Colombia)
Certificate of Excellence: St. Christoffel Bock, Christoffel Bieren B.V. (Netherlands)

Category 20: Lager: German-Style Helles-/MaiBock/Doppelbock
Silver: San Miguel Selecta XV, Mahou San Miguel (Spain)
Bronze: Samuel Adams Double Bock, Boston Beer Company (US)
Bronze: Alfa Super Dort, Alfa brouwerij (Netherlands)
Certificate of Excellence:

Category 21: Lager: German-Style Märzen
Gold: Oachkatzlschwoaf, Urban Chestnut Brewing (US)
Silver: Octoberfest, Wormtown Brewery (US)
Bronze: Saranac Adirondack Lager, FX Matt Brewing (US)
Certificate of Excellence:

Category 22: Lager: German-Style Pilsner
Gold: Bavik Pils, Brouwerij de Brabandere (Belgium)
Silver: Schwarzbräu Stolz der Bayern Pilsener, Schwarzbräu GmbH (Germany)
Bronze: Cisk Export, Simonds Farsons Cisk (Malta)
Certificate of Excellence: ViaEmilia, Birrificio del Ducato (Italy)

Category 23: Lager: Helles
Gold: Birra Ichnusa Cruda, Heineken Italia (Italy)
Silver: Schwarzbräu Bayerisch Hell, Schwarzbräu GmbH (Germany)
Silver: Schwarzbräu Exquisit, Schwarzbräu GmbH (Germany)
Bronze: Brixia Lager, La Curtense (Italy)
Certificate of Excellence: Estaminet, Brouwerij Palm (Belgium)
Certificate of Excellence: Birra Ichnusa, Heineken Italia (Italy)

Category 24: Lager: Ice
Bronze: Corsaire, Brasserie Lorraine (France)

Category 25: Lager: International Style Pilsner
Gold: Asahi Super Dry, Asahi Breweries, Ltd (Japan)
Silver: Schwarzbräu Schweden Pils, Schwarzbräu GmbH (Germany)
Bronze: Bierland Pilsen, Cervejaria Bierland (Brazil)
Certificate of Excellence: De Leckere Pilsener, De Leckere BV (Netherlands)

Category 26: Lager: Light Lager
Gold: McGargles Fancy Frank’s Lager, Rye River Brewing (Ireland)
Silver: Heineken Light, Heineken International (Netherlands)
Bronze: San Miguel Fresca, Mahou San Miguel (Spain)
Certificate of Excellence: Utica Club Pilsener, FX Matt Brewing (US)

Category 27: Pale & Amber Ale: (Belgian style) Tripel
Gold: Hoegaarden Grand Cru, AB Inbev (Belgium)
Silver: Bersalis Tripel, Oud Beersel BVBA (Belgium)
Bronze: Rangsken, Den Houten Molen (Belgium)
Certificate of Excellence: Gouden Carolus Tripel, Brouwerij Het Anker (Belgium)

Category 28: Pale & Amber Ale: Abbey / Trappist Style Blond
Gold: Maredsous Blond, Duvel Moortgat (Belgium)
Silver: Affligem Blond, Brouwerij Alken-Maes NV (Belgium)
Bronze: 7PK, Vzw De Winning Maatwerk / PK (Belgium)
Certificate of Excellence: ABT Fundum Blond, Columbus Management / Zonderik Beer Company (Belgium)

Category 29: Pale & Amber Ale: Altbier
Gold: Bamberg Altbier, Cervejaria Bamberg (Brazil)
Silver: Samuel Adams Boston Ale, Boston Beer Company (US)
Bronze: Flying Bison Rusty Chain, FX Matt Brewing (US)
Certificate of Excellence:

Category 30: Pale & Amber Ale: Amber
Gold: Brevis Furor, Birrificio dei Castelli (Italy)
Silver: Palm, Brouwerij Palm (Belgium)
Bronze: Doom Bar, Sharp’s Brewery (UK)
Certificate of Excellence: Blue Label Ale, Simonds Farsons Cisk (Malta)

Category 31: Pale & Amber Ale: American IPA (Greater than 6.5 ABV)
Gold: Capivara Little IPA, Cerveja Blumenau (Brazil)
Silver: Odell IPA, Odell Brewing (US)
Bronze: Sculpin, Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (US)
Certificate of Excellence: Pallet Jack IPA, Barley Brown’s Beer (US)

Category 32: Pale & Amber Ale: American IPA (Less than 6.5 ABV)
Gold: Hopvine IPA, Schooner Exact Brewing (US)
Silver: Be Hoppy, Wormtown Brewery (US)
Bronze: Long White Cloud Pale Ale, Long White Cloud Brewing (New Zealand)

Category 33: Pale & Amber Ale: Best Bitter
Gold: Cutthroat Pale Ale, Uinta Brewing (US)
Silver: 942, Dougall’s (Spain)
Bronze: Punks Do It Bitter, Birrificio Indipendente Elav (Italy)
Certificate of Excellence: Calico, Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (US)

Category 34: Pale & Amber Ale: Bières de Garde ambrée
Gold: Brassin d’hiver, Brasserie du Mont-Blanc (France)
Silver: Terenez Blonde, La brasserie du bout du monde (France)
Bronze: La Rousse, Brasserie du Mont-Blanc (France)
Certificate of Excellence: Rare Vos, Brewery Ommegang (US)

Category 35: Pale & Amber Ale: Bitter
Gold: Jopen Jacobus RPA, Jopenkerk Bierbrouwerij (Netherlands)
Silver: Patagonia Küne Pale Ale, Cerveza Patagonia (Argentina)
Bronze: ROCK Ale Cut, Schlossbrauerei Friedenfels GmbH (Germany)

Category 36: Pale & Amber Ale: Bitter Blond / Golden Ale
Gold: Seef Bier, Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie NV (Belgium)
Silver: Steenbrugge Blond, Brouwerij de Gouden Boom (Belgium)
Bronze: Maneblusser, Brouwerij Het Anker (Belgium)

Category 37: Pale & Amber Ale: English IPA
Gold: San Blas – English IPA, Lord Chambray (Malta)
Silver: Dales Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Brewery (US)
Bronze: Butcombe Atlantic IPA, Butcombe Brewery (UK)
Certificate of Excellence: BBP Aupa Pale Ale, Basqueland Brewing Company S.L. (Spain)

Category 38: Pale & Amber Ale: Imperial IPA
Silver: The Calling IPA, Boulevard Brewing (US)
Bronze: Dreamcrusher, Deep Ellum Brewing (US)

Category 39: Pale & Amber Ale: Kölsch
Gold: BBP Captain Norbert Kolsch, Basqueland Brewing Company S.L. (Spain)

Category 40: Pale & Amber Ale: Light Bitter Blond / Golden Ale
Gold: Atlantic, Sharp’s Brewery (UK)
Silver: Bax Bier Kon Minder, Bax Bier Groningen (Netherlands)
Bronze: Wild Jo, Brouwerij de Koninck (Belgium)

Category 41: Pale & Amber Ale: Saison
Gold: Saison Dupont Biologique, Brasserie Dupont (Belgium)
Silver: Biir – Country Belgian Farmhouse Ale, Brouwerij Montaigu – BIIR Brewer Assoc. (Belgium)
Certificate of Excellence: Saison, Brouwerij Maximus B.V. (Netherlands)

Category 42: Pale & Amber Ale: Strong Blonde / Golden Ale
Gold: Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Boulevard Brewing (US)
Silver: St-Feuillien Grand Cru, Brasserie St-Feuillien (Belgium)
Bronze: Hopruiter, Scheldebrouwerij bvba (BElgium)
Certificate of Excellence: Caulier Triple / Gluten Free, Caulier Developpement SA / NV (Belgium)

Category 43: Pale & Amber Ale: Strong / Extra Special Bitter
Gold: ESB/Amber, Saugatuck Brewing (US)
Silver: Leyenda, Dougall’s (Spain)

Category 44: Red Ale: American Red Ale
Gold: Daylight, Track 7 Brewing (US)
Silver: Route 77, Birrificio il Mastio (Italy)
Bronze: Pastorale, Van Moll (Netherlands)
Certificate of Excellence: Ebers American Pale Ale 2015, Land Food & Beverage Soc. Coop. Agricola (Italy)

Category 45: Red Ale: Irish Red Ale
Gold: McGargles Granny Mary’s Red Ale, Rye River Brewing (Ireland)
Silver: Red Cap Irish Style Red Ale, Kulshan Brewing (US)
Bronze: Barbarossa, Birrificio Svevo di Cisco Vito (Italy)
Certificate of Excellence:

Category 46: Red Ale: Oud Rood (Flanders Red Ale)
Gold: Rodenbach Grand Cru, Brouwerij Rodenbach (Belgium)
Silver: Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru, Boston Beer Company (US)
Bronze: Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, Boston Beer Company (US)
Certificate of Excellence: Rodenbach, Brouwerij Rodenbach (Belgium)

Category 47: Speciality Beer: Barley Wine
Gold: Olde School Barley Wine, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (US)
Silver: Fathead Barley Wine, Nebraska Brewing (US)
Bronze: Bohemia Reserva, Ambev S.A. (Brazil)
Certificate of Excellence: SEVEN, Coisbo Beer ApS (Denmark)

Category 48: Speciality Beer: Brut Beer
Bronze: Broeder Jacob Brut Rosé, Brouwerij Broeder Jacob (Belgium)

Category 49: Speciality Beer: Hybrid
Gold: Sun Barley Bio Blonde, Micro Birrificio Castel del Monte (Italy)
Silver: Karibu, Piccolo Birrificio Indipendente Decimoprimo (Italy)
Bronze: Brutus, Brouwerij Maximus B.V. (Netherlands)

Category 50: Speciality Beer: Lambic & Gueuze
Gold: Timmermans Oude Gueuze, Timmermans (Belgium)
Silver: Coolship Resurgam, Allagash Brewing (US)
Bronze: Sour Opal, Firestone Walker Brewing (US)
Certificate of Excellence: Gueuze Boon VAT 77, Brouwerij Boon N.V. (Belgium)

Category 51: Speciality Beer: Speciality Beer
Gold: Nonniversaire, HopSaSam (Belgium)
Silver: Petrus Aged Pale, Brouwerij de Brabandere (Belgium)
Bronze: Gulpener Ur-Hop, Gulpener Bierbrouwerij (Netherlands)
Certificate of Excellence:

Category 52: Speciality Beer: Winter Ales
Gold: Gulpener Wintervrund, Gulpener Bierbrouwerij (Netherlands)
Silver: UnderCover – Christmas Ale, Coisbo Beer ApS (Denmark)
Certificate of Excellence:

Category 53: Stout/Porter: American Stout
Gold: Calix Niger, Birrificio dei Castelli (Italy)
Silver: Obsidian Stout, Deschutes Brewing (US)
Bronze: Darker than your Soul, Saugatuck Brewing (US)

Category 54: Stout/Porter: Baltic Porter
Gold: Ballast Point Baltic Porter, Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (US)
Bronze: Cornelius Porter, Sulimar Sp z o.o. (Poland)

Category 55: Stout/Porter: Dry Stout
Gold: Stringers Dry Stout, Stringers Beer (UK)
Silver: Dry Stout, Reuben’s Brews (US)
Silver: Dragoon’s Dry Irish Stout, Moylan’s Brewing (US)

Category 56: Stout/Porter: Oatmeal Stout
Gold: De Poet, New Holland Brewing (US)
Silver: Dragonstooth Stout, Elysian Brewing (US)
Certificate of Excellence: Oatmeal Stout, Blue Point Brewing (US)

Category 57: Stout/Porter: Porter
Gold: Magarìa, ‘a Magara (Italy)
Silver: Coconut Porter, Maui Brewing (US)
Bronze: Transporter, Kulshan Brewing (US)
Bronze: Arriaca Imperial Porter, Cervezas Arriaca SL (Spain)
Certificate of Excellence: Malvados Porter, Malvados Beer by Crevezart (Spain)
Certificate of Excellence: Turkunara, P3 Brewing (Italy)

Category 58: Stout/Porter: Russian Imperial Stout
Gold: Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues Brewery (US)
Silver: Mìerula, ‘a Magara (Italy)
Bronze: Ukrainian Imperial Stout, Pravda Beer Theatre (Ukraine)
Certificate of Excellence: Nautilus, Birrificio Mezzavia (Italy)

Category 59: Stout/Porter: Stout Export
Gold: Tsunami Stout, Pelican Pub & Brewery (US)
Silver: Duits & Lauret Stout, Duits & Lauret (Netherlands)
Bronze: Voreia Stout, SIRIS Microbrewery (Greece)
Certificate of Excellence: Asahi Stout, Asahi Breweries, Ltd (Japan)

Category 60: Wheat: Dubbel Wit / Imperial White
Gold: IJwit, Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Netherlands)

Category 61: Wheat: Dunkel Weizen
Bronze: Friedenfelser Dunkles Weizen, Schlossbrauerei Friedenfels GmbH (Germany)

Category 62: Wheat: Dunkel Weizen(doppel)bock
Gold: Texels Bock, Texelse Bierbrouwerij BV (Netherlands)
Bronze: TAP6 Unser Aventinus, Weisses Bräuhaus G. Schneider & Sohn GmbH (Germany)
Certificate of Excellence: Jopen Johannieter, Jopenkerk Bierbrouwerij (Netherlands)

Category 63: Wheat: Gose
Gold: Gose, pFriem Family Brewers (US)
Silver: Sun Barley Bio Blanche, Micro Birrificio Castel del Monte (Italy)

Category 64: Wheat: Weizen
Gold: Weizenbier, Primátor a.s. (Czech Republic)
Bronze: Cornelius Pszeniczny, Sulimar Sp z o.o. (Poland)
Bronze: TAP1 Meine Blonde Weisse, Weisses Bräuhaus G. Schneider & Sohn GmbH (Germany)

Category 65: Wheat: White IPA / Hoppy Weizen
Gold: Weiss Weiss Baby, Figueroa Mountain Brewing (US)
Silver: Lunette, Brasserie de la Pleine Lune (France)
Bronze: Les 4 Surfeurs de l’Apocalypso, Le Trou du diable (Canada)
Certificate of Excellence: Sirena, Birrificio Della Granda (Italy)

Category 66: Wheat: Witbier
Gold: Alkali Wit, Track 7 Brewing (US)
Gold: Montelago Litha, Birrificio il Mastio (Italy)
Silver: Blanche de Namur, Brasserie du Bocq (Belgium)
Bronze: St. Paul White, Brouwerij Sterkens Bierparadijs (Belgium)

Best Belgian Beer

Best Belgian Beer
Saison Dupont Biologique, Brasserie Dupont (Belgium)

The Comac Trophy: Best in Show

The Comac Trophy: Best in Show
Hopvine IPA, Schooner Exact Brewing (US)

Beer Birthday: Armand Debelder

Today is the 64th birthday of Armand Debelder, master blender and owner of Proef 3 Fonteinen — a.k.a. Drie Fonteinen — a lambic brewery and blendery making traditional geuze and kriek in Beersal, Belgium. According to their U.S. importer, Shelton Brothers:

Drie Fonteinen is the only remaining traditional geuze blender in Belgium, using only 100% spontaneously fermented lambik beer, aged in oak casks, with no artificial sweeteners or other additives. The blendery is connected to the very popular Drie Fonteinen Restaurant in Beersel, on the outskirts of Brussels. The proprietor, Armand Debelder, buys pure lambik from three breweries in Belgium, ages them in oak, and blends them, employing the skill, knowledge, and supreme passion for real geuze that his father handed down to him.

I had a chance to meet and talk with Armand a couple of times during Philly Beer Week a few years ago. And, of course, his beer is amazingly good. Join me in wishing Armand a very happy birthday.

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

Me and Armand Debelder
Armand and me at the Great Lambic Summit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology on June 9, 2010.

Beer Birthday: Luc De Raedemaeker

Today is the 44th birthday of Luc De Raedemaeker, who’s the Tasting Director for the Brussels Beer Challenge, the Dutch Beer Challenge and also the owner of BIERinhuis. I first met Luc in D.C. when Stephen Beaumont introduced us during CBC, and then we judged together in Japan a couple of years ago, and I’ve also been privileged to judge at the BBC the last few years. We generally run into one another several times a year, both in the states and in Belgium, and he’s always fun to share a beer or three with. Join me in wishing Luc a very happy birthday.

Luc with Jan Smets at Brouwerij Het Anker in Mechelen at an event in November of 2013.

Luc at Brasserie Bahnhove in Belgium with Lisa Morrison and Mark Campbell in November of last year. [photo by Bart Van der Perre.]

Luc, second from the right, at the World Beer Cup in Denver last year.

Judging in Japan in 2013. Luc is in the back row, right next to me on the left.

Luc and me at a beer dinner at Belga Queen in Brussels this past August.

Wearing the Belmont Crown during CBC in Portland this spring.

Zwanze Day 2015

cantillon russian-river
Today was Zwanze Day, an annual holiday deliciously made up by Jean Van Roy of Brasserie Cantillon. Cantillon made the first Zwanze beer in 2008, which that year was a rhubarb beer. In subsequent years they’ve made beers with elderflowers, pineau d’aunis (a red wine grape) and a sour witbier, made with the traditional coriander and orange peel, and last year they made Cuvée Florian, essentially Iris Grand Cru blended with cherries. This year, the beer was Wild Brussels Stout


Each year, the beer is tapped at the very same time at locations around the world, regardless of times zone. Once again, this year the Zwanze Day beer was available at 56 beer bars or breweries in seventeen countries. One of those was Russian River Brewing, one of my local breweries, so I again spent the morning there with owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo.

But before we get to the beer, here’s a little history of Zwanze Day. Belgium has essentially two separate regions, with the northern half known as Flanders. The language spoken there is a dialect of Dutch, known by the same name as the people of Flanders: Flemish. The word “zwanze” is unique to Flemish, has its origins in Yiddish, and essentially means a self-deprecating type of humor that’s typified by sharp-edged, playful jokes, usually good-natured. It’s said that this type of humor has become “a characteristic, defining trait” of the Flemish themselves, and for some a way of life. A “zwanze” is a joke, a “zwanzer” a joker. It was with that same playful spirit that Cantillon approached the concept of making a Zwanze beer. The goal was to create a fun beer; something a little unusual, using non-traditional ingredients.

And here’s Jean Van Roy explaining this year’s Zwanze beer:

With its Zwanze 2015, in its own way Cantillon wanted to perpetuate this typically Belgian surrealist mindset. In doing so, a few changes were made to the recipe for a traditional stout. Specifically, I fermented some raw wheat to improve mellowness and enhance storage characteristics and did not use roasted barley to avoid further accentuating the dry aspect, which was already present as a result of spontaneous fermentation.

The recipe is that of a stout, the colour is that of a stout, and spontaneous fermentation followed by 28 months of maturing in a cask has given birth to a “surreal” stout.

The dry and tart notes of a spontaneous fermentation beer combine with the roasted, slightly burnt and delicate chocolate flavours sometimes found in certain stouts.

For the 28 months of maturing we used three types of casks: 50% of the casks had already contained lambic, 25% had already been used for Côtes du Rhône wine and 25% had already been used for Cognac. Beers that have matured in old Cognac casks take up the warmth of the alcohol while those from casks having contained red wine adopt winey and fruity characteristics.

This “wild” stout’s fruitiness and “cooked” side reveal rancio flavours that are characteristic of Madeira or Banyuls wines.

Having a little fun with one of Belgium’s best known artists, Rene Magritte, and one of his best known paintings, The treachery of images (a.k.a. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.)

People lined up to try the very limited release Zwanze, stretching about halfway down the block. So not as crazy as for Pliny the Younger, but a respectable number of people, and enough that not everyone in line could be guaranteed a sample by around an hour before opening time.

The doors to the brewpub opened at 11, an hour before the worldwide toast was to take place. Four other beers from Cantillon were available on draft — Gueuze, Iris, Kriek and Rose de Gambrinus — so people had something to enjoy while they waited. And Vinnie greeted people as he walked around while people were seated.

The first pour of this year’s Zwanze beer right at Noon.

Followed by the first trays of Zwanze ready to be served.

Vinnie and Natalie after giving the Zwanze Day toast.

Beer Birthday: Frank Boon

Today is the 61st birthday of Frank Boon, from the Belgian lambic brewery Brouwerij Boon. In 1978, Boon acquired the small “R. De Vits” Lambiek brewery that dated back to 1680, relocating the brewery to downtown Lembeek in 1986. His beers are imported to the U.S. by Latis Imports. Like most lambic fans, I’ve enjoyed his beers for many years, and was fortunate enough to meet Frank a few years ago during Philly Beer Week. Join me in wishing Frank a very happy birthday.

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

Frank Boon and Me
Frank and me at the Great Lambic Summit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology on June 9, 2010.

Beer Birthday: Don Feinberg

Today is Don Feinberg’s 60th birthday, the Big 6-O. Don, along with his wife Wendy Littlefield, ran the Belgian export company Vanberg & DeWulf. Their portfolio included such great beer lines as Dupont, Castelain and Dubuisson (Bush). They were also the original founders of Brewery Ommegang. Four years ago they celebrated 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. Unfortunately, recently sold Vanberg & DeWulf, and are taking some time off, before deciding on their next project. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

Don, along with the Dubuisson brewmaster, being poured Lambrucha in Chicago in 2010.

Wendy and Don at a dinner in Belgium last year.

Wendy Littlefield, Don and Greg Engert at a Vanberg & DeWulf tasting in Washington, D.C. (photo by Chuck Cook)

Wendy and Don in 1979.

Duvel Invests In Firestone Walker

duvel firestone-walker-long-cask
Earlier today Firestone Walker Brewing — in a carefully worded press release — announced that Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker “will combine their two companies in the USA.”

Here’s they said it on their website, at Firestone Walker news:


And this was the press release sent out:

July 16, 2015 – Kansas City, Mo., & Paso Robles, Ca. – In an agreement signed earlier this week, Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Duvel Moortgat will combine their two companies in the USA. The California brewery will continue to operate independently in Paso Robles under its current leadership of David Walker and Adam Firestone.

David Walker and Adam Firestone, joint founders of Firestone Walker said: “The Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat families have combined forces to broaden their capacity and scope as brewers. Long admirers of each other’s beers, culture and breweries, the two teams saw the perfect fit for an alliance. The partnership will allow Firestone Walker to develop our capacity across the US in a conservative and thoughtful way by consummating a life long tie with this family-owned international craft brewer, who continue their commitment to participating in the American Craft Revolution.”

“The relationship I have built with David and Adam made Firestone Walker the perfect fit for future growth,” said Michel Moortgat, CEO of Duvel Moortgat. “We share the same values; have a great mutual respect for each other’s achievements and a deeply-held belief in exceptional quality as a platform for long-term success. Bringing Firestone Walker together with Boulevard, Ommegang, Duvel and the other craft breweries in our family creates a stronger platform in the USA for us both and allows us to collaborate on brewing in different locations across the USA”

“The most important thing that we can do for Firestone Walker is to help David and Adam manage the exponential growth that their team and their brewery is experiencing right now by providing financial and production capacity to support them,” said Simon Thorpe, President of Duvel Moortgat USA. “We are not integrating our organizations. Both Boulevard and Ommegang are also enjoying tremendous success and we still have much to do in realizing our dream for both these breweries.”

The transaction between Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker is expected to close later this year. It is an agreement between two private, family-owned companies, so no financial or contractual details will be disclosed.

It will be interesting to see how this is the same or different from the deal Duvel did with Boulevard Brewing almost two years ago, from which Boulevard seems to have emerged unscathed and doing well, both in terms of quality and public perception. At this point, it appears it may be similar, with very little changing in terms of day to day operations of the brewery and with all the key people remaining in place.


Beer Birthday: Hildegard Van Ostaden

Today is the 40th 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.

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

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.

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

Brussels Beer Challenge To Be Held In Antwerp

antwerp-a brussels-beer-challenge
2015 will mark the fourth year for the Brussels Beer Challenge. In its inaugural year it was held in Brussels, in the second year it was in Liege, and last year we were in Leuven. This year’s competition will be in Antwerp, described as a “city on the Scheldt, city of Rubens, of diamonds, of fashion, a port city… The sum of all these different aspects is what makes Antwerp into a real city: a vibrant, welcoming metropolis, which is also great fun and heart-warming, with green areas where you can relax and peaceful corners. Antwerp is a veritable cultural capital, which prides itself on its impressive architecture and splendid art. Moreover, Antwerp is a fashionista’s dream destination thanks to the stores of its world-renowned designers. The cafes only serve the best beers and foodies can enjoy the most delicious traditional and multicultural cuisine in the city’s restaurants. Antwerp: a pocket-sized metropolis which is sure to conquer anyone’s heart in no time at all.” And Antwerp also boasts two of the best frites shops anywhere.

From the press release:

During two days a tasting panel of 60 international renowned beer connoisseurs will taste 850 beers from all over the world. The participating beers are divided into categories based on origin, typicity and style and then evaluated. At the end of the two tasting days, the best beers, in each category, were 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. The Brussels Beer Challenge will take place from November 5-8, 2015.

I’m looking forward to going over and judging again this fall in Antwerp. Should be another great time.


The 2014 Brussels Beer Challenge judges in Leuven.

Beer Birthday: Carl Kins

ecbu zythos
Today is the 59th birthday of Carl Kins, who lives in Belgium, but judges all over the world. I’ve judged beer competitions with Carl in Japan, his native Belgium and the United States, too. Carl’s an active member of the ECBU, the European Consumers Beer Union, and Zythos. And most importantly, he has a great palate, and is a terrific person to spend time with talking about beer, or anything else. Join me in wishing Carl a very happy birthday.

Carl with Bas and Hildegard Van Ostaden, from Urthel, at the Falling Rock during GABF in 2007.

After judging in Tokyo, at an event at brewpub T.Y. Harbor Brewery, Carl is in the back, 2nd in from the right.

Carl at the Lost Abbey during CBC in San Diego in 2012.

Carl in Tokyo, having a conversation with me and Luc De Raedemaeker.