US outbrews Belgium at Brussels Beer Challenge

Summary

The US won 48 medals at the annual competition in Leuven this weekend, compared to 32 for the home nation, but it was an English beer that was named best overall

 
Photo by Bart Van der Perre

725 beers tasted

Belgian beers won 32 medals at the Brussels Beer Challenge, held over the weekend in Leuven, home to the world’s biggest brewer, AB InBev. But for the first time, the US won more medals than Belgium.

The result was a surprise to a country with ambitions to be the world centre of beer. The US entered 177 beers and walked away with 13 gold medals, 17 silver and 18 bronze, as well as five special mentions outside of the medals. Belgium, with 200 beers from 79 breweries, picked up 11 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze, as well as 11 honourable mentions.

In third place was Italy, with five gold, four silver and three bronze, and one special mention from a total of 110 beers.

Sixty beer experts from across the world spent two days tasting 725 beers entered for the challenge, arranged into eight main and 50 sub-categories, including Abbey/Trappist-style blond and bitter, brut, lambic and gueuze. The judging took place at the former Stella Artois brewery, now the events venue De Hoorn.

The judges, too, are a varied and international group, including journalists and beer writers, the honorary president of the Belgian Brewers Federation, authors, world hop expert Denis De Keukeleire of the University of Ghent, sommeliers, suppliers and beer sellers.

The best beer in the competition, chosen unanimously, was the golden ale Triple C from Thwaites in Blackburn, England. The best Belgian beer title went to Liefmans Goudenband in the category of Flemish red/brown ales.

The Brussels Beer Challenge is now in its third edition. In the first edition, 498 beers from 12 countries took part; now the number of countries has doubled to 25 and the number of beers has gone up to 730.

Photo: Judge Jean Luc Bodeux checks beer colour and transparency as part of the Brussels Beer Challenge

Belgian beer

Belgium has a beer-brewing tradition going back centuries and is known around the world for both its beer culture and hundreds of craft brews.
History - Beer culture has been recognised by Unesco as part of Flanders’ Intangible Cultural Heritage. The local beer culture dates to the middle ages, when farmers brewed their own beer from the rich harvests of local grain, later transferring brewing to local guilds and abbeys.
Beer styles - The main styles include lambics, white beers, fruit beers, Trappists and abbey beers. The Trappist beer Westvleteren 12, brewed by a dozen monks in a small West Flanders town, is regularly rated by various sources as the best beer in the world.
Exports - Sixty percent of the Belgian beer production is exported abroad, with France, Germany, the Netherlands and the US the largest markets.
74

Litres of beer annually consumed per person in Belgium

100

breweries in Flanders

19

million hectolitres of beer produced in Belgium in 2012