The best Belgian beers, straight to your door
Two entrepreneurs have set up a beer delivery scheme that lets you discover little-known brews without having to search for them out yourself
Not on the high street
There are two remedies: Go out of your way to a specialist beer shop or bar or have a box of special, little-known, artisanal craft beers delivered right to your door every month. The service is provided by Belgian Beer Discovery, the brainchild of former schoolfriends Dario Ceccarelli and Paul Pilavachi (pictured), who met at the European School in Brussels.
I met the Italian Ceccarelli in Le Coq, a bar in central Brussels where you can still find a few beers not manufactured by gigantic multinationals.
“Why do we do this? We were tired of drinking the same beers when we went out and because the food and beverages industry here is a closed circuit,” he says. “It’s in the hands of big brewers who not only buy their own premises to sell their beer but also force whoever rents out the place to sell only their products.” He likens it to the Italian Mafia. “If you denounce these practices, you’re thrown out and somebody else comes in to run it.”
The pair began visiting small, out-of-the-way breweries and worked out deals with them to help distribute their beers in restaurants and cafes in Brussels. That still accounts for 80% of the business.
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“We introduced the concept of Belgian Brewer of the Month; every month we showcase a brewer, with a beer menu that describes the product and tells their story. We have excess products that come back from the bars, so we thought, why not sell them on the internet? One month we sell it to the food and drink industry, the next, we take it back and sell it online, so there’s no clash.”
We only work with people who brew themselves, who do the actual job
The result is Belgian Beer Discovery. The way it works couldn’t be simpler. You sign up on their website for a subscription, which could be for a single box, or for three or six months. You’ll receive two bottles each of four beers produced by a brewer you won’t find taking up space in the Carrefour Express.
Last month’s was an excellent selection from Wallonia’s Mille Vertus; prior to that it was De Leite from Ruddervoorde in West Flanders, and this month it’s the Vicaris beers of Brouwerij Dilewyns in Dendermonde, East Flanders, including their much sought-after Triple Gueuze .
That’s sold out already, but there’s still time to get on board for July’s box containing a selection from the tiny Gruut brewery of Annick De Splenter in Ghent, which uses herbs and spices instead of hops, just as they did in parts of Flanders in the Middle Ages. It’s also possible to order a box containing the appropriate glasses for the beer of the month. Shipping costs extra, but boxes can be picked up at no charge from three Brussels addresses.
All about tradition
Finding the brews is a job in and of itself. “We find them online or by word of mouth. For example, Paul Walsh [publisher of Belgian Beer & Food magazine] came to my house and brought two bottles from Dochter van de Korenaar, a brewer from Baarle-Hertog. Their products are awesome. I called the guy and I said ‘I have to visit you’.”
Nobody else will take care of your business the way you do
There’s another, perhaps more important, criterion than just having interesting beers. “Some are new and some of them have been established for a very long time, but we only work with people who brew themselves, who do the actual job. I go there and make sure that they’re brewing, that they have the equipment and so on. We want to work with those small brewers who actually enjoy brewing and who have a tradition.”
Then it’s transporting 80 crates of each beer to their warehouse in Tour & Taxis and boxing the beers up for customers – a very labour-intensive job. “We will never outsource this service,” Ceccarelli pledges. “We tried it once, and the people making the packs weren’t doing it right, so things were broken or wrong. I believe that the core activity, of making those boxes correctly, must be done internally. Nobody else will take care of your business the way you do.”
Photo: Dario Ceccarelli (left) and Paul Pilavachi, founders of Belgian Beer Discovery