Hop to it: beer festival season is here
Every week, Flanders Today surveys the world of local cuisine to fill you in on the best recipes, food events and special places to eat. This week: Holiday beer festivals
On Flemish food and drink
The Easter holidays have a good selection on offer in Flanders. We’ve chosen a few to get you into training for the biggest of them all, the Zythos Beer Festival in Leuven at the end of April. No less than three of these events happen on Saturday, 26 March; our apologies for forcing you to choose.
Highly specialised is From Abbey beer to Westvleteren, a Trappist evening organised by beer expert Harry Van Royen in Stekene, East Flanders. Find out all about the rich history of brewing by the monks of the Belgian abbeys in a style that’s become much admired and much imitated worldwide. That includes the Trappist beers, of which there are very few, most of them in Belgium.
The main attraction: the chance to taste the famed Trappist Westvleteren 12, as well as newcomers to the Trappist group Spencer (US) and Tre Fontane (Italy). Not bad for €15.
The Kastels Bierfestival is open until 2.00 and offers 100 beers to discover, so if you’re any good at arithmetic, you may want to look up some B&Bs in the area. It takes place in the Kasterlee parish centre, just south of Turnhout, and is hosted by the Kastelse Beer Association.
Slightly different but still closely related to beer is a gastronomic dinner of seven courses, each of them including hopkeesten – the name given locally to the hop shoots that remain buried under the soil until they’re dug up for harvest. Only one hop grower remains active in this part of the region – in Moorsel, East Flanders – and the tradition looks back to a time when there were many. The dinner costs €65 and includes accompanying beers.
Speaking of hops, Het Anker brewery in Mechelen would like to explain the difference between Belgian hops and the increasingly fashionable American varieties, let you taste some fresh hop shoots (pictured) and answer any questions you may have, such as “What’s the difference between green hopping and fresh hopping?” Of course, illustrative beers will be served. That’s on 24 and 31 March at a cost of €20.
Photo courtesy De Pikkeling/Facebook
Litres of beer annually consumed per person in Belgium
breweries in Flanders
million hectolitres of beer produced in Belgium in 2012