It is almost a month now since I attended the European Beer Bloggers’ and Writers’ Conference (EBBC) in Brussels and a blog post about it is long overdue. EBBC15 is the fourth conference of its type that I’ve attended (there have been five altogether) and the first to take place in continental Europe. The opportunity to learn about Belgian beer was irresistible.
Probably the best thing about these conferences is the opportunity to try a lot of different beers from a single geographic location, and of course to discuss them with knowledgeable, enthusiastic people. That’s probably why most of my photographs from the weekend are of people talking in bars, and people pouring beer. The few seconds it takes to pour beer into a glass are are always filled with joyful anticipation, so watching people doing it with skill and evident pride in what they are pouring is a great pleasure.
For the Belgian Family Brewers this was an opportunity to tell the world about their new cooperative venture, bringing together 22 longstanding brewing families to promote their beer and to show us “the rich diversity in our beer scenery.” As recent convert to Belgian beer, being able to taste many different beers close together, and to hear about them from the people who make them, was a great learning experience.
Of course the beer itself is what we were there for and throughout the weekend we were treated to the full range of what Belgium has to offer, from the fruitiest Kriek to the sourest Lambic. De Brabandere Browerij, producers of Petrus even showed us how they are reinventing the Belgian tradition of blending by suggesting drinkers do it themselves. All conference organisers should consider doing something similar to this. I’m looking forward to these blending packs appearing in the UK.
For me though, the highlight of the trip was the excursion to the Lambic breweries. Even though we had to cut it short to catch the train to the airport, the visits to Drie Fontainen and Boon breweries were an education and a privilege. Thanks to everyone who made the conference so enjoyable; it was great meeting old beer friends again, and making new ones. Reuben Grey at Tale of Ale has a great roundup. Here’s to next year.
I’ve just arrived home from Leeds, where I have been attending the European Beer Bloggers’ Conference. It’s been a fascinating and entertaining weekend hearing peoples’ stories, learning about things I don’t know much about, such as the hop business, and making some discoveries. The session run by glassware maker Spiegelau was probably the highlight of the conference proper for me. Tasting the same beer in four or five different-shaped glasses, and finding it was different in each, challenged my own sense ofhow we taste beers, and whether we are doing them justice. Most of all though, the weekend has been about mixing with a great bunch of people, all with different levels of experience and knowledge of beer and brewing, but sharing a passion for writing and talking about this diverse, and often misunderstood drink.
Others have already done a great job of outliningthe event, so I thought I would put up this little gallery of photos from the past couple of days:
On his blog beer writer Pete Brown considers the way supermarkets sell beer and gives an interesting inside view of how M&S came to develop its range of own-label beers and ciders. Significantly M&S is being up front about where the beers and ciders have come from. Typically supermarkets keep the origins of their own-brand ranges well hidden and in some cases the breweries involved in producing own-brand beer are probably quite relieved about that. This time though it seems there is real quality. It would be nice to think that other supermarkets will follow suit in selling on quality and thoughtful selection rather than simply on price:
We recommended to M&S that if they wanted to be taken seriously there had to be a big enough range to allow people to browse and make an informed choice. We suggested a diversity of styles, with plenty of information for people on what the style was, what it tasted like, with a food matching recommendation on the back. M&S felt strongly that apart from beer style, the range should be organised according to provenance – each beer taking the lead on where it came from. They made a commitment to source each of the beers from the place it said it actually came from. [Link]