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The Spirit Of Belgium IV
By Chuck Cook


The Spirit of Belgium conference, organized by the BURP (Brewers United for Real Potables) homebrew club in the Washington, D.C., area, was held January 14–16 in Arlington, Va. Focusing on Belgian and Belgian-style beers, Belgian beer culture and technical sessions, the event is one of the best of its kind. It is held only every three or four years.

With guest speakers such as Tim Webb (The Good Beer Guide to Belgium), Jean-Louis Dits of Brasserie Vapeur, and Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium, along with a host of American brewers producing some top Belgian-style brews, the two days of talks were of great interest.

The event began on Friday night with a reception featuring some very tasty Belgian-style homebrews and escalated with a Saturday night tasting of a superb selection of Belgian brews, with six on tap and about 70 in bottles, including a number of small Wallonian brews never before offered in the United States.

Geert Criel of the Belgian Embassy welcomed attendees with opening remarks. Beers from five of the six Trappist breweries were available, as were Abbaye de Rocs, Blaugies, Cantillon, Fantome, Girardin, Gouden Carolus, Dupont, Kerkom, St. Bernardus, Vapeur and many more.

On Sunday, a Belgian-style beer tasting was held, and the brews of McKenzie Brew House, Ommegang, Pizza Port, Russian River and Victory Brewing, among others, were very well received, to put it mildly.

A real highlight of the event was the beer banquet held after the Belgian-style beer tasting, featuring a five-course meal with Cuisine a la Beer, paired with Belgian and Belgian-style brews. I had the Veal Osso Bucco braised in Sweetwater Tavern Dubbel Barrel Ale, which was excellent. The Chocolate Mousse dessert paired with De Dolle Stille Nacht and Special Export Stout was also superb.

BURP also had a hospitality room open all three nights after the tastings closed, where more beers were available. Belgian-beer lovers gathered here to open special brews and savor more beers van ‘t vat, and to talk about their shared passion for Belgian and Belgian-style brews. A grand time it was.

Chuck Cook is a freelance writer living in Richmond, Va. His passions are beer and travel, and he has written for various beer publications. He can be reached via e-mail at chuck@beerandtravel.com.


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