Feb 16, 2015 by Stephane
Us Belgians have been brewing beer for almost as long as we can remember. It's always been a traditional skill. Monks have been brewing Belgian beer inside the walls of their monasteries and families have been doing it while handing the secrets down to successive generations. Belgian beers are characteristally "traditional": The names often refer to the towns where the brewing took place and the labels feature ancient imagery like emblems or coats of arms. The recipes are usually very old.
Now a new wave of Belgian beer brewers is causing some comotion in the industry. The concept of "startups" is now also being applied in the world of Belgian beers. To come up with recipes and ingredients they carefully analyse feedback from group tastings. They're using the internet to their advantage by scouring internet forums for tips and feedback on brewing processes and making use of crowdsourcing. There's talk of building an innovation hub for amateur brewers.
These new young brewers aren't afraid to make bold and sometimes crass statements about the role God plays in a brewery, referring to monk's traditional roles in some prominent Belgian breweries. They confidently state they, as newcomers, aren't planning on being discreet or holding back. With a Silicon Valley mindset, they're aiming to be disruptive and their website claims they "like to fail".
Some of the more traditional brewers in Belgium are taking offense and have written an open letter critising those who make recipes but don't brew themselves. All the beers of the Brussels Project are made in the Anders Brewery (and this is now mentioned on the beer bottle's label), which was started up, not for traditional monks but for people with crazy ideas to do things like brew beer from cucumber or green tea. Why not?
The Brussels Beer Project's beers (Grosse Bertha, Delta and Dark Sister) get an average rating of 83 points on Ratebeer which is a very respectable score that shows they obviously know what they're doing and the public likes their products.
Mr De Baets of the Brasserie de la Senne (makers of Stouterik, Taras Boulba and Zinne Bir) complains that some of these beer "startups" aren't really playing by the same rules and take much less risk than is traditionally the case. To startup the Brasserie de la Senne and produce Belgian beers they had to spend over 5 years looking for funds and locations to make it all happen.
Another point he critises them with is that the new generation makes it look like they're a well established ber brewing firm, while they're actually just a bunch of ambitious guys with sneaky tacticts.
It's understandable that the more traditional brewing outfits react somewhat badly to the new generation and their methods, which weren't available 100 or even 10 years ago. But innovation should not stifled. And at the end of the day all that should really matter is - do they produce good beer?
For Brussel Beer Project this does seem to be the case.