Brussels Beer Project and the Good Beer Feast | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Brussels Beer Project and the Good Beer Feast

On the first anniversary of Brussels Beer Project's inaugural brew and the launch of their first Barrel Aged release, we stepped inside what appeared to be an unassuming shop front, to find a highly polished ultra modern brew kit hidden behind a small, modern bar. The first thing to hit us was the enticing smell of pumpkin and mashing malt. Today's brew, a beer to be released for Halloween, comes in as the 29th different beer recipe since the brewery found its home in Dansaert 188, Brussels. 


We arrived pre 11am and quickly found a beer to sip on appropriately named Morning Sunshine (a raspberry and multicereal beer, with a delicious bitter-sweet balance at 5.7%). In the open plan area beside the brew kit, we caught our first glimpse of the beer of the moment, Maoris Tears, a rose wine barrel aged Wakatu hopped saison. With only 800 bottles available, plus a couple of kegs for the bar, we snapped some up to bring home and of course had to try one there and then. The beer prickled with a resinous oak and freshness of limes, dry crispness from the yeast with light phenols joining later on, before being taken over with a robust rose wine character at the end. Unusual, inventive and downright delicious - words which we came to find defined not just this beer, but the whole ethos of the brewery itself. 




Antoine, one of the brewers at BBP, started our brief tour at the goods entrance and malt store, past the mill and a few stacks of wine barrels imbuing their flavour to beer, onto the brew kit and small bottling line. It's clear that being the newest brewery to open in Brussels centre came with considerable space limitations, although these appeared to have quite adequately been overcome - for example, the roof height is low, so fermenters are specially designed to be short and stock of bottles and kegs is all kept off site. The brew kit itself is high-tech with a semi-automated mashing process and a super shiny whirlpool. The brewers are quick to point out that the use of technology, for them, does not detract from their influence on the beer production itself - their focus is on careful recipe development, experimentation and expression of personality. Finally, we moved into the bar, where you sit on repurposed malt sacks next to another, larger, stack of oak barrels behind a glass shutter door. There is something of a cyclical feeling about sitting on the bag that contained the raw ingredients for the drink in front of you, as well the ageing beer to your side. Past Beer, Present Beer, Future Beer.


BBP was brought to life utilising a crowd funding model, allowing locals amongst others to support a modern Belgian brewery wading against the traditional Trappist tide. When the brewery first began, initially as a cuckoo brewery, the first core beer was voted on by those supporting the project. A series of experimental beers were produced and put to the public test - Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta (a coriander and range pale, a paradise seed and juniper saison, cardamom and candy sugar pale and a Belgian IPA respectively) until a victor was left standing. And the Delta IPA, as it is called now, was one of our favourite beers during our trip - a fruity, fragrant IPA with a decent bitterness that cuts through a residual sweetness from malt sugars left behind by the yeast, hopped with Citra and German aroma hop Smaragd (also known as Emerald) - the combination gives the final beer a modern flavour profile that until recently was practically unheard of in Belgian beer. 

At the time of our visit, BBP were also hosting Good Beer Feast, their first beer festival, featuring some great international breweries including UK natives Weird Beard and Anspach & Hobday, as well as Cerveses La Pirata (Barcelona), Kyoto Brewing, Austmann Bryggeri (Norway) and more, plus 'T Verzet, Nanobrasserie de L'Ermitage and Hof Ten Dormaal, fellow Belgian breweries carving a name for themselves under the more progressive banner. The festival used the slogan of "Small Breweries, Big Beer" which comfortably described all those in attendance except perhaps for Stone... 

We had a superb afternoon supping in the sunshine - highlights being Hof Ten Dormaal's Sloe Sour which was amazingly refreshing and aromatic, putting a modern twist on the lambic style, and La Pirata's Black Block imperial stout - just an absolutely sumptuous treat. Overall, it was clear that this one day festival held at the same time as the huge Belgian Beer Weekend was a real statement of intent to provide an alternative to the traditional. And looking round the sea of sunblushed faces of the brewers and drinkers (often one and the same) is hope for the city and country as a whole that the beer scene can continue to expand and develop alongside countries such as America and the UK, as well as retain the long-established and much cherished customs that Belgian beer is so renowned for.

Santé!

Jim & Laura

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