What is sure to become one of Belgium’s most popular beer festivals will organize its second edition this year in a late summer event that will feature over 60 breweries from around the globe, and 300+ beers. The final list isn’t even complete yet.
The BXL Beer Fest will be International in nature, and will include about 30 of Belgium’s premier breweries. For fans of lambic beer, two of the most hallowed lambic breweries, Brasserie Cantillon and Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, will be present. Also, two of Belgium’s great lambic and geuze blenderies, De Oude Geuzestekerij De Cam of Gooik and and Gueuzerie Tilquin of Bierghes, will also be on hand, offering their superb blends.
The weekend of August 25-26 will be one of the best for lovers of both lambic beers and other artisanal beers, as in addition to the BXL Fest, De Lambikstoempers, a lambic beer appreciation and promotion club, will hold their Beer Weekend in Alsemberg at the De Lambiek lambic beer visitors center, which is about 12 miles south of Brussels.
Additionally at the BXL Fest, Lambiek Fabriek, makers of the new Brett Elle Oude Geuze, will be on hand, as will Belgoo Beer, which has also been producing it’s own lambics for about a year and a half. Belgoo also crafts a fine range of other styles, such as Saisonneke Bio and Saisonneke Extra.
There are already 25+ Belgian breweries on the BXL list. These include Brouwerij Alvinne, of Moen, West Flanders, makers of a wide range of flavorful and unique brews, with lots of barrel-aged strong beers, Flemish sour ales, and more. Glenn Castelein, one of the founders of the brewery, which opened in 2003, told me: “We will bring the following beers to the fest: Sourire de Mortagne with smoked peaches; Made to Rest; Berliner Eucalyptus; MoenRye Tripel; Rondje Goesting; Cuvee Freddy Bosbes; Morpheus Saison; Phi; Kerasus 2017; Gentleman Sour Ale; and Cuvee d’Erpigny Sauternes.”
That’s quite a lineup of brews!
Jean Van Roy of Brasserie Cantillon told me recently: “I have not yet decided which beers we will bring to the BXL festival, but I can promise you that we will have an interesting lineup. Maybe even something new. See you in August!”
I’ll just add that at the Vini, Birre, Ribelli fest in Brussels last November, Cantillon had two new wine barrel aged beers and some other excellent brews on offer. I’m sure their selection will be equally as impressive at the BXL fest!
Another lambic maker, Karel Goddeau, is owner, blender, and everything else at his De Cam lambic blendery, more formally De Oude Geuzestekerij De Cam. Karel told me in early July: “I can only say that we will have two surprises, which are two new beers that have not yet been released, on offer at the fest, and probably some of our others beers as well. It’s going to be fun!”
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen will be on hand for the second year in a row, and Sales and Marketing Manager Gaetan Claes told me: “We will be bringing a sound mix of our core range of beers, as well as more limited traditional lambic beers, both bottled and on hand pump.” This sounds promising!
Gueuzerie Tilquin, the highly regarded lambic blendery (and the only one in French speaking Wallonia, to date) is sure to have a fantastic lineup, as blender/owner Pierre Tilquin always brings some of his best range of beers to important festivals. Tilquin has been experimenting a lot in the last year or two, and who knows, he may add a new beer or two to his already world-class range of lambic brews sometime in the future. Tilquin says: “We will bring 4 or 5 kegs of Experimental Fruit Series #2 to the BXL fest. Also, we will have the draft versions of Gueuze Tilquin, Quetsche Tilquin, and Mûre Tilquin. So, the BXL Beer fest is the first festival where we will start to serve the new fruit trials of the last season. All kegs of Experimental Fruit Series #1 were served at festivals in 2017, and we will start to serve kegs of Experimental Fruit Series #2 from the end of August at BXL Beer Fest.”
So that means the BXL Beer Fest is where the new Experimental Fruit Series #2 will debut!
Lambiek Fabriek, makers of the new Brett Elle Oude Geuze, will also be present at BXL. Co-founder Jo Panneels had this to say: “It’s our first big beer festival, and we’re glad we will be present at an event where craftmanship is the standard. It’s an honor that we were asked to be part of the BXL Fest. Cheers!” In addition to the Brett Elle, Lambiek Fabriek will also have some of their unblended lambics on offer.
While some brewers were still a little vague on the specific beers that they will offer at the BXL Fest, Koen van Lancker, co-founder and brewer at Brouwerij ‘t Verzet in Anzegem, West Flanders, did not hold back when I spoke to him in early July. Verzet is one of Belgium’s most interesting new breweries, run by some of its youngest (and most talented) brewers. Van Lancker had this to say: “Here is what we will be bringing to the festival: Kameradski Balsamico, a 13% abv, Hybrid Russian Imperial Stout and Flemish Red Ale; Oak Leaf Harvest 2017, 6% abv, a Psychedelic Flemish Red Ale; Sweet Little Lies and Dirty Leaks, a 3% abv, Special Grain Ale with leeks, which is a collab with Purpose Brewing & Cellars; Porters Provision, a 9% abv, East Flanders Oud Bruin, which is a collab with Porters Beer Bar of Atlanta, Georgia, USA; and Space Cadet, a 5% abv, New Generation Wheat Beer.”
He addded: “At a certain time, we will put 5 different Oud Bruin Beers on tap at the same time, so you can compare them. You can also make your own blend, mixing the different Oud Bruins together, so you can compare them. We will have Oud Bruin, which is unblended and barrel-aged for 10 months, as well as versions that are barrel-aged for 18 and 35 months; and an Oud Bruin Foederbier that was barrel-aged for 21 months. We will also have our Oud Bruin Superboil, which is unblended and barrel aged for 8 months.” That’s quite a lineup! I’m sure the Verzet booth will be a busy one.
Also on hand will be Brasserie de la Senne, one of Belgium’s premier breweries, which focuses mainly on very well made session beers, such as Taras Boulba, Zinnebir and Stouterik, but also crafts funky and sour brews and some stronger ales as well. De la Senne, in fact, will be moving from its Molenbeek location to a much larger, new space not far from the site of the event. “We hope to have our new brewery operational by the spring of 2019,” said co-founder Yvan de Baets recently.
Brussels Beer Project, an innovative and exciting new brewery that opened in 2015, about fifteen minutes walk northwest of the Grand Place, will also be present at the BXL Fest. Brussels Beer Project was started with crowdfunding in 2013, and they opened their brewery at Rue Antoine Dansaert 188 in Brussels in 2015. Co-founder Sébastien Morvan told me that he and his partners brew beers without regard to stylistic guidelines. “We brew innovative beers that people like, and are not restrained by styles.”
From Wallonia, some of the other breweries that will attend include Brasserie Minne (formerly called Brasserie de Bastogne) which has been cranking out very flavorful and interesting beers since 2008. I visited in 2012, and there is a new brewery being built now that will open sometime this year. It is a very futuristic looking brewery, almost resembling a space ship. The brewery uses a wild boar theme with many of its beers, as these wild pigs are common in their area of the Ardennes. Bastogne makes some sour beer blends which are very. Seek them out.
Also present will be Brasserie du Brabant; Brasserie de Blaugies, with stellar saisons; Brasserie Jandrain-Jandrenouille, also another of Belgium’s top saison breweries, with beers such as Saison IV and V; Brasserie Cazeau, which also crafts special saisons and other interesting brews; and Brasserie de la Lienne.
From Flanders, Belgium’s Flemish speaking northern half, other breweries that I have not mentioned so far that will attend include Hof ten Dormaal, a farm brewery located near Tildonk in the Province of Flemish Brabant, which opened in May 2009, and has been making numerous flavorful, interesting beers since then, including many barrel-aged brews. “Normally we will bring these beers to the fest: Troebel in Paradise; Kriek; Zure van Tildonk; Oak Aged Blond Bourbon; and Oak-aged Rum.” Said Dries Janssens.
Brouwerij De Ranke, which has been reliably brewing a great range of beers since around 1996, will also be present. De Ranke was founded by partners Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos, and started brewing at Brouwerij Deca in Woesten at first, and then opened their own new brewery across the language border in Dottignies, Hainaut Province, Wallonia, in 2005. Seek out their Cuvée De Ranke, a mixed fermentation ale that is a blend of barrel-aged beer and lambic, as well as Kriek de Ranke, an unsweetened, mixed fermentation cherry beer. The Kriek is a blend of old Flemish ale and lambic, and is macerated with 25 kilos of sour cherries per hectoliter. Also look for the hoppy XX Bitter; Guldenberg; Vielle Provision; the Pere Noel Christmas Ale; and two saisons.
Also in attendance will be Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar,from Baarle-Hertog, Belgium. This from the BXL Beer fest: “A Dutch brewer brewing modern classics influenced by ancient styles and ingredients, in a Belgian brewery surround by Dutch neighbors…It’s a unique situation, and the beers of De Dochter van de Korenaar are just as unique. Head brewer and owner Ronald Mengerink knows like no other how to make beers that make the ingredients stand out, whether it be floral or fruity new world hops or malts and long forgotten specialty grains. When he matures his beers on wooden barrels we often remain completely speechless…Quintessential, par excellence!”
Siphon Brewing, which opened two years ago on the grounds of a four-generation-old family restaurant in Damme, near Brugge in West Flanders, will also be on hand. One of the partners in Siphon is Irish expatriate Breandán Kearney, who is a beer writer as well as an international beer judge. Kearney says: “We’ll be pouring the following beers at Bxl BeerFest: Siphonneur, a Belgian kölsch-style ale, 4.5% abv; Centurion, a New England saison, with 5%; Zwaluw, a rye session ale, with 3.3%; Damme Nation, an IPA with 7% abv; 1902, a honey lavender tripel, with 8.5%; Cendre, a black India saison, with 6.5%; Osschaert, a smoked rye IPA, with 7% abv, which is still in the fermenting tank, and has yet to be released; and Excuse Me While I Kiss Cassandra, an Imperial espresso oyster stout, with 12% abv.”
That’s quite a diverse lineup of brews!
About the Osschaert smoked rye IPA, Siphon Brewing has this to say: “Beware the monster. Known for attacking drunk fishermen and smugglers in the middle of the night, Osschaert—a shapeshifting monster from our region appearing mostly as a black dog with large claws and fiery eyes—would force them to their knees, his terrifying laugh ringing out across the waters. This beer is a collaboration with Klaas Dellaert and Liesbeth Van Raemdonck of Totem. Dellaert’s grandfather comes from the region around our brewery and would tell stories of being chased by the Osschaert and being forced to hide in a ditch all night, usually on nights he had been out drinking. This smoked rye IPA was brewed using 30% beechwood smoked malt, 30% rye malt and 40% pale ale malt. It’s hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Chinook and dry-hopped with Columbus (pellets) and Simcoe and Cascade in the form of Cryo Hops®. Osschaert is a full-bodied beer with a grassy, subtly smoked flavour and resinous, tropical hop notes.”
Another brewery is Brouwerij De Leite of Ruddervoorde, West Flanders, which has been making a number of worthwhile brews, including some sour ones, such as Cuvée Soeur´Ise. Oak aged beers such as Cuvée Jeun´homme are also worth a look. De Leite was founded by Luc Vermeersch.
Additionally at the BXL Fest, Belgoo Beer, which has also been producing it’s own lambics for about a year and a half, will be attending. Belgoo also crafts a fine range of other styles, such as Saisonneke Bio and Saisonneke Extra. Founder and brewer Jo Van Aert says: “We will bring Saisonneke Extra; Lambiek; and Bloemekei, which is a new (IPA style) beer with medium bitterness (IBU40) but heavily dry hopped with exotic hops like Simcoe, Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic and Amarillo, and also a blend of Bloemekei with 15% lambiek.”
He added: “Here is a description of the blend: It is a well-balanced mix of Bloemekei IPA with a one and two year blend of our own lambiek. It has a light hazy color, gold with a white head. The aroma is very fresh, with hints of fresh hops, grapefruit, apricot, and brettanomyces. The taste: The beginning is very fresh, with notes of grapefruit, and hops, with a delicate bitterness that escalates to roundness, with a nice sourness/acidity, and funkiness, that ends in a nice and long finish.” So this will be a festival debut, and one of the first times that Belgoo will offer their own lambics to the public. Great news!
Last year, the BXL Fest asked six of their favorite breweries to make exclusive, special beers just for the festival. These special brews were combined to make up a six pack set of 75 cl bottled brews. For this year, the same is the case, and only about of the 600 packs were created.
As to the reason for offering the six pack set, Kevin Desmet, one of the BXL festival organizers, told me: “The BXL beer pack is both an exclusive festival package, and a way for us to invest back into the festival. Such a festival as ours is expensive to build and organize.”
One of the breweries that crafted exclusive beers for the special BXL beer pack for 2018 is Brasserie Cantillon. Desmet had this to say: “For the Cantillon beer, we delved deep into their cellars, where we chose, together with Jean Van Roy, two exceptional 3 year old lambics to be blended and bottle conditioned. These were chosen for their unique and exceptional taste and character.”
Need I even comment on how good this beer is likely to be?
Here are the descriptions of all of the other exclusive BXL Beer pack beers, from Desmet: “From Brouwerij D’Oude Maalderij: A pitch black 12% Imperial stout, thick as oil, and brewed with 7 malts and 2 Belgian hops. From Brasserie No Science: A 9% oatmeal stout with the addition of small batch Columbian Robusta coffee. From Brasserie Nanobrasserie l’Ermitage: A blood orange IPA: a fruity IPA with addition of fresh blood oranges. From Brasserie Dunham: a foeder matured grisette with locally harvested rhubarb and strawberries and Lampong pepper. From Brasserie Minne: a sour version of their Ardenne Stout with the addition of cassis.”
Sadly, all of the sets are already sold out, and have been for some time. Better get your order in early next year!
However, the BXL Fest also mentioned: “We’re still holding on to one pack, which we’ll be giving away in a contest. More info soon!”
Additionally, Desmet told me: “We’ll organize, just like last year, different sessions with some of the best Brussels chefs, and a couple of cheese and beer pairing classes. Last year, we had chefs such as Dirk Myny of Les Brigittines, Christophe Hardiquest of BonBon, Ugo Federico of Racines, and Damien Bouchéry of Bouchéry, doing culinary master classes. This year, will feature different chefs, but we still have to announce the lineup. We’ll also be organizing some ‘beer talks’: sessions where a brewer presents several of his beers and guides a limited audience to get to know these beers better. So far for those sessions we have Cantillon, Tommie Sjef, Pit Caribou, and Antidoot lined up. Tickets for these sessions will be sold separately. We’ll announce this on our website page and Facebook once all of the details are finalized.”
D’ Oude Maalderij (“The Old Maltery”) first opened as a cafe in Emelgem, near Kortrijk in West Flanders, in 2015. A new brewery was added in 2016. The driving force behind this breweriana filled, must visit cafe and brewery, is brewer-owner Jef “Hiq” Pirens, who had been brewing his owns beers at another brewery since 2011.
Pirens has a 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham on site, as well as a number of other antique vehicles and bicycles. There is also an old Catholic confessional inside the cafe. Did I mention the place is unique?
Pirens told me: “I brewed a very thick black imperial stout with a nice brown head for the festival bottle set. Also, I will have seven beers on offer at the fest, with some of them being easy drinking beers, as well as some small batch things such as Scylla, a 14% abv barrel-aged barleywine.” Sounds good!
There will also be over 35 international (non-Belgian) breweries from around the world in attendance at the BXL fest. Suffice it to say this is going to be a beer weekend to remember!
Want to really get on a spontaneous fermentation beer tasting roll? Along with the Belgian lambic makers on hand, Jester King Brewery of Austin, Texas, will also be present with a variety of beers. Jester King will have company, as Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales of Denver, Colorado, will also attend.
Jeffrey Stuffings, Founder and Owner of Jester King, had this to say: “To use a music analogy, I went to a metal show once, and the singer said why his band was there. He said, ‘Because Black Sabbath asked us to be here.’ I feel the same way with BXLBeerFest. This event is being put on and attended by the masters of the beer universe. We’re honored they asked us to be there, and we’re thrilled to get to pour our beer side by side with them.”
Here is the list of beers that Jester King will pour on draft: SPON 2017 Three Year Blend; SPON 2017 Syrah + Sangiovese; SPON 2017 Muscat; Atrial Rubicite; Sacred Vessel (Bruery Terreaux Collab); Birra di Sangiovese; Deimos’ Companion; Demi-Tone; Colonel Toby; Funk Metal; Boxer’s Revenge; and Colour 5.
Stuffings remarked: “We should also be able to have cases of 6 different bottles as well: Wytchmaker; Cerveza de Mezquite; Provenance Lemon & Lime; Simple Means; RU55; and Wanderflora (a collaboration with Fonta Flora Brewery of Morganton, N.C.)
Pizza Boy Brewing Co. of Enola, Pennsylvania, will also be present. This from the BXL Fest: “A brewery in a pizza shop? A pizza shop in a brewery? Not entirely sure, but what we can say with certainty is that brewmaster Terry Hawbaker is coming to the BXLBeerFest to serve you some of the finest Pennsylvania craft beers. Terry has a long pedigree in brewing, and is well respected for his ability to take on different styles and for making flavor packed, yet balanced beers. There are blends, mixed fermentation, IPAs, fresh fruit beers, wild ales, cream ales,…We’ll provide the pizza, he’ll bring the fresh beers.”
In addition to the USA and Canada, breweries from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. will be part of the festival.
The BXL Fest will also feature many food options, as a number of food trucks will be on hand. Desmet says: “Food vendors will include Bia Mara-fish n chip, with fish ‘n chips, fries, fried chicken and a vegetarian option; El Camion-burgers: beef and vegetarian burgers and french toast with truffle; Holy Smoke, with bbq and smoked meats; Nati Thai, with Thai gourmet food; Fermenthings- with Pickled food and gourmet hot dogs; Storiedipinte, with Gourmet Italian pizzas; and La Fruitière, with assorted cheeses. We want the fest to be a culinary experience, as much as a beery one!” Sounds like it will be.
Desmet added: “There will also be a festival bottle shop, with beers from some of the participating breweries. So you can buy beers to take home if you want.”
For 2018, cash or PIN cards only will be accepted by vendors. Tokens cannot be used to purchase food.
Ticket prices vary for the two day event, and are lower if you purchase them in advance. Beer tokens cost 1 euro each. The BXL Fest says: “Want to discover all these breweries with us? Get your tickets now! 5 euros for entrance only, 23 euros with 10 tokens included. A combination ticket for both days with 10 tokens costs 27 euro. That’s a fair price for tons of fun and plenty of good beers! For complete ticket options see here
You can access the fest at Tour and Taxis via these public transport options:
TRAIN: North Station
SUBWAY: Line: 2 & 6 – Station: Yser
TRAM: Line: 51 – Stop: Sainctelette
BUS – STIB:
Line: 14, 15, 89 – Stop: Picard
Line: 14, 15 – Stop: Tour & Taxis
Line: 57, 88 – Stop: Steamers
BUS – DE LIJN:
Line: 129, 620 – Stop Ribaucourt
Line: 213, 214, 230, 231, 232, 233, 240, 241, 242, 243, 245, 246, 250, 251, 260 – Stop: Molenbeek St Jean – Ribaucourt
BICYCLE: Parking Villo: Rue Picard, 3
SHARED CARS: Cambio – Place Philippe Werrie 7-8, 1090 – Brussels
BOAT: Waterbus – Stop Sainctelette-Béco
If you are looking for accommodation in Brussels, I can strongly suggest Vintage Hotel. This eclectic hotel is located near place Louise, an area filled with shops and restaurants, and features is own bar with four beers on draft, including one dedicated to Brasserie Cantillon. Yes, you read that correctly. The other three drafts feature beers from other breweries, such as Brussels’ own Brasserie de la Senne. Brasserie Dupont and Brasserie De Bastogne beers are also often seen on tap, among others. The bar at Vintage Hotel also stocks a few different Cantillon beers in bottles. Vintage Hotel is Brussels’ premier beer-focused hotel.