The last weekend of November and the first weekend of December 2017 will feature several superb events centering around beer (and wine) in Belgium, where lambic is either the main focus, or is an important part of the event. Read on for the details.
On November 25-26, the city of Brussels will host an important festival featuring several Belgian lambic producers, about 25 other breweries, and over 100 natural wineries. “Vini, Birre, Ribelli” translates as “Wine, Beer, Rebels” (VBR) and is being held at the large and historic Tour and Taxis event hall and exhibition center, to the north of the center of Brussels, off a waterway. Tour and Taxis is home to 100 year old warehouses that have been converted into shops, restaurants, and event space. I attended a chocolate festival there in early 2017, which was packed with artisanal chocolatiers from Belgium, France and elsewhere. It was a smorgasbord of chocolate.
“Vini, Birre, Ribelli” will be held at Shed 4, at Avenue du Port 86C. Event hours for this 4th edition of Wine, Beer, Rebels are from 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday 25th, and from 10 am to 6:30 pm on Sunday 26th. Of special interest to lambic beer lovers is the fact that three of Belgium’s premier lambic producers-Brasserie Cantillon, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, and Gueuzerie Tilquin-will be present. I asked those in the know at each lambic maker why they like the Vini, Birre, Ribelli fest. Read on for their responses.
Jean Van Roy, brewing and blending master of Brasserie Cantillon, had this to say: “We look forward to the Vini, Birre, Ribelli fest every year, as natural wines and lambic have such a close link. I have not decided exactly which beers Cantillon will offer at the VBR fest, because we have experiments with new grape varieties and wine yeasts that are still in barrels conditioning. But the beers we bring will certainly be ones linked with wine.”
That, my friends, is exciting! Perhaps the next great lambic/wine beer from Cantillon will debut at the fest. Lambic D’ Aunis and St. Lamvinus are two of my favorite Cantillon beers linked with wine, and who knows what else Jean may have maturing in his barrel rooms! When he crafts lambic beers linked with wine, the results are usually superlative.
Van Roy added: “I also like the VBR event for its atmosphere; the friendliness between winemakers and brewers is really very nice and we can both share a lot of things about our passion. It’s also an opportunity to taste new vintages and discover new winemakers, or even new local grape varieties that I could use for future collaborations. There are fine beers and fine wines, but also quality food. Patrick (Böttcher) who is the main event organizer, understands very well that for great beverages, we must also have great food.”
I asked Van Roy if he had any tips for special wines to taste at VBR, and he replied: “For anyone who has already tasted our Riesling-Lambic or Gueuzestraminer, they can taste wines at Domaine Zusslin, where the grapes from these beers came from. It may be interesting for you.”
Those in charge at Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen also favor the VBR festival. Werner Van Obberghen, spokesman of the hallowed brewery, as well as its business manager, and partner with co-managers Armand Debelder and Michaël Blancquaert, had this to say: “VBR is a hybrid natural wine and craft beer festival. And as traditional Geuze is the missing link between wine and beer, and because we like (natural) wines ourselves, we are kind of fond of this fair.”
Van Obberghen added: “Natural wine makers and traditional lambic producers share the same values when it comes to the natural process, the value of a tradition that is, first, deeply rooted in a region / terroir, and second, the result of a long (local) history and culture, and the fact that it is the last one or two generations that are reviving traditions, while aiming for the absolute best quality. Also, we are always happy to see that our very first “customers” at the fair, even before the event has started, are wine makers, intrigued by the aromas and flavors of lambic, and the impact of brettanomyces in our beers. Brett is known to wine makers, as they try to keep brettanomyces out of their vinification process. That is an interesting contrast between two beautiful worlds,those of beer and wine, colliding, and the overlap with traditional lambic and natural wines.”
As to which beers 3 Fonteinen will offer at VBR, Van Obberghen remarked: “We have not yet decided which of our beers we will bring to the fest. We most likely will decide that just a few days before the event.”
I’d be certain that 3 Fonteinen will bring some superb brews to such an important event. Who knows what new specialties they might be aging in their cellars in Lot! For more info about the brewery and its new site, see here
The much-loved Gueuzerie Tilquin, Wallonia’s only lambic blendery, will also be on hand at VBR. Owner/blender Pierre Tilquin had this to say about the fest: “I like to go to Vini, Birre, Ribelli because it is a festival mixing wine makers and brewers, and lambic is a bit like the hyphen connecting these two worlds. It is also an interesting festival because a lot of professionals are visiting it. The spirit of the festival is also very convivial, since it ends with a banquet between winemakers and brewers.”
As to which beers he will bring to the fest, Tilquin remarked: “I’ll try to come with bottles of the new batch of Pinot Noir Tilquin à l’ancienne. If I decide to bring kegs, it could be Gueuze and the draft version of Quetsche, and maybe Stout Rullquin.”
While all of the Tilquin beers are outstanding, the draft version of Quetsche was simply fabulous when I sampled it during Toer de Geuze in May. I highly recommend anyone attending the event to taste it if available.
There are nine other Belgian breweries already on the exhibitor list, including world class ones such as: Brasserie de Bastogne; Brasserie de Cazeau; Brouwerij De Ranke; Brasserie de la Senne; and several others. There are about 25 breweries on the list overall. Brasserie des Franches Montagnes (BFM) of Switzerland several other well known breweries from the U.K. and France will be present.
Brasserie de la Senne, in fact, is planning to move from its current location in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek to a spot near Tour and Taxis in the future. I have visited the current brewery several times, most recently this past May, and am happy to report owner/brewers Yvan de Baets and Bernard LeBoucq continue to brew a range of the most consistently high quality beers in Belgium, focusing on session-strength beers, but not fearing to crank out a few higher-alcohol brews. They also have been experimenting with beers brewed with brettanomyces: my group from the BelgianBeerMe “Wild and Spontaneous” beer tour of Belgium sampled three different brett beers, each a little more intense than the last. Read: we loved them! Yvan and Bernard are also working on some sour beers and blending, and barrel-aging.
Vini, Birre, Ribelli is a Slow Food Event, and there will be a “Slow Food Village” in the event hall. There will be vendors on hand offering gourmet cheeses, foie gras, oysters, pizzas, and more.
As of October 16, there were already nearly 110 different wineries on the exhibitor list, from eight different countries. France and Italy, not surprisingly, are very well represented! For the list of breweries, wineries, and other exhibitors, see here
Vini, Birre, Ribelli will also likely be host to a number of talks and tastings of beer and wine by noted authorities, as well as book signings. While the 2017 program has not yet been finalized, in the 2016 edition, lambic expert and author Lorenzo Dabove of Italy gave a tutored tasting “The Cantillon brewery and its intimate pairing with the world of wine” which sold out. No surprise there!
For ticket information, see here
You can access the fest via these public transport options (also linked to here)
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
For information about tourism in Brussels, see the website of the Brussels Tourist Office.
If you are looking for beer-friendly accommodation in Brussels, two hotels stand out in particular. Vintage Hotel, at Rue Dejoncker 45, has four beers on draft, with one tap dedicated to Brasserie Cantillon, one to Brasserie De la Senne, and two others that normally have beers from Brasserie Dupont and Brasserie Bastogne on offer. The bar also stocks Cantillon Bio Gueuze and Kriek in 75 cl bottles, and about 15 special beers overall. There is also a selection of good wines. The Cantillon tap rotates, and has featured such brews as Kriek, Rose de Gambrinus, Fou Fonne, and other brews. The hotel has free wifi and comfortable rooms in a eclectic setting. You can even stay the night in a vintage 1958 Airstream trailer that sits at the entrance to the hotel, in its courtyard. The Airstream has been renovated and is fully equipped with heat and air conditioning, shower, wifi, plasma tv and toilets.
*****Please continue to the next page to read about the Weekend of Oude Geuze!*****