Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beer Festivals: One More Excuse to Visit Belgium

Thirsty festival goers enjoying the Bruges Beer Festival.
If you really needed one more excuse to visit Belgium, I suggest for the incredible beer festivals, built around the needs, wants and desires of beer enthusiasts.  Each year, Belgium hosts dozens of beer festivals, some more well known than others and each with its own character and personality ranging from the granddaddy of them all, the Zythos Beer Festival (ZBF) all the way down to the Heikant Beer Festival, which is fundraiser for a scout troop.  Yes, a fundraiser for a scout troop.  Where were these guys when I was a tenderfoot?

My favorite four Belgian Beer Festivals are the Zythos Beer Festival near Leuven, the Christmas  Beer (Kerstbier) Festival in Essen, the Modeste Beer Festival in Antwerp and the Bruges Beer Festival, which is why I include them in four different annual tours I offer.  The beauty of attending a festival as part of a beer tour is hundreds of beers and brewers come to you in one convenient and efficient place.  This saves a lot of time, especially if you are only in Belgium for six or ten days.  It would otherwise take months, maybe even years, to get the same beer experience.

The Belgians really have the beer festival model down, which makes for typically a really great, user-friendly experience for the consumer.  Most are pay-as-you go, using tokens, which allows you to just have as many beers as you would like at a leisurely pace, as opposed to the American system, where you pay an often-times huge set fee, generally around $50-$75, then people go crazy for four hours trying to get their money’s worth, then people start breaking glasses on the floor and things can get ugly.  You generally don’t have this at the Belgian festivals and it is part of what makes them such a joy.

The sheer variety of incredible-tasting beers at Belgian Festivals is daunting, exciting and fun all at the same time.  As many times as I have been to Belgium, I am always tasting new beers I’ve never had and seeing beers I’ve never heard of.  Most of these festivals are rather intimate, too, compared to say Oktoberfest.  Also, many of the beers are only available at these festivals as seasonal beers, one-of-kinds, or because they don’t bottle or export it.  So, you have to go there to get them.  There is simply no other way.

For more information on beer tours, which include these beer festivals, visit Belgianbeerme.com.  The next one is the Great Zythos Beer Festival Tour in April and there are still some seats open.  Join us, won’t you?

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