April and May have been very intense in the Beer Festivals front. And we managed to attend to at least 3 very interesting ones, 2 in Belgium and 1 in Denmark.
Anyway beer festivals are always fun. We always try out different things, get to know different breweries and always meet new and fun people.
The first one we attended was the Leuven Innovation Beer Festival that happened on April 14th and 15th in Leuven/Belgium. It is a yearly festival organized by Browerij Hof ten Doormal with a focus on new and innovative beers from Europe (mostly) but with breweries coming from the USA and Russia as well. Here no NE IPA, Brut IPA, Hazzy Milkshake crap. The tone of the festival is innovation based on classic belgian styles (mostly red flanders, oud brouin, saison, grisette, brett fermented beers, etc.) with some barrel aged Imperial Stouts thrown in the mix. On this festival they charge for the entrance and you get a small tasting glass and 10 tokens to get the beers that are served from bottles to the tasting glasses (1 token per serving regardless of beer). More tokens can be bought inside the festival.
Here we met a very nice couple who owns a Beer distribution business in Latvia and know a lot about Belgian beers and a group of Belgian post-grad students who (due to the intoxication levels on them, and us) were a hoot to talk to.
Best beer he had at the festival was one of Renata’s favorite, the Anarkriek from ‘t Hofbrouwerijke from the Beerzel/Belgium. It’s a Chocolate Porter matured with Schaarbeek Cherries and 8,5% ABV. Its a really nice mix of chocolate, cherries and sours flavors.
This festival was also part of the Leuven Beer Weekends (3 weekends with beer related activities in the city). Followed by Food and Hops festival (beer and food paring) and Zythos one of the largest traditional belgian beer festivals of the year.
The next one we attended was in Iteerbeek (Dilbeek) in the outskirts of Brussels and heart of Gueze and Lambic production on April 27th. And as you can guess the festival name was 8th International Gueuze & Kriek Festival of the Pajottenland also known as “Nacht van de Grote Dorst” (Night of the great thrist). It is a festival organized by the Gueuze Society every 2 years and as you’d expect focus on the traditional belgian sour beers. At this festival there is no entrance fee but you need to buy the tasting glass (or bring your own) and tokens are sold inside. Beer is sold by 0.35 or 0.75 bottles and prices in token varies depending on the beer.
This time we met group of Brits, one of them we met 1 month before at Moeder Lambic in Brussels, and talked a little about the beers available in the festival and tried some of the beers they had. Latter we met a group of Brazilians who live in The Netherlands and Portugal. And again we exchanged beer impressions and some bottles of beer.
Here was really hard to find a favorite since all beers were excellent and we didn’t sample too much variety due to the high prices on some bottles.
Actually this festival was just one of a lot of events happening in and around Brussels from the 27th of April to the 1st of May. With special series of fruit lambic series release at 3 Fonteinen to the Cantillon Quintessence event at the brewery plus several special events at the Moeder Lambic Fontainas. None of which we went to since we decided to travel to Amsterdam on the 28th (also the Quintessence tickets sould out in like 2 minutes). But maybe next year.
Next and last one was the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen (MBCC) in May. Actually when we planned to travel to Copenhagen it wasn’t related to the festival, we just wanted to visit the city for the first time and chose the Ascension holiday as best opportunity. When I realized the festival was on the same weekend as we booked the hotel I went chasing tickets but only found yellow tickets for the Friday morning session. And that was ok as it wasn’t the main reason we were traveling there, also the tickets are way more expensive when compared to other festivals. So as you may have guessed (in case you don’t know) the Festival has 4 sessions, 2 per day, of 4 hours each. 100 breweries are invited to come from all over the world but a lot of them come from the USA and each one of them serve 2 different beers per session. As I said tickets are expensive but there you get a tasting glass and there is no limit to how much you can drink (only time and how fast you can drink and go through lines). You can buy tickets for individual sessions or for the complete event. A lot of the breweries serve some rare stuff that’s hard to find elsewhere making it worth paying the ticket price for hardcore beer geeks. But if you are not hardcore and don’t mind drinking just good beer regardless of the hype I would say it’s not worth the travel (also Copenhagen is not a cheap city to visit by European standards). Also there are a lot of parallel events going on in Copenhagen in the week of the festival (tap take overs, exclusive releases, etc.) with additional costs.
Even with the high prices and travel costs MBCC is very popular with Brazilians, and we met a lot of them at the festival. Specially my old friend from Acerva Paulista (Brazilian homebrewing club) Victor Marinho, who today works for Cervejaria Dádiva in Brazil. We also met with Philip Hulgaard from Aaben Bryg from Kolding – Denmark, who I met at VLB in January.
Here our favorite beer was the Coconut Shaker from Lervig, a very good, full body, smooth and coconuty imperial stout from the Norwegian brewery. And the tone of the event was either high ABV beers with a twist (imp stouts, barley wines, etc. with something else) or sour beers (either kettle sours, lactic fermentation, mixed fermentation, etc.) with or without fruits. Very few IPAs and NE IPAs around. So maybe the trend is shifting from IPA/NEIPA/Hazy to Sours which I would not be against.
Right now there are no plans to go for more beer festivals in end of May or June. Maybe in July, let’s see.