A few moths ago the Amsterdam newspaper ‘Het Parool’ printed a very interesting article. It stated that in Amsterdam American beers are pushing out Belgian beers. Belgian beers are drunk by old men with mustaches, American beers are trendy.
Belgians make old fashioned beers and Americans brew hip and hoppy IPA’s. IPA stands for India Pale Ale. A hoppy, top-fermenting beer originating in 18th century England and now a beer style in it’s own right.
This can’t be a surprise if you are a regular visitor of bestetotnutoe. We even started our blog reviewing an American beer. American beers have shook up the Dutch craft beer market.
And not only the Dutch beer market. Especially in Scandinavia many American inspired micro-breweries have sprung up. They too brew mainly IPA’s en they too prefer American hops with a strong citrus taste. A nice example is Mikkeler.
But the American beer style is also conquering micro-breweries in other parts of Europe. Germany, France, Italy are among them. Obviously their beers are still hard to come by. You really need to go to specialized shops. So even if the impact is still limited, the trend is spreading.
So are the glory days of Belgian Beers now over? Of course not. Don’t underestimate the know-how of the Belgian beer industry. There are so many breweries and there’s a lot of creativity. They can easily join new trends and even set them. Look (and taste) what Struise Brouwers are brewing. It seems our neighbor to the south is finally waking up.
But it is safe to say that the Belgians are losing the advantage. Their rich beer culture made it easy to conquer lager lands as The Netherlands and the USA. But now things are different and Belgian beer isn’t by definition better than beer from other countries anymore.
The Belgians have also stuck to their traditional products for far too long. Remember what De Koninck did when they were facing problems? Did they reinvent themselves by brewing something new? No, they made a tripel. As if there aren’t already dozens of tripels on the market. It wasn’t too long before De Koninck was taken over by Moortgat.
The irony of this story is that it is the Americans who are starting to appreciate the Belgian beer culture. On US-focused ratebeer, very classic Belgian ales such as Westvleteren and Rochefort are high in the top 50 of best beers. Belgian brew legend Pierre Celis had lots of success brewing in the US. And Brewery ‘De Ommegang’ isn’t situated in Flanders but in the state of New York.
A beer style such as saison is hip and happening in the US nowadays. Flying Dog for instance, brews an excellent IPA using saison yeast (and is also available in The Netherlands, at ‘De Wildeman’).
In The Netherlands we seem to value talking about beer more than brewing it. In the US they brew first and then do the talking. That is why the USA is the best beer country in the world. In Belgium and the Netherlands we seem capable of doing only two things. Either we stick to stuff we know and don’t dare to change anything, or we copy other styles. In some cases it works but in others it’s just not as good as the original.
Maybe it’s time to talk a bit less and brew a bit more?