Visiting Ghent Beer Festival 2016

In Belgium, beer festivals are sort of a tradition. They may vary in size, like the country’s largest beer festival in April, just out of the city center of Leuven, with almost 100 breweries, and thousands of beer fans from around the world. However, small is beautiful, which the people of the Ghent Beer Festival successfully have proven on August 20th, 2016.

The Ghent beer festival was held for the seventh time. It is organised by the local beer Association, which consists of a lot of young, yet very passionate beer aficionados. The original intention of this event is very clear: profits don’t matter, they just want more people to share good beer. Everyone who works at the beer festival are volunteers, besides some free drinks they taste together with the visitors.

We could not help but ask the Public Relations responsible, Jolien Ryckaert, how they manage all of this. “Our main costs are some rental fees, and of course, the purchase of the craft beers. The beer prices are not high, even though some of the craft beers are quite expensive to buy. Nevertheless, we won’t set the beer price too high, otherwise we would be missing the true purpose of our festival: letting people taste new craft beers. We organize a BBQ, so hungry people can have some snacks and we also sell some lottery tickets. Both activities are our most common way to raise money so get to break even at the end of the day”.

PR jolien

The festival has been in the Ghent VIP school for the last seven years, inside a large hall, accompanied by a very nice, cozy garden.  The entrance is only 10 euro, including a cup, four tokens and a booklet with all available beers. Most beers are just one token, only the more rare/limited ones would be 2 tokens. Only a few (some eisbocked craft beers > 15% ABV) cost 3 tokens. Jolien: “We’ve chosen this location, firstly because of the very beautiful courtyard. We always have been very lucky with the weather (sunny). We did not want a crowded, stressful environment, rather a place where people can relax, sip from their taster and have a chat.” 

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Truly noticed, the atmosphere is very relaxed. The hall is divided into 8 bars. Each bar has a beer list, some of them have a specific theme. Jolien: “There are over 100 different beers to taste. We’ve selected and tasted all of them ourselves in the months before the festival, during our Beer Association weekly meetings. We’re proud to say that over 25% of the beers are from outside of Belgium.

gent taster

We’ve chosen this year for 3 special “bars”. The first one is the Brett Bar (referring to Brettanomyces), so all beers were made with the use of wild yeasts. There are some really nice ones to taste. Personally, I very much like De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis Bruichladdich Barrel Aged Brett. Besides this, we also have one bar which is completely dedicated to beers from the United Kingdom. Forget about the Brexit, the UK currently has a booming craft beer market, with lots of innovative brews (The Kernel, Weird Brew, Ramsgate,…)

uk beer
Finally, our brewer’s bar hosts 2 brewers from Ghent, Hedonis and Totem. Master brewer Klaas from Totem was part of our organisation for the previous six editions, so we are very glad he joins us now with his microbrewery. He especially brought 4 new crafts for our festival: Cojico, a 2.9% session IPA, XXX and the 17% Zipacna Eisbock Stout.” 
After our chat, we tasted some of the Totem beers and had a talk with the master brewer.

totem

After tasting some beers, we were ready for the last special activity of the day: a live blending of young Lambic with kiwi. Master Brewer Ruud Van Moorst of De Eem Brewery, located in the Netherlands, used 2-year old De Troch Lambic and blended this with concentrated Kiwi juice. An extremely delicious tasting and nice end of our day!

kiwi lambic

Fun fact for the international visitors: at the entrance of the hall, there is a map of the world. You can use a pin to mark where you are from, if you are the first person that appears from that country, you can get a free token. (The first one of China, check!).

gent festival map 1

Pictures provided by BeerFun, our Chinese beerblog.