Its already late April and I haven't yet posted about this year's annual beer blogging event, renamed this year to better reflect the participants as "The Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference". Slots are filling up nicely but there's still time to register to join us on August Bank holiday weekend. This years conference will be in Belgium (if you hadn't guessed from the title), more specifically Brussels and the organisers seem to have gone all out in organising an agenda befitting of an event in its fifth year.
|Diepensteyn Castle, now owned by Palm|
For the first time in the European conference history there will be an optional pre-conference excursion taking in three breweries (and a castle!) including première Saison proponents Dupont, fruit and lambic beer purveyors Lindemans and the oldest brewery in Wallonia Dubuissons. All this and meals plus transport for only 20Euro (so about fifteen quid for us Brits!)
The above excursion and conference proper this year are sponsored by Belgian Family Brewers so expect to sample beers from brewers Bosteels through Verhaege via De Konninck and St Bernard, there will be a veritable smorgasbord of beers to choose from. There's also a tantalising hint of a big announcement with a press conference to be hosted on day two discussing a new direction for the family brewers. Could this be a move to protect more traditional styles from overseas interference as with Gueuzes or could it perhaps be railing against contract brewers and providers thereof? We'll have to wait and see but it will certainly be interesting.
|Interior at BelgaQueen|
I'm really looking forward to the talk on sour beers by Petrus and the history of Belgian brewing - how does it tie in with our perception in the UK? There are also the usual conference events including obligatory wordpress session, tales from the shires as we get a round-up of the state of blogging around the Globe and the ever-popular brewery speed-dating. We're spoiled for food this year too as alongside the usual Pilsner Urquel Feast we have an evening meal in Belga Queen which looks like it could be a highlight as well as lunch provided on both days, all for the measly sum of 120Euro!
|The grand entrance hall to marivaux|
The conference venue looks fantastic in the converted cinema that is Hotel Marivaux and there's an exceptional conference rate of 95Euro for a double room (helped by the fact Brussels is quieter in the summer). To get to Brussels you can fly directly or via Amsterdam or Paris. There's also the more relaxed method of Eurostar, which may be a better bet if you're planning on bringing bottles back!
|Foeders at Rodenbach|
The fun doesn't end there though as there are three* post-conference excursionsorganised by Visit Flanders. There's a one-day trip for wild ale fans around the Pajottenland including to my first Gueuzerie visit Boon as well as the lambic museum and beer festival. The second option is a trip to Leuven (now extended to two days) with visits to small microbreweries like De Triest and global behemoths like Stella Artois. The third option (which myself and Daisy are choosing) takes in the hop fields of Poperinge, six breweries over two days including crazy experimenteers de struisse, Saint Sixtus Trappist Abbey (producers of long-time World Number One Beer on Ratebeer (currently #2!) Westvleteren XII) and Flemish Red experts Rodenbach plus a day pottering about Bruges including the Beer Museum. Crazily all of these trips are also 20Euro per person including overnight stays!choice of not one, not two but
I can definitely recommend attending, all in for five days pretty much full board and transport once you get to Brussels with basically unlimited beer you're looking at about £300 per person . Can't really beat that anywhere in the UK, let alone in one of the most expensive cities in the world so what are you waiting for? Hope to see you there!
*Though you've missed out on one of the two day-excursions already