As if to absolve themselves after years of ignoring their country’s brewing culture – and swilling champagne while doing so – Belgium’s politicians have decided to devote a large building in the centre of Brussels to beer.
Belgium won’t be the first country to get its own national beer promotion centre, but it’s making up for tardiness through sheer grandiosity: where Guinness gets a storehouse and Heineken an experience centre, Belgian beer gets its very own palace.
It was originally to be a temple, and may eventually become a mansion, but whatever they call it, it’s very likely to usurp Manneken Pis as the place you simply must visit when you come to Brussels.
The company charged with designing and branding the centre, in the city’s old stock exchange, say it’s going to be highly authentic, with virtual barmen, virtual brewers, and a feature that lets you create your own virtual beer.
“The Belgian Beer Palace is supported by a Belgian mindset: a lively place that will have new activities on the agenda throughout the year,” they say. “You’ll visit it, and want to visit it again, because there’ll always be something new to discover: the centre of beer craftsmanship will surprise you on every visit.”
Another organizer adds that it’s an interactive environment where people from all backgrounds will experience their own journey through the wonderful world of Belgian Beer.
Before you rush to book a ticket, note that it’s not going to open until at least 2018. So here’s a suggestion of what to do in the meantime.
Two sons of Brussels recently decided to start a brewery in the city. They had little experience and even less money, and needed a way to promote themselves in a saturated market. So they hatched a cunning plan. Instead of getting contract brewers like Anders or Proof to brew for them while they busied themselves with brand-building on Twitter, they decided the best way to stand out was by actually making beer themselves.
They bought bits and pieces of equipment and got to work. Soon they were able to rent a little shop in the Marolles area and invested in more bits and bobs. Now, people can drop in to watch them brew and buy one of their beers. For tourists and locals, there are worse ways to spend a few hours in Brussels.
Think about it as a gift: you take the beer back home and say, “I was in Brussels last week. I watched a guy make this beer and bought some off him. Let’s try it.”
They’re called En Stoemelings, they’re as fresh as anything and full of enthusiasm. Now’s the time to get to know them, before they become too cool.