Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My First Experience at Ashley's Belgian Beer Fest

Written by  Barb Starr
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My First Experinece at Ashley's Belgian Beer Fest

I was able to go to the last day of Ashley's Belgian Beer Festival which is held at Ashley's in Westland. On this particular day, Ashley's featured Brasserie de Silly Beers. This was my first time visiting Ashley's in Westland, but I've been to Ashley's in Ann Arbor several times, and I love the place. Ashley's in Westland I love just the same.
From Left to Right Erik Smith (On My Feet or In My Mind), Steve Johnson (Motor City Tour Co.), Paul Starr (The Beer Hound), Roy More (One of the Owners of Ashley's) & Dave Bardallis (All The Brews Fit To Pint)This is my first experience with having most of those Belgian beers. Really, it was only in the last year that I started enjoying Belgian beers and that all started from drinking Jolly Pumpkin, Bastone & Brewery Vivant beers. Last summer, the Farm Hand was my go to beer and from that beer it was my quest to try any other saison beers that I could. It does get much better on a hot summer day then having a tasty saison. Since I run a Michigan beer website it's hard to try a lot of non-Michigan beers, but I try them when I can because good beer is good.

The cool thing about this day was that we got to sit with Roy More (one of the owners of Ashley's), and he suggested a lot of the beers that we tried. I love Roy's passion for Belgian Beer as well as his knowledge of it. I probably asked too many questions but I have so much to learn. I was unfamiliar with a lot of the breweries' names and beer names. It's funny that they gave out a cool beer checklist, but after a few beers I forgot to keep checking. Oops, I drop the ball on that one! I'll tell you there wasn't one beer that we had that I didn't like, and the beers that I really liked are Silly Abbey de Forest, Hommel Dark IPA, Scotch de Silly, Silly Saison & Poperings HommelBeir. Roy's knowledge of all the beers we had was amazing, and they served each beer in the same glass that you would have at each brewery in Belgium. I love the authenticity.

Silly Saison at Ashley's in Westland at Belgian Beer Fest

Since there was great beer; there was also great Belgian food offered. Some of the food we had was a Belgian Frites and Dips Sampler, Garlic Chicken, Beer Carbonnades Flamandes-“Flemish Stew”, Mussels steamed in Saison Dupont with bacon, garlic, and caramelized leeks, Crème Brulée, & Belgian Waffle (served with ice cream with hazelnut chocolate and strawberries). The Belgian Waffle was my favorite but all of the food was really good.

I asked Roy what was the inspiration to do this festival and he said "Great beers that are hard to find and thus under-appreciated. Maybe the better way is they're "under-discovered". American brewers are making 'Belgian-style'. Well that's good but one needs to know what true Belgian beers are, otherwise it's just marketing hype. That is, how does one know if you're getting a good "Belgian-style" beer if you don't know true Belgian beers? Its like, is Shock Top a true craft beer just because Budweiser says it is? Additionally, some of the Belgian beers are not reproducible here because of the yeast strains (its the true intellectual property). It's become the largest in the Midwest not because it set out with that as the objective. It just turned out that way after our trying to do it right. Great beers. Education and Belgian cultural components (food, games and brewing tradition)."

If you want to learn more about Belgian beers or just want to have beers that you can't get any where else, this is the event for you. I will definitely attend this event next year, because Ashely's goes the extra mile to make this an authentic experience. From bringing in a brewer from a Belgian Brewery to having authentic beer glasses to having authentic Belgium food there's; no other event like this. I can't wait to go again next year.