Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Recap of Ashley’s North American Belgian Beer Festival

Written by  Erik Smith
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Recap of Ashleys westland belgian beerfest

Saturday, February 7th, saw close to 1,000 fans of Belgian Beer descend on Ashley’s of Westland for the first ever North American Belgian Beer Festival.
Ashley’s has been running their 11 day long Belgian Beer Festival for 5 years now, and after the success of last year’s bottle event, owners Jeff and Roy More decided to expand the ‘festival within a festival’ to the largest Belgian beer only event in North America. The event was designed to celebrate Belgium’s own ‘craft’ beer industry, so none of the larger corporate owned breweries were included. The idea of craft beer in the United States has exploded over the last 20 years, and many of the breweries included in the festival have been in the same family for a time period spanning many generations.

Many of the breweries featured sent representatives, including St. Bernardus of Watou, Van Steenberge of Entvelde, and Silly of the town of Silly, who were the festival’s featured brewers in 2014. The featured brewer of the 2015 festival was Brewery Van Honsebrouck of Ingelmunster. A fifth generation owner, Xavier Van Honsebrouck and brewmaster Hans Mahyss were on hand at Ashley’s for a Thursday tasting session and a Friday beer paired dinner. They also delighted guests on Saturday by interacting with them at the Van Honsebrouck booth.

"Several things make Belgian beers special,” says Ashley’s co-owner Roy More. “It is why so many American craft brewers are attempting 'Belgian-style' beers. First, it is the brewer’s experience. Many of these brewers have been refining their beers for decades and even centuries. Second, they let the beer achieve full maturation. They will hold beers longer in their tanks even though it is more expensive. What results is a more balanced beer than one that is rushed so as to get the quickest sale.”

"We try to find beers new to the country or at least new to Michigan. We try to balance having representative beers across all of the Belgian styles. We view it more as building a collection rather than an accumulation. It is about quality rather than quantity although there are a lot of beers."

Ashley’s Belgian Beer Festival runs the first week of February, and plans are already underway for next year’s festival. Check out Ashley’s Facebook page and for information as it is released.
Erick Smith is Ashley's of Westland staff photographer
Erik Smith

Erik Smith

Erik Smith is a relative newcomer to craft beer, having first been turned on to the scene by a chance encounter with "The End of The World" (Unibroue's La Fin du Monde) during the summer of 2011. Since then, he has increased that love of beer by serving as the 'un-official' photographer for the many beer events at Ashley's in Westland, MI. His goal is to visit every Michigan brewery. An avid traveler, beer tourism has played a prominent role in his travels since 2012. 

Find him on Untapped at eriksmithdotcom and at his blog at