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The Belgian Beer Culture

Call it market research and not an excuse to spend a full weekend beer drinking along the canals of Brugges. In what is one of the most scenic and quaint cities in Europe, ‘Venice of the North’ is a hub for beer brewing. As you enter Brugges it feels almost like Ireland littered with many bars on every street corner. Unlike Ireland every bar serves hundreds of different beers. In Ireland the culture of consuming craft simply hasn’t caught up to Europe yet. The craft industry continues to grow but at a rate that is simply too slow. Knowledge, tradition and little support from bars is a huge obstacle craft breweries face in the current Irish climate. We at River Shannon Brewery wanted to go and see what this environment is like with no mass produced beer and an emphasis on local flavours and sustainability.

The experience without your standard Guinness, Heineken, Smithwicks and Rockshore taps in Belgium is simply a breath of fresh air. Every bar competes on selection and what they have on draught. This competition results in microbreweries having hundreds of stockists in a single city alone. It provides options for the consumer. Have you ever walked into your local and simply wanted to try something new? This is never the case in Belgium, there you can find a plethora of options from draught to cans to bottles of varying ABV, sizes, styles and flavours there is something for everyone. Of course every bar will have its speciality similar to Ireland where some pubs are renowned for how good their Guinness is.

This variety, choice as well as providing sustainable beverages is something all craft microbreweries strive for. Having the opportunity to go to Brugges to witness this was an amazing experience and a real eye opener for us. It showed us that is possible for the consumer to embrace craft beer, for the bars to offer hundreds of different drinks and for every bar on every street to offer something different. Our next stop would be Brussels. We wanted to explore whether the same principles could be applied on a larger scale in Ireland in somewhere like Dublin. Read about our experiences in Brussels in our next blog but for now enjoy some pictures of our time in Bruges along with our favourite local brews!

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