One of the nice things about doing something for a long time is that you see your successes unfold. Unknown in the U.S. a quarter century ago, Belgian brewing now has been embraced by talented brewers the world over. Belgium will always be our “true north,” yet we love the beers we have found in other places we have visited—Iceland, Italy and France—because they share the æsthetic (the flavor, complexity and balance) that we’ve been working a lifetime to promote. We lovingly call them our Honorary Belgian Beers.
CASTELAIN: These folks are the charter members of the Honorary Belgian Beer Society—coming as they do from Flanders. (That’s French Flanders.) Annick Castelain’s Benifontaine-based brewery in the Pas de Calais region is home to France’s only indigenous beer style, Bière de Garde. New formats and introductions allow more appreciation of their fruity, nuanced malt-driven ales. Now even available on tap. Castelain also did its first collaboration beer ever with the widely admired Two Brothers Brewing Company, resulting in Diversey and Lille.
AMIATA: The Cerullo brothers’ beers are aromatic, artful, delicate and elegant. The Italian craft-brewing scene is wildly exciting. Tuscany’s Amiata is among the best. What hops are to beers of the American West, and yeast is to Belgium, spicing is to the beers of Italy.
ÖLVISHOLT: We spent time in Oslo. That’s where we were first introduced to LAVA, a spectacular smoked Imperial Stout from Iceland. The Ring of Fire runs through this remote, windswept, mythical, tectonic and pure-springed island. Lava is brewed at a farmstead brewery on a heath opposite an active volcano. Wow.