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Welcome to our World of Belgian Beer

We started this blog to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Vanberg & DeWulf – the company we established in 1982 to import beers from Belgium. We lived in Belgium for three years right out of college and began importing so that when our companies transferred us to the States we would still have an excuse to return to see our friends and visit the places we loved. What began as a hobby turned into a career, and we have a decades-long wacky, improbable fascination with the culture of the country and its brewers. In this blog we hope to share it with you.

“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.”- Herman Melville

Dear Esteemed Friends and Colleagues,

We have exciting news to relay, in fact its a booster rocket we believe will help vault our beloved beers to the next level on the American scene for years to come. Please read on for the details. Don and I will be in  the English countryside starting tomorrow. We’ll be back on-line and in action in two weeks. We are looking forward to making the transition as smooth, easy and successful as possible for everyone. In the meantime, we send you our heartfelt thanks for being such boon companions to us and great ambassadors for the Vanberg & DeWulf collection. It has been a joy and a privilege to explore the world in search of great beer and to bring it back home to you.

“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.”-  Herman Melville

All best wishes,
Wendy Littlefield & Don Feinberg

For Immediate Release – February 28, 2014

    Total Beverage Solution Acquires Rights to Vanberg & DeWulf Portfolio

US importer welcomes addition of acclaimed beer brands

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina – Total Beverage Solution (TBS) and Vanberg & DeWulf are pleased to announce that TBS has acquired the exclusive rights to the Vanberg & DeWulf portfolio.

Founded in 2002, Total Beverage Solution is a fast-growing fully integrated importer and supplier with a highly selective portfolio of wine, beer and premium spirits, including iconic beer brands such as Weihenstephan, Old Speckled Hen, Cooper’s, Birra Moretti and Affligem. TBS has earned a reputation for market expertise and proven sales results by creating value and demand for exceptional brands. TBS is a four-time Beverage Industry Top 100 company.

Writing from Belgium, Vanberg & DeWulf co-founders Don Feinberg & Wendy Littlefield explain  “Since starting Vanberg & DeWulf in 1982, our mission has been to champion the cause of Belgian beer made by independent, family-run breweries. We have positioned our breweries for long-term growth in the United States. In TBS we have a successor who understands the value of our portfolio, and will help our beers fulfill their potential in the decades to come. We feel this is the right move at precisely the right time with exactly the right team. Our brewers and their beers are in capable hands.”

TBS founder, Dave Pardus states “Vanberg & DeWulf is unique in the pioneering role it has played in the Belgian beer category and the connoisseurship it has brought to the expansion of its portfolio beyond its Belgian roots. Don & Wendy’s relentless passion for beers of quality and terroir has a created a terrific following for their beers.  With the additional resources and infrastructure we bring, there is tremendous opportunity to grow their portfolio, and it complements our prestigious existing lineup of breweries and beers.”

The Vanberg & DeWulf portfolio consists of a tight group of hand-selected breweries representing twenty-five distinct beer styles, including beloved beers like Saison Dupont, and Scaldis. Vanberg & DeWulf was the first US importer to specialize in Belgian beers. The company experienced a ten-fold increase in sales over the last decade. Vanberg & DeWulf has twice been nominated for The James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Wine Spirits or Beer Professional” – the only beer importer ever to have been so honored.

Feinberg and Littlefield will coordinate the transition with TBS over the coming year. Mitaro Consulting, LLC acted as advisor to Vanberg & DeWulf.

Media Contact: Courtney Gibson
Total Beverage Solution  843.284.4493
cgibson@totalbeveragesolution.com

Delicious Hop Ruiter Sauce for Pork!

hop_ruiter_bottleDusty’s Mahogany Bar was one of the first in Mississippi to go all in for Vanberg & DeWulf’s beer. They participated in the Coast to Coast Toast in a big way and was singled out in our national shoutout. When the beers that were to make their debut in Hattiesburg at his place both for a multi-course beer dinner and tap takeover did not arrive at the distributors in time (thereby hangs a tale in which neither he nor is guilty) Dusty drove to Louisiana to get some some his patrons would not be disappointed. He is the Cosimo de Medici of Hattiesburg craft beer  with several great venues. It is absolutely stunning that they made the list of top 100 beer bars in the country only a year after Mississippi was the last state in the nation to authorize the sale of craft beer. Stunning – but also well deserved.  Such a classy guy he actually wrote us to say that his working with us might have had a hand in his nomination. We know a star when we meet ‘em (even if only via email) and Dusty is one. We are utterly grateful that through Raise Your Pints we got to him and his distributor Sparkman Walker. Doesn’t this dish sound absolutely delicious? Thanks to Dusty for sharing with us. Try this at home and then let’s all take a journey to Hattiesburg to see how well our version of the recipe stands up to the original.
Of course, share a Hop Ruiter with a friend over this meal!
This new recipe is courtesy of Dusty Frierson from his bar Branch.
We serve this sauce with a thick, braised cut of good pork shoulder, packed in a basic dry cure for a few hours before cooking, but any nice cut of pork will do. (The meat is saltier as a result–to be taken into account when seasoning the sauce.) On a bed of barley risotto with a bit more ale in the cooking liquid, and seasoned with lemon zest. Toss some sturdy greens into your risotto if you like, and whole roasted cipollinis on the side.

For the reduction:

(yields about a pint)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. minced shallot
1 tbsp. minced garlic
couple pinches of salt kosher salt
2 12-oz. bottles fine Belgian ale (we recommend Hop Ruiter)
1/2 c. fines herbes (equal parts finely chopped chive, chervil, tarragon, parsley–adjust proportions to your taste)
2 tbsp. cornstarch slurry (equal parts cornstarch and water)
pat of unsalted butter
kosher salt, fresh ground pepper to taste
Melt butter on medium-low heat and sweat shallots and garlic, seasoned with salt. Add all of the beer, increase heat to simmer, and reduce by half. Add slurry as needed; finished sauce should coat a spoon. Season to taste with preferred salt and pepper. You may mount the sauce with butter and finish with the herbs at this point, but those ingredients are best added “a la minute,” as the sauce is reheated to order.

Saison Dupont Named One of the Best Saison on the Planet!

Saison Dupont was named one of the best Saisons on the planet by Men’s Journal. Check out the article below, and read the rest to find out the other beers they consider top-tier!mensjournalfeb

Who’s Here from Philly!

scoatsI happened to find myself in the company of two of Philadelphia’s finest publicans this week. I thought I’d ask Scoats and William a question about what got them interested in the field of beer. They’re both officers on The Philly Beer Week Board, and they were in Belgium to preside over the brewing of this Philly Beer Week collaboration beer.

William Reed of Standard Tap recalled his defining beer moment. William was studying engineering at Drexel, his then girlfriend was working at White Dog Café. She let him know that Carol Stoudt was giving a presentation and he got in as a friend of the staff. Listening to Carol, at that very moment he decided he wanted to get into brewing. He went on to be brewmaster at Sam Adams brewpub in Philly before opening Standard Tap in 1999.

The rest is Philadelphia pub history.

Mike Scotese (aka Scoats) recalls the first good beer he remembers having was Dock Street Amber Lager consumed in a shabby room he rented in Wildwood NJ as a college student. He bought that single beer for a buck, which at the time was rather expensive. The year was 1986. Scoats worked his way through college in Philly at Cape May in the restaurant business. He got a “regular job,” and 3 years into it, he knew it was a dead end. He decided to open a pub. The first bar he opened was called Muggsy’s Tavern. Then two years later Scoats bought out the other founding partner and turned Muggsy’s into the Grey Lodge Pub. It opened August 13th, 1996.

williamreedThe rest is Philadelphia pub history.

Scoats and William are boone companions. These two friends met at Dave Simon’s Khyber Pass at a Val Salva show.

Funnily enough, around the same time, a famous Belgian restaurant in Philly named Notre Dame did a launch party with our beers with good friend Ruth Van Waerebeke and the launch of the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium as part of the celebration called, “The Book and the Cook.” This celebration later morphed into Philly Beer Week.

More Philly Beer Week News!

pbw
We’re excited to be gearing up to brew the special collaboration beer in Belgium next week. But, did you know?
Only one importer has been involved with the Philly Beer Week collaboration beer more than once – that would be Vanberg & DeWulf. Craig Laban, restaurant critic of the Philly Inquirer, produced some of the best and most evocative writing about beer we have ever seen, In the lead up to the introduction of Philly Tripel from Vicaris and Dock Street we thought you would enjoy reading Craig’s articles. Here they are:

This year we are pleased as punch that our old friend Jay Brooks is part of the PBW entourage. If you do not know “Brookstone on Beer,” then you are very wet behind the ears. Here’s the link. Great read!

US Belgian Beer Ambassadors Descend on Dendermonde for Philly Beer Week Collaboration Brew at Dilewyns

Dateline Dendermonde – and Gent – and Philadelphia

There is a woman at the helm of both breweries!

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We put together this post to give more background to Anne Catherine and her sister Claire as they prepared to spread the word of the collaboration brew to media in Belgium. It is therefore written from the perspective of what a Belgian journalist might want to know before coming to witness the brew day.

The rising star brewer Anne-Catherine Dilewyns was given a special honor late in 2013 when she and her Brouwerij Dilewyns were chosen to be the collaboration brewer/brewery for  Philly Beer Week 2014. This is only the fourth time that the organizers of Philly Beer Week have launched a special collaboration beer for “the granddaddy of all beer weeks” in the United States. It is also the first time that a woman brewer has been singled out for this distinction. Jason Low the head brewer at Dock Street will be traveling to Belgium with some special ingredients to give local flavor to the brew which will be based on Dilewyns widely admired Vicaris Tripel  -winner of the top consumer choice award at Zythos. Each year beer enthusiasts are invited to enter a drawing to win a trip to Belgium and the right to choose the brewery that will accompany them and brew the official Philly Beer Week Beer with an admired Belgian brewer. Daniel Neuner won the drawing and chose Dock Street.Print

 

A VIP entourage from Philadelphia will be coming to Dendermonde to participate in and or oversee the collaboration brew at Brouwerij Dilewyns on Thursday, February 13th. The beer will be launched in the States in late May and officially “welcomed” to the city of Brotherly Love by the mayor. A small stash will be set aside for sale in Belgium. Behind the scenes there have been conversations going back and forth among the brewers and importers and PBW organizers. All are looking forward to a spectacular Philly Beer Week and a special celebrations between Dock Street and Dilewyns commencing with a kick off party upon Justin’s return from Belgium.

 

The selection of Dilewyns is especially exciting and notable for the young brewery because it assures considerable visibility on a national level. The city of Philadelphia has a very important role in the success of Belgian specialty beers in the United States. What’s more, Philly Beer Week is the original and still one of the largest of all the US city beer fests. One could say it is the most Belgian centric of all US cities. This will be Anne Catherine’s second visit to Philadelphia. She attended Philly Beer Week in 2013 and participated in a beer gastronomy dinner with her importers in 2013, who write of the brewery and Anne-Catherine:

 

“The Dilewyns  brewery— one of the newest  in Belgium opened to great fanfare in Dendermonde in May 2011. Why? Theirs are some of the very best beers being brewed in Belgium today.

The driving force behind the brewery is the dynamic, utterly winning, indefatigable, straight-talking Anne-Catherine Dilewyns. Barely twenty-six, Anne-Catherine possesses a rare maturity and fierce determination beyond her years. Aside from teaching herself to brew, Anne-Catherine taught herself Italian to communicate with the Italian crew that installed the brewery equipment. Her beer was named ‘beer of the month’ in Holland at a consortium of 41 bars, and in order to make this opportunity as DSlogoproductive as possible, she visited every single cafe to introduce herself—in four days. New breweries in Belgium are few and far between, making her pluck and optimism especially bold and inspiring. Having built a brewery ourselves (Ommegang), Don and I can relate.

Anne-Catherine comes by her entrepreneurial brewing skills honestly. In 1875, Anna-Coletta Wauman (Anne-Catherine’s great great grandmother and mother of eleven children) turned a former benzine oil factory into a brewery. It operated in Dendermonde until WWII, when the brew kettles were confiscated. Anne-Catherine has Wauman’s passport, which lists her occupation as ‘Brew Master.’ It’s on the wall of the brewery.”

It wouldn’t be fair to suggest that only Anne-Catherine deserves praise. The beer recipes are created by her dad, Vincent Dilewyns. Vincent took up home brewing as a hobby in 1999. Anne-Catherine urged her dad to move from home- brewer to commercial brewer status, and Vicaris Generaal was the first of his beers to be released commercially. Vicaris Tripel followed shortly thereafter. The brewery also brews Vicaris Tripel Gueuze, Quinto and Vicaris Winter.

Saveur editor Betsy Andrews recently featured  Anne-Catherine in her article on The Northern Renaissance of Brewing. She observes that the Belgian brewing scene is the most exciting it has been in 50 years, and that the 26 year-old founder of one of Belgium’spbw newest breweries & most critically acclaimed beers, Vicaris Tripel Geuze, is one of the movement’s brightest lights.

 

The roots of Philly Beer Week go back several decades – to 1991. PBW grew out of an annual event called The Book and the Cook celebrating Philadelphia chefs and nationally known cookbook writers. The most popular and largest event of The Book and The Cook  for many years featured tutored tastings at the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Pennsylvania

Anne-Catherine Dilewyns, Belgium's youngest & newest brewer

Anne-Catherine Dilewyns, Belgium’s youngest & newest brewer

conducted by by the legendary beer writer, Michael Jackson (1942-2007).  Jackson’s work The Great Beers of Belgium is widely recognized to have increased appreciation of Belgian beer.  Jackson the won Andre Simon Award, The James Beard award and  was appointed  an honorary officer of the Ridderschap van de Roerstok in 1997. This honor had previously only been given to brewers.

 

Philly Beer Week co-founders Bruce Nichols (President of Museum Catering) and publican Tom Peters of Monk’s Cafe were particularly passionate and effective proselytizers for Belgian beers. (1) Tom Peters is both a Chevalier of the CBB and an Orval Ambassador. Monk’s has been named one of the Top 5 Restaurants for Beer & Food In North America. Last year, Peters was named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards as beer, wine or spirits person of the year. His influence in the word of publicans is hard to overestimate.
IMG_2140

 

Dilewyns beers are imported to the United States by Vanberg & DeWulf. From the earliest days pioneering importers Vanberg & DeWulf were involved in PBW. In addition to being the first importers to specialize in Belgian beer (bringing the first examples of traditional lambics, saisons, strong golden ales and Flemish reds to the US market) the founders also published  the 1st US edition of The Great Beers of Belgium. The founders, Don Feinberg & Wendy Littlefield were the first Americans inducted into the Belgian Brewers Guild in its 500 year history. They too were named semi-finalists for the James Beard Award last year for wine, spirits or beer professional of the year – the first time a beer importer has ever been nominated.

 

A special Belgian- style beer has been brewed in Belgium for Philly Beer Week since Special Belge label2011. In 2011, Dirk Naudts of DeProef brewed a Saison-style beer spiked with brett with Brian O’Reilly of Sly Fox with SBS Imports. In 2012, Olivier Dedeycker of Brasserie Dupont brewed Speciale Belge with smoked malts with Chris Lapierre of Iron Hill, imported by Vanberg & DeWulf. In 2013 -Yvan de Baets of Brasserie DeLa Senne brewed a brown ale with molasses, brown sugar and American hops with Chris Wilson from Weyerbacher.
The Philly Beer Week delegation includes  some of the most beloved figures in the Pennsylvania beer scene. Tom Peters–in addition to being  co-founder of Philly Beer Week–is co-owner of four beer-centric restaurants in Philadelphia: Monk’s Café, Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant, Grace Tavern, and The Belgian Café. Tom is also co-owner of The Anderson hotel/restaurant in Fortrose, Scotland and was involved with The BeerBistro in Toronto, Canada. Peters was awarded the 2013 Philly Beer Scene Humanitarian of the Year. William Reed is the co-owner of Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s, and Chairman of Philly Beer Week. Scoats Scoatese is the co-owner of Grey Lodge and Hop Angel, and an officer of Philly Beer Week.

 

Justin Low is Head Brewer at Dock Street Brewery. Low and Dock Street have been rosemarymaking waves stateside with a roster of award-winning classic brews and the introduction of several new and innovative styles. This trip will be the second time Justin Low has traveled to Belgium. He is thrilled for the chance to revisit a country he cites as not only a great beer hub, but one of the greatest places to get lost. He’s excited for the opportunity to go back and collaborate with one of Belgium’s best up-and-coming brewers, and he’s looking forward to returning to the City of Brotherly Love with a suitcase full of beer and some great insight into Belgian brewing. Dock Street was one of the early and most successful American craft breweries. It was co-founded and is owned and operated by Rosemarie Certo, the reigning queen of Philly Brewing.
Jim Meiers is Craft and Specialty Brand Manager at Origlio Beverage. Origlio is one of the state’s largest wholesalers and Vanberg & DeWulf and Dock Street’s distributor. Dan Neuner is the winner of the Philly Beer Week raffle. Neuner is an aspiring photographer with a special interest in documenting brewing and beer.
Jack Curtin, a well-respected beer blogger in the States posted Dock Street’s announcement about the collaboration written by Renata Certo-Ware, daughter of the Dock Street founder:

 

“Here’s a great piece from Dock Street Brewing about head brewer Justin Low being the lucky guy who goes to Belgium this year to brew the official Philly Beer Week beer. It’s as good and informative and complete a summary of what this is all about as I’ve seen from any of the winning breweries over the years and I most especially liked this part, which I had not noticed before and which just adds to the absolute coolness of the rebirth of the original Dock Street:

dock-street-bottle

Meanwhile, in Belgium, self-taught brewer Anne-Catherine Dilewyns has also been getting major street cred as the youngest female brewer in the country, with an impressive CV of extraordinary beers to her name.  Dilewyn’s pedigree in brewing is just as impressive as her talents for churning out

fantastic brews.  Her great-great grandmother founded and ran a brewery in 1875, which operated until WWII when the kettles were confiscated to make bullets for the war. Her father is the founder of the newest reincarnation of the family’s legacy brewery.

The significance of Dilewyn’s and her great-great-grandmother’s girl power in a male-dominated industry is not lost on Dock Street, which was co-founded and is owned and operated by Rosemarie Certo and a cast of strong female leaders that includes VP Marilyn Candeloro and Head Chef Melissa Bauman.

When Dock Street was new back in the early ’90s, it taught us what a great beer venue justincould be. These days it’s doing the same thing, at a whole different level.”

Don Feinberg & Wendy Littlefield founded Vanberg & DeWulf in 1982. They created Brewery Ommegang in 1996 with friends from the brewing families involved in Moortgat, Affligem and Dubuisson. In 2003 it was sold to Duvel. The Vanberg & DeWulf portfolio consists of 52 beers from five brewing nations encompassing more than twenty distinct styles. The company stages the single largest one day crowd sourced celebration of specialty beer in the United States,called The Coast to Coast Toast™. You can download their portfolio here and read more about Dilewyns.

 

Members of the Belgian press may be interested to meet with Jay Brooks an esteemed beer journalist with the number one rated beer blog in the country. Brooks will chronicle the voyage of the Philly Beer Week crew and the unveiling of the collaboration beer which is to be called Philly Tripel.
montage samen.indd

 

(1) Bruce Nichols http://articles.philly.com/2010-12-01/news/25293077_1_craft-beer-beer-scene-leukemia

Brasserie Dubuisson – The oldest and most authentic brewery in Wallonia

Scaldis Prestige de NuitsDubuisson been brewing continuously since 1769—before Belgium was a country and longer than the Trappist breweries. Dubuisson is a shining example of the civic brewer and proud protector of the tradition. Hugues Dubuisson is the eighth- generation family member to direct the business, which is thriving. U.S. sales increased at twice the rate of the dynamic domestic craft beer rate. Both Peche Mel and Scaldis earned Gold medals in World Beer Championships  this past year. Prestige has maintained perfect 100s on RateBeer.

 

Here’s a great post on Beer Info that gives a more detailed of the history of the brewery, as well as a focus on Scaldis Noel Premium, one of the brewery’s great Christmas beers.

 

 

Side trips That Are Only a Tiny Bit About Beer

Where We’re Headed  - Louvre-Lens to see a building by SANAA

lensWe had a tempting peek at the newest offshoot of the Louvre during our afternoon with friends from the Castelain Brewery – Annick Castelain and Guillaume del a Fourcade. We’re looking forward to a return visit and an entire day devoted to the collection and the stunning building in which it is housed. Annick told us that attendance had exceeded expectations – with 700,000 in the first year – surely a boon to a struggling Nord Pas de Calais town in the shadow of proud, handsome and more prosperous Lille.

Lens was destroyed in World War I, then occupied by the Nazis and hit by Allied bombs in World War II. The mines continued operating after the war and the area now boasts the tallest slag heaps in Europe. But the industry declined dramatically; the last mine closed in 1986 and the town stagnated.

So Louvre-Lens (view their twitter account here) is seen by the authorities as a major step in reviving the area, in the same way as the Pompidou-Metz Museum did in Metz in Lorraine, and the Guggenheim Museum did in Bilbao, Spain.

Lens was chosen because of its strategic location. It’s just south of Lille and the Chunnel to the U.K. is only an hour’s drive away; Belgium is 30 minute drive, and the Netherlands two hours or so. It is at the center of a well-populated region. The hope is that visitors will make a weekend or a short break and combine the Louvre-Lens with a tour of the area, particularly of Lille and the nearby battlefields and memorials of World War I, which will receive international attention 2014-2018  (More on this in a later post).

The Louvre is internationalizing its footprint with a museum by Jean Nouvel in Abu Dhabi (estimated opening in 2015). A year ago, it expanded within France at Louvre-Lens. The 28,000 square meter museum is designed by the 2010 Pritzker prize winning Japanese architect firm SANAA* founded by Kazuyo Sejima** + Ryue Nishizawa on an abandoned mine site. (It is in fact the second project SANAA has built on a former mine – the first being the Zollverein School of Management and Design In Essen, Germany, in 2006.)

The Pritzker Prize is the top honor in architecture. The prize committee awarded it to SANAA:

“For architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever; for the creation of buildings that successfully interact with their contexts and the activities they contain, creating a sense of fullness and experiential richness; for a singular architectural language that springs from a collaborative process that is both unique and inspirational; for their notable completed buildings and the promise of new projects together, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa are the recipients of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize.”

Yes indeed the complex interacts with its context in a stunning way. The museum looks as castelain_beersif it were delicately deposited on the dark earth. Lauren Grieco’s coverage of the project in Designboom offers especially arresting images of the siting on the landscape rendered both in sketches and aerial photographs.

We are particularly excited to see how the architects handled the placements of objects in space. The Gallery of Time presents 200 works from the Louvre’s collection presented chronologically from 5000 BC to the 19th century. There are no partitions along a span of 120 meters which allows comparisons to be made both within and across cultures.

Highlights include Roman pieces bought from Borghese collection in 1807 including a statue of Marcus Aurelius, carved ivories and Limoges enamels from the medieval period, Islamic engraved copper and lusterware, From the Renaissance  period onwards there are works by Rubens, Raphael, El Greco, Poussin, and Claude The gallery ends in 19th century with Ingre’s full length portrait of the heir to the throne, Ferdinand Philllippe, Duke of Orleans, who died shortly after the painting was completed.

Later in the spring a special exhibition will focus on The Disasters of War 1820 to 2014 and tie in with honoring the memory of people who lost their lives in Flanders (French and Belgian) in the Great War.

artIf you are going by public transport, take the train to Lille Station (about an hour from Ghent) and then connect to the Lens train station. From there a shuttle bus takes you to the museum campus in about 10 minutes.

We do need to tell you that only one local beer is sold at the Michelin starred on site restaurant, L’Atelier de Marc Meurin where Annick and Guillaume were our gracious hosts. That beer is the excellent indigenous biere de garde we call Castelain in the US that is sold as Ch’Ti in France. Do not fail to order one.

Note: This blog post was originally written in Helvetica Light, the elegant typeface on the landing page of the SANAA website.

  • Can’t get to Louvre-Lens?  Here are 2 projects by SANAA stateside:  Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City

** which made Sejima the second woman to win the award.

Learn about all the Pritzker prize winners: Philip Johnson was the first Pritzker Laureate in 1979. The late Luis Barragán of Mexico was named in 1980. The late James Stirling of the United Kingdom was elected in 1981, Kevin Roche in 1982, Leoh Ming Pei in 1983, and Richard Meier in 1984. Hans Hollein of Austria was the 1985 Laureate. Gottfried Böhm of Germany received the prize in 1986. Robert Venturi received the honor in 1991, and Alvaro Siza of Portugal in 1992. Christian de Portzamparc of France was elected Pritzker Laureate in 1994. Frank Gehry of the United States was the recipient in 1989, the late Aldo Rossi of Italy in 1990. In 1996, Rafael Moneo of Spain was the Laureate; in 1997 the late Sverre Fehn of Norway; in 1998 Renzo Piano of Italy, in 1999 Sir Norman Foster of the UK, and in 2000, Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands. Australian Glenn Murcutt received the prize in 2002. The late Jørn Utzon of Denmark was honored in 2003; Zaha Hadid of the UK in 2004; and Thom Mayne of the United States in 2005. Paulo Mendes da Rocha of Brazil was the Laureate in 2006, and Richard Rogers received the prize in 2007. Jean Nouvel of France was the Laureate in 2008. In 2009 Peter Zumthor of Switzerland received the award. In 2011 Eduardo Souto de Moura, in 2012 Wang Shu, and 2013 Toyo Ito were awarded the prize  (excerpted from the Pritzker site).

SANAA is in the running for the new Nobel Prize HQ in Stockholm.

Another Fantastically Fun Belgian Fact!

Don and I have been battling colds since we arrived on Jan 12th. We are are pleading with Telenet to restore the internet at our abode. We have effectively been offline since New Year’s Eve- first in the car, then in the ship, then on the Eurostar, now in our belgian hometown. I’m becoming best friends with Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the greatest group of journalists ever assembled under one masthead by the mercurial genius of publisher S. S  McClure -i.e.  Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White. Eugene Debs and  jacob Riis. In other words I am listening to a Doris Kearn Goodwin’s superb The Bully Pulpit on tape.  It is a major work of history—an examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals. And boy did the headlines then sound an awful lot like the headlines now. It is time to start some agitating again!
 
GhentGhent is pretty as ever but there sure is a ton of construction going on. The number of cranes in the sky per capita has got to rival London. There is a bit of the changing of the guard going on. Some old line retailers are closing shop. The places opening in their stead are a lot hipper. Ghent is becoming a more and more popular place to live. Why not? Asde from the weather which is just as punk elsewhere in Belgiu  there is not much not to love about the place. Ghent is human scaled, sophisticated and beautiful but with a gritty edge. I am very much hoping that the mayors of  smaller American cities seeking models come here to take a look. And it is very tourist friendly. How tourist friendly?  It is the only city I know of to publish a map of the public toilets. Ghenteraars have a sense of humor. They issued the map in honor of World Toilet Day (November 19th don’t you know?)
 
Bradley Wiggins “Wiggo”  - the first Englishman ever to win The Tour de France is a son of Bradley_WigginsGhent!  He was born April 28, 1980 to an English mother and Australian father. His dad, Gary Wiggins was also a professional cyclist who rode for a Ghent based team that is no more Marc- ARD.His mom and dad divorced when he was 2. He moved with his mom to Maida Vale (London) and began racing at the age of 12.  Wiggins has won seven Olympic medals and is one of just a few cyclists to have made the transition from track to road cycling successfully. The modest Wigggins was the subject of several honours and awards recently; the Vélo d’Or award for best rider of the year, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award and a knighthood as part of the Queen’s  2013 New Year Honours. Wiggins said that he felt “a little bit inferior” to others receiving knighthoods saying “I’ve won a bike race, you know, and I feel a little bit inferior to everyone”, saying “I was just talking to some of the other people getting stuff, and asking them what they’ve been honoured for, and they’re historic things, ground-breaking sciences or whatever”.
 

So far we have had a delightful visit to Castelain in French Flanders and to Brasserie Dupont in Wallonia. Will write more about those visits as time permits.

Best,

Wendy & Don

What to do in Ghent (aside from drinking beer) when the weather is punk.

gent18 It has been unremittingly dark and rainy and bleak. It barely gets light til 9. January is not the best month to come to Belgium - but we know the jonquils and tulips will make an appearance before too long. To make matters worse, we have not had internet or cable in the house since day one. To get our stateside work done we’ve hunkered down in a string of neighborhood cafes where the wifi is reliable. We’ve also borrowed a set of keys from our former landlord who is kindly letting us use their offices after hours. I tell you this lest you think the life of the Belgian beer importer is all glamor.

 

What to do? Hit the cinema. In honor of Martin Scorsese Fest in Ghent (one of the top film fests in Europe) last night we went to see The Wolf of Wall Street. it is currently the number one box office hit in Europe.  The Wolf is playing at a movie house called The Sphinx. The film has been called brilliant and repulsive  - we’d emphasize repulsive – and is based on a real life person (Jordan Belfort). Alternating scenes of sex, drug abuse and motivational speaking unfold over THREE hours. It is not very encouraging that the villain comes out quite ok. According to Wikipedia, Belfort now lives in Manhattan Beach and is engaged. I hope he is a big donor to his alma mater – American University.

 

Enough about Jordan. We were struck by the fact that a slide before the film announced that the Sphinx is one of a group of more than 600 independent theaters across Europe specializing in independent film and that association benefits from funding from the European Union. We think this is a good thing. Do you?  Some of you know that in Chicago this past year we have had an association with the Music Box Theater – pouring one or another of our beers before matinees called Malty Mondays (or Tuesdays).  We feel a kinship with the people who distribute and screen independent films – as we are all in a niche business and going out on a limb hoping that what we believe is worthwhile will attract an audience. If you are in Chicago we hope you will go to the Music Box!

 

We looked into the history of the Sphinx this morning and were not surprised to find that it is on a list of Belgium’s best cinemas. They write ”Sphinx cinema, constructed in 1912, is located in a building that is recognized by the city of Ghent as a cultural heritage monument. The renowned local Design Museum even has plans, photos and other interesting documents about its long and eventful history. While there’s always been a movie theatre in the historic building, it has not always been known by the same name; Sphinx has existed since 1986 and screens a carefully selected mixture of blockbusters and art house movies, with a special focus on international film festivals from Cannes to Toronto. Sphinx also organises special screening cycles, and even hosted Ghent’s first queer film festival, Pinx in January.”

 

The next Ghent FIlm Festival will take place  the 14th-25th of October, 2014 when the gent11Ghent  One thing that makes Film Fest Gent unique is the focus on music and the celebration of the film composer, often the forgotten key figure in the artistic and/or commercial success of a film. Some of the people who have won and the films in which their compositions figure are John Williams  for Artificial Intelligence,  and multiple winners Alberto Iglesias for The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy
and Alexandre Desplat – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This past October the top prize was awarded to Mychael Danna, the Canadian film composer who has collaborated with Atom Egoyan and An Li. Learn more about the “13th World Soundtracks Awards and Concert” and winners here.  Soundtracks from Life of Pi here, and even more.

 

While on the topic of movies: there is a lot of buzz about Broken Circle Breakdown which was filmed in Ghent and based on a play by the star of the film. It is directed by the heralded  Felix Van Groeningen. It’s been nominated for an Oscar Best Foreign Film. Go see it if you can!

 

Tomorrow we start planning for the 2014 blending and Friday we visit our friends at Dubuisson. More news soon.

 

(Photos from top: A phone recharging station at the train stop, Squash soup masquerading as a beer.)

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