In Belgium, the combination of centuries old beer tradition and passion about perfection shown by brewers of present time has made it the home to extraordinary beers. Because of these qualities, the brewers of Belgium regularly win almost all of the major international competitions of beer.
Every birth originates from a woman
The beer brewing art is very old and it originated in 9000 BC in Mesopotamia. With time, beer moved to Gaul through Egypt and Roman Empire and initially beer brewing was a task performed at home, the primary beer brewers were women.
Monks and Abbeys
In Middle Age, abbeys had much agricultural knowledge. They also had knowledge about certain crafts and livestock which included brewing beer. At that time, monks could drink limited quantity of regional beverages because the drinking water’s quality was unsanitary. In South of Europe, wine was a daily drink and it made the monks staying there to concentrate on developing grapes and making wine, but as the climate of the region was not favorable for wine’s production, the beer brewing became the common profession of locals.
Hops and Gruit
In Middle Age, flavoring of beers was started for first time with “gruit”, herbal mixture. This mixture was available for purchase from “gruithuis”, but the exemption from this obligation was given to abbeys and they moved to hops which also used to preserve beer and resulted in an increased shelf life. In the 11th century in Flanders, the growing of hop was introduced with the help of Benedictine Abbey.
First steps towards export and quality
In 16th and 17th century, many regulations were introduced to ensure the beer quality. In Germany, the rule to brew beer specially from barley, water and hops was stated by “Reinheitsgebot”. Starting from the 17th century, the emergence of regional beers occurred. There was barley beer (Antwerp gerstenbier), Leuven white beer (Leuvense Witte) and Cellared beers (caves) in Lier. Sooner, the beers were exported by brewers outside their own area. In 18th century’s end, the privileges given to abbeys ended because in the year 1783, abbeys were dissolved by Emperor Joseph II. In 19th century, a new chapter in the history of beer emerged and it suddenly became successful in the dark (regional), cloudy beers’ world. At the time of industrial revolution, a better view of the general yeast culture and brewing process was gained by scientists.
Brewing in war time
Most of the Belgian breweries were hit hard during the 1st World War when their equipment, vehicles and copper vats were seized by Germans and around 3,200 breweries survived. In coming decades, many other microbreweries closed because of high competition and higher investment cost of new installations whereas bigger ones kept their earnings steady by making acquisitions in home market.
The inspiration from 1960s Flower Power movement led the rediscovery of Belgian specialty beers and later in 1977, the beer culture of Belgium was brought into spotlight by Michael Jackson and it led to the global recognition of Belgian culture of beer. Then in coming years, many other specialty beers emerged and recent trend is of hobby brewers where beer is sold directly to buyers or pubs and local restaurants.