Beer clash: Austria meets Belgium

On a Saturday morning in October, a group of us students from Howest headed to “Kasteel Brouwerijk Vanhonsebrouck” in Izegem. Little did I know about breweries, even though there are supposed to be about 214 in Austria, as well. However, the more insights I got throughout our tour, the more “hidden” differences appeared.

The breweries

I had already spent about a month in Belgium before taking a closer look on the beer culture itself. Still, I had already gotten the feeling that this drink plays an important role for the country’s culture. The tour we got at Kasteel Brouwerijk Vanhonsebrouck emphasized the importance and the touristic aspect even more.

Starting with the fact that our tour guide was prepared to lead us through the brewery in four different languages (or more), they had also prepared high-quality movie clips, photo opportunities and visitor platforms. There was even a restaurant where we were offered several different types of beers to try. After having talked to some locals about our visit, an experience of this kind for tourists should not be exceptional for this specific brewery. There are supposed to be many more breweries across Belgium which offer interesting tours. Do you know how many of Austria’s estimated 200 breweries you can actually visit? Twelve.

Of course, we also do have a couple of beer hotels and especially in summer months, beer gardens are quite popular in Austria – specifically in our capital city Vienna. However, the approach towards this drink is also different…

The purpose

This might just be my point of view but it seems like we Austrians don’t care too much about how or where our beers are crafted. Whereas Belgians appear to be proud of their modern breweries and the numerous flavours, Austrians seem to be prouder of the amount that they can drink.

In fact, Austria boasts the third highest consumption of beer per capita worldwide, averaging around 206 large (!) glasses of beer per head per year. In comparison to that, Belgium only reaches rank number 27 (according to data from 2016). At the same time, Belgium is said to be Europe’s largest beer exporter! A huge amount of this output flows across the borders of its neighbouring countries France, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK, for example. Apparently, Belgians care more about the beer and the cultural and touristic aspect itself than on just consuming it.

The look and feel

At last, the artistic aspect should not be missed out on. I feel like a big part of Belgium’s beer culture is the look of the different glasses, badges and names. The badges on the bottles seem to be really thought-through and creative, the beer glasses themselves look much fancier than the ones in Austria. This might only be my personal perception but according to the reactions of my fellow Austrian students I wasn’t the only one to have that feeling.

And I guess I also wasn’t the only one to appreciate the visit enriching us with views on giant production facilities, unknown insights in the brewing process itself and new flavours to taste.

Howest: Meeting Flanders today – Reflection on own culture (Text 1)

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