When you think of Taste of Belgium, what comes to mind? In my house, if I ask this question out loud, someone (even if they aren’t in the room) will start shouting for chicken and waffles. Chicken and waffles are two foods that absolutely fuel my household, and when they are brought together by Taste of Belgium, they’ll make you question why you’ve ever had brunch anywhere else.
Even my love for chicken and waffles sits slightly lower than what pops into my mind.
I know that’s not exactly shocking, considering this website. What might be a little shocking, though, is when you remember that while Taste of Belgium has a great craft beer selection, that isn’t what gets them all fired up. It’s Belgian beer. I’m not talking about Belgian-inspired craft beers. I’m talking about beer from Belgium.
For someone who talks a lot about drinking local and spends a LOT of time in our local breweries, you might wonder why that excites me.
Pushing Against Normal
At a time when countries all around them were moving into lager production, trying to make beer clearer, cleaner, and more “refined” – Belgium rebelled. They leaned into styles that made them unique. They embraced their drinking culture from their roots and still do today.
They might even be considered the original craft brewers if you look at it through the right beer glass.
For someone who encourages everyone to “Be Gnarly” – and to try to define what that means for yourselves, it’s hard to think that traditional Belgian beer is anything but Gnarly.
That’s what I think of when I think of Taste of Belgium. When a press release hit my inbox this week, it’s been sticking heavily on my mind, in fact.
Every year, Cincinnati restauranteur Jean-François Flechet (the man behind Taste of Belgium) makes sure that select employees get to journey to Belgium. This trip is obviously a bit of a reward, a bit of thank you, but maybe more importantly, a way to let them experience the culture firsthand.
While in Belgium, the team members are given special tours at the local breweries. The names are certainly ones that you’ll recognize, even if you’re a die-hard local craft drinker: Duvel, Delirium, Chimay, Boon, Val Dieu, Cantillion, and Van Steenberge.
It’s one of the many things that showcase how much Jean-François is dedicated to creating a place that is more than just a culinary joy. The company has grown from a small store at Findlay Market with one person and a waffle iron to eight different restaurants and 700 employees.
For me, though? It’s always about the beer.
The World Agrees
Clearly, I’m not the only one who notices what Taste of Belgium and Jean-François are doing with their beer program. In fact, this week, he was granted the prestigious title of Honorary Knight of the Brewer’s Paddle. A centuries-old association of Belgian Brewers granted him this lifetime achievement honor because of his contributions to the Belgian Brewing world, particularly for promoting Belgian beer’s rich heritage and the culture surrounding it in his restaurants.
Let This Inspire You, Too
I’m taking this as a clear sign that I need to explore Belgian beer this fall. I don’t say that because I’m not familiar with Belgian beer by any stretch. With the onslaught of IPAs, amazing lagers, and plenty of other craft beers, though, it’s easy to get caught up in it all.
Keep your eyes peeled… this is gonna be a fun exploration that you’re going to hopefully want to take with me. Make sure you’re following along with me on Instagram and YouTube – and while you’re at it, make sure you do the same for Taste of Belgium!