Every first weekend of September, the Belgian Beer Weekend beer festival is held within the Grand Place of Brussels. On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday large and small brewers present their beers for tasting in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable. Expect new release beers, street food, music and much more. The festival opens its doors to the public at 6pm on Friday but a more significant celebration takes place earlier in the day.
The Feast of St Arnoldus is celebrated each year on 14th August. A special celebration is organised by the Belgian Brewers at the beginning of September at the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula when the Ridderschap van de Roerstok (Knights of the Brewers’ Paddle) proceed through Brussels from the Brouwershuis to the Cathedral behind a cask of beer. The beer is then blessed with Abbot Erik de Sutter from Abdij Grimbergen and Pere Bernard Lorent from Abbaye de Maredsous conducting the ceremony. Hymns accompany the ceremony by the Sine Nomine choir with the Limburgs Trompetkwartet providing musical accompaniment. Homage is given to those members of Belgian Brewers who have passed away over the twelve months.
At the end of the ceremony the beer is processed out of the Cathedral and to the Town Hall on the Grand Place. Speeches are presented during an academic session, drawing attention to the current situation with the Belgian brewing industry and we enjoyed some interesting debate on how politicians would be able to assist in developing the industry and some discussion around current trends with the emergence of no and lo alcohol beers debated at length. During the session there was also an enthronement ceremony of the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle when two new honorary members were inducted.
The Knights of the Brewers’ Paddle is the direct descendant of the secular Guild of Brewers. It is now perpetuating the traditions and nobility of the brewer’s trade as developed over the centuries. Faithful to their traditions, Belgian brewers organise a series of festivities every year (in February or March) to pay tribute to Gambrinus, the “King of Beer”. The memory of the patron saint of brewers, Saint Arnold, is revered in September, during the Beer Weekend staged every year on the Brussels Grand’ Place.
During these events the new Knights by rights and honorary knights are “enthroned”. Honorary Knights are individuals who have rendered loyal services to the brewing profession. The knights by rights are active members of the Brotherhood who, owing to their profession, birth or alliance, are closely related to the brewing industry. The Knights by rights form the General Assembly, which elects the Grand Council. The new Knights are inducted or “enthroned” during a ceremony specific to the Knighthood.
The public opening of the festival is preceded by the solemn inauguration of the beer stands on the Grand Place by the brewers, the Grand Master of the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle, the Mayor, the aldermen of Brussels and the invited guests. These two hours offer a perfect opportunity for guests to mingle with old friends and also make new contacts. Saturday sees a procession of historical brewing carts and beer wagons through the streets of Brussels to the Grand Place. There is also another enthronement ceremony of the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle in the morning before the festival opens its doors again. Sunday sees another parade through the city before the festival opens for the last time.
In addition to the festival many other events take place across the weekend, tap takeovers are scheduled in various bars throughout Brussels along with special open days at breweries within the city and its environs. Quite simply this is a wonderful weekend celebrating of the world of beer.
Photo credits Markus Raupach, Lais Van Gistel
BEER SOMMELIER KEW