On a stunningly bright sunny Saturday morning my wife and I made our way via the Eurostar to Kortrijk (tip, travel via Lille, it’s quicker) 26 miles south west from Ghent. The largest city in south west Flanders Kortrijk has plenty of sites to occupy you for a day.
The medieval Grote Markt with its belfry, the Beguinage (listed as a world heritage site) and the amazing fortified Broeltorens. There is also the Kortrijk 1302 multimedia museum and Texture, the city’s textile museum. There are also a number of breweries in and around the outskirts of the city and walking along the beautiful River Leie I spied Brouwerij Ruimtegist on the opposite bank. However, we weren’t here for historical culture….
On the weekend of 7th and 8th October, Brouwerij ‘t Verzet hosted the first Oud Bruin Fest, a two day celebration of everything Roodbruin, Flemish Red and Oud Bruin. Thirty three brewers from Flanders, Brussels, Hungary, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Denmark and Scotland showcased an amazing range of mixed fermentation, barrel-aged and wild ales.
Street food to soak up the tasty beers was provided by ROK and Potatolicious and a sound system cranked out anything from old school punk to krautrock, psychobilly and more. The bottle shop featured extremely affordable bottles of everyone’s beer with the obvious highlight the 2022 version of Oud Bruin Megablend.
What really made the festival memorable for me was the people that it attracted. Bumping into old friends and colleagues all coming along for the same ride. Folks not only from Belgium but all over the world drawn to savour the tart, malty nuances of various interpretations of this oft-forlorn beer style. Standout modern versions of this ‘oud’ classic were savoured from Antidoot, La Source, De Ranke, SOSAB, Toye, Dok and Alvinne.
Then you had pure class in the heritage example from the likes of Cnudde, De la Senne, Beer Project, Vandewalle, l’Ermitage and Bourgogne des Flandres. And if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite out poured super wild beers from Rolling Hills, Holy Goat, Loverbeer, Tanker and Brekeriet. So if you are expecting only BJCP style-specific beers, be prepared to open your mind to the creativity on show.
Both days featured sets of masterclasses with Friday including Luc from De Leite, Glenn from Alvinne and Rudi from Rodenbach. On Saturday I enjoyed Chris’ presentation from Vandewalle and we also had Valter from Loverbeer and Johnny from Holy Goat. Chris Vandewalle, archivist for the city of Diksmuide gave a presentation of Oud Bruin within the Westhoek of West Flanders and particularly highlighted the role that his family played in this.
Chris was also showcasing his wonderful beers from Seizonbrouwerij Vandewalle. He gave me a copy of his book ‘Oud Bruin – De bierlink tussen de verleden en toekomst in Reninge’ (the beer link between the past and future of Reninge, where is brewery is based). It was a surprise for me to learn that the style was being produced throughout the region with even a brewery situated on the dunes of the Belgian coast.
Eventually I had to admit that as much as I love this beer style and was still keen to taste more beers it was time to head back into the city for some food and retire for the evening. Kortrijk has plenty of great food options offering up numerous different cuisines. But after a long day enjoying Oud Bruin it just had to be a steak with frites, as classic a Belgian dish as you will find.
So Oud Bruin Fest will be back again in 2024. Be sure to keep an eye on the Brouwerij t’Verzet homepage and socials as I thoroughly recommend this friendly and exclusive beer festival. I’ll definitely be there. Cheers!
Photos credits: Caitlin Mackesy Davies and Ahmed ElAmin