Zythos Festival A Great Day Out - Belgian Beer Experience
 
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Buffalo oak-aged dark ale
I went to the Zythos beer festival last weekend and to say it exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. I had heard the Zythos beer festival described in almost mythical terms in the past. It was always held in St. Niklaas, a small Flemish town roughly between Antwerp and Ghent. But due to its popularity, the festival was moved for 2012 to well outside Leuven at Brabanthal, a less desirable destination and the cause for my skepticism.

Brabanthal could hardly be described as charming. It's a large, gray convention-type hall adorned in drab metal siding. It looks like the type of structure you'd find at the airport. Plus, it's not truly in Leuven. It's closer to Heverlee, a good ten minute drive/bus from Leuven. I envisaged long queues at the beer taps and the shuttles to Leuven, or too many drunks taking the chance to drive.

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Malheur's new black tripel, Novice
But the organizers were well aware of these shortcomings when they planed the event and the few cars in the parking lot were those of the event staff (I'm guessing). The organizers arranged free, frequent (every 15 minutes) shuttles from Leuven station (accessible by bus and train from Brussels) that worked great. Plus entrance was free and the space was big enough to accommodate the larger crowds that were on hand later in the afternoons into the evening on both nights. They sold 15cl tasting glasses and booklets listing all beers by category with their characteristics, and room for you to enter your own tasting notes. Food was unspectacular but hell - we're here for the beer. And they had frites, so what more can you want?

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What about the beer?
According to organizers, there were 490 beers from over 100 brewers. Mostly from Flanders with a couple from Wallonia and Brussels to satisfy any rogue Francophones. One of the best things about these types of festivals is that you can try things you don't find every day, including new releases like Malheur's black tripel, Novice (a novelty with little finish; slight Rodenbach aftertaste); specials like the Duvel Tripel Hop (good overall but a strange mix of hops up front with that signature Duvel taste underneath); rarities such as oak-aged tripels (can't locate my tasting notes on those - D'oh!); and stuff that is outside of your comfort zone. For me, the latter category refers to lambics and gueuzes, the uniquely Belgian openly fermented beers lacking carbonation. And despite my buddy Andreas's best efforts, I'm still not a huge fan of them. They taste a tad too sour to me but I'll give them another try.

Overall, a big thumbs up for Zythos 2012. I hope to update more of my tasting notes soon...

8/19/2013 11:21:17

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