16 March, 2010

Pre-ZBF 2010 Edition

The Pre-ZBF festival 2010 edition could not get here soon enough.....and now it is sadly over and I am already looking forward to 2011. Now I just have to figure out how to get back to Belgium next year...

This is a wonderful festival that is put on by the great folks at Picobrouwerij Alvinne (Glenn, Davy and several others) in Heule, Belgium. Pre-ZBF is held a day or so before the much larger and more mundane Zythos Beer Festival that is held each year around the first weekend of March. Pre-ZBF is in my mind the festival of the year in Belgium as it is much smaller that the big boys but pound for pound the quality of the brewers and the beers served is second to none.

Paula and I took in our first Pre-ZBF in 2009 when it was held at the Alvinne brewery which is housed in a sort of farm house in a residential neighborhood and is very charming. The 2009 fest was packing with fellow beer geeks from all over the world and certainly packed with fantastic and rare beers.

Although I thought it would be hard to top the quality of 2009, the 2010 did indeed top the prior year. Firstly, the festival was moved to a larger location just outside of Brugge, Kasteel der Lakebusschen. We had to get transportation out to the kasteel from our hotel in Brugge but Glenn and Davy at Alvinne helped to arrange all of that so things ran smoothly on that front.

The actual Pre-ZBF festival was held on a Friday from 10am to 8pm. This part of the festival was open to the public so you could have ordered a ticket ahead of time or just showed up that day and got in for a reasonable entrance fee which included a tasting glass and some tokens. As with most beer fests in Belgium, you typically pay a small upfront fee and then each beer sample costs you a token or more and each token usually has a value of €1 or €1.50.

For a lucky few (about 50 or so which included Paula, my cousin Keith and myself) there was also a special beer and whisky night on Thursday. This included a meet and greet tasting which each brewer for about 2 hours where we were allowed to sample one special beer from each brewer but it ended up being that we were able to sample several different beers from each brewer...and all this before dinner! Dinner was served inside the castle in a fantastic space that is hard to describe but the setting was perfect for the damn fine food that was cooked up by Glenn from Alvinne and paired with 5/6 beers and whiskys.

During dinner we were lucky enough to sit at a table with some fellow beer lovers from the U.S. so the conversation was flowing all night. Sometime during the dinner we were suprised when Glenn from Alvinne annouced that there was a person in the crowd that could not drink because she was pregnant ant that just happened to be Paula. Glenn was so kind to present Paula with a nice set of baby bibs. It was a wonderful gesture from a wonderful friend, something we will always remember. In addition to the gift for our baby, Glenn also presented my cousin Keith and I with a huge 1.5 litre bottle of a new Alvinne creation, Cuvee de Freddy, as a sort of congrats on the baby present for me and a congrats on getting married for Keith! Now I just have to figure out how to transport the big bottle home to Paoli.....

After a wonderful night at the beer and whisky tasting...we were back to our hotel in Brugge and after a few drinks out in the city at the Bruge Beertje for Keith and I, it was off to bed to get ready for an early rise for the actual Pre-ZBF fest on Friday.

The brewery listed was expanded in 2010 to include Alvinne, Struise, De Molen (all of which were there in 2009) and there were the additions of Brewdog, Thornbridge and Urthel which were much appreciated.

The listing of beers was expanded to something outrageous like 70 beers, several of them collaberations between the various brewers, several of them draft only and only for the festival and every beer I tried was a winner and worth the few tokens they cost.

I could not say enough about the quality of Pre-ZBF and about how much I will miss it if we are not able to make it in 2011 since we will be living back in the U.S. by then. If we don't get back next year or for several years...at least I these pictures to bring back fond memories...

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