WESTLAND – Serious beer lovers know some of the best craft brews in the world come from Belgium, and from Feb. 9-19 at Ashley’s Beer & Grill, 7525 Wayne Rd., they can sample from more than 160 different Belgian ales at the second annual Ashley’s Belgian Beer Festival, one of the largest of its kind.
The event, expanded from five to 11 days this year due to its runaway popularity, includes the first U.S. release of one new Belgian beer, the regional release of three, and the Michigan debut of more than a dozen others; a menu of Belgian-inspired dishes; several ticketed beer dinner events, educational seminars and food pairing sessions; and even a Valentine’s Day Belgian beer-and-chocolate special for lovers.
“This Festival gives our customers a rare opportunity to explore the diversity of all these amazing Belgian beers at one time and in one place, as well as the culture of a unique country,” said Roy More, co-owner of Ashley’s.
“We’ll have up to 44 different Belgian beers on draft at a time – it’s impossible even in Belgium to find a selection anything like this,” added More, noting how on a 2010 research trip he was unable to locate any Belgian restaurant or bar offering more than 20 different beers on tap, with most establishments having just six or fewer.
The growing demand in Michigan – home to one of the largest Belgian expatriate communities – and nationally for microbrew, or craft beer, alternatives to products from large multinational concerns is a key driver for the Festival as well as other such craft beer events. According to Steve Villani, president of the Boston-based Global Beer Network, an importer specializing in Belgian ales, sales of Belgian beers in the Midwest have doubled in the past three years despite overall beer consumption being down.
“The U.S. population is moving away from mass-produced ‘pilsner’ beers and toward higher alcohol, more flavorful ales. Belgian beers represent the highest end of the quality spectrum and are enjoying a surge in popularity as more folks find out about them,” said Villani.
Villani will join several other Belgian beer experts from around the country at the Festival, including Danny Dieussaert, export manager from Brewery Van Eecke, a seventh-generation family brewery in Watou, Belgium, that dates back to 1795 and is the Festival’s 2012 featured brewery.
Van Eecke’s Poppering Dark Hommel Bier is making its national debut at Ashley’s. It is a variation on Poppering Hommel Bier, brewed to showcase the Watou region’s best known agricultural product, hops. The beer is rated 100 out of 100 on popular review site BeerAdvocate.com and described as “World Class.”
More information on Ashley’s and the Belgian Beer Festival can be found at abbf.ashleys.com.