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Giving Malta a taste of Brussels Micro-Breweries

24 June 2017

Posted in All, General, New Beers, Tastings and Pairing Events

As published on the Times of Malta, 24 April 2016 – https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160424/food-drink/Giving-Malta-a-taste-of-Brussels-microbreweries.609959

Ramona Depares

It’s a midweek night and, very uncharacteristically, I am on my fourth glass of beer. Before I shock you too badly, I should add that these are taster glasses and that the beer in question is rather special. It is, in fact, the Brewhaus Beer, a collection of beers that are now being imported directly from Brussels microbeweries by three friends.

Seated right next to me is Matthew Buttigieg, one of said friends, who confesses with a laugh that it was a shared love for the uniqueness of Brussels breweries that led the trio to take a gamble by bringing these beers over to Malta.

“All three of us worked in Brussels and one of my best memories from living there is meeting up for a good beer session. Of course, the beer culture in Brussels is different from here. It’s all about trying different varieties, about experimenting with the small and artesan breweries, about comparing beers with friends… beer forms a huge part of social life in Brussels and when two of us relocated to Malta, we really missed the ritual,” Matthew says with a smile.

They missed it so much, in fact, that they decided to start importing a small selection of beers under the name Brew Haus Beers, from Brussels itself. Not just any beers, of course, but – to quote their Facebook page – “experimental dark ales, wheat beers, IPAs and more”.

And, if this is all Greek to you like it was to me, never worry. Matthew is eager to share the beer knowledge, especially during events such as the one I was attending. The event saw Brew Haus’s beers being paired with a selection of Badass Burgers, accompanied by fun trivia. An excellent way of socialising, which Matthew hopes will catch on in Malta.

Currently, Brew Haus import beers from two breweries – four varieties from the Brussels Beer Project (Delta, Grosse Bertha, Babylone and Dark Sister) and one from the Brasserie de la Senne (Zinnebir).

“Initially, friends warned us against the idea, clamouring that dark beer doesn’t work in Malta and that people tend to stick to the big brands. Happily, it turns out that they were wrong and, slowly, the Brew Haus selection is growing in fame.”

Enter the Grosse Bertha, the Dark Sister, the Babylone and the Delta – all from the Brussels Beer Project – and which I’m tasting. There’s talk of IBU, ALC and EBC, which I’m told refers to bitterness, alcoholic content and colour depth respectively.

“The Babylone, for example, has an IBU of 65, which is quite high. This means it appeals to those who prefer bitter beers. The Grosse Bertha, on the other hand, has an IBU of 20. So you probably will prefer that,” Matthew tells me.

And Matthew is right. The Grosse Bertha turns out to be my favourite of the selection for the night.

Of course, importing Belgian micro brews is not exactly a straightforward matter. For starters, most small breweries are not geared for import and export. The small team is typically working hands-on in the brewery, as opposed to sealing business opportunities on e-mail.

“The fact that one of us is still based in Brussels did help,” Matthew says. “Being on site and speaking directly to the brewers makes a whole difference. Our business partner is also a regular at the so-called Tap Rooms, where microbreweries offer their beer straight on draught. The fact that he’s a familiar face makes it so much easier.”

This also helps the Brew Haus lads keep on top of the new brews, particularly given that microbreweries experiment continuously and rarely keep the same ‘menu’ of beers for too long a time.

“An old favourite may make a re-appearance every so often, but the list is continuously changing. In Brussels it’s very much a ‘let’s see what’s new’ mentality. People like to find diversity on their beer menu, they like to discuss brews and compare, so it’s very much an ever-changing landscape,” Matthew says.

And, although the local culture is slow to change, given the response that Brew Haus beers are generating it does appear as though things are indeed changing. Matthew says that he has definitely seen a shift in trend when it comes to beer drinking, particularly among the younger generation.

“The new generation of beer drinkers no longer sticks to the big brands, or that one brand that they wouldn’t dream of changing. The trend is actually going in the opposite direction – it’s all about choice, now,” he adds.

Brew Haus beers are available at selected bars, restaurants and supermarkets and on www.brewhaus.com.mt. The next Brew Haus event takes place on May 5 at The Villa, St Julian’s, where guests will be treated to a craft beer and barbecue food pairing event. More information is available on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/brewhausmalta.

As published on the Times of Malta, 24 April 2016 – https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160424/food-drink/Giving-Malta-a-taste-of-Brussels-microbreweries.609959

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