UGent and Sinterklaas events


In two days our Belgian embassy hosted UGent and Sinterklaas events.
On 1 December 2023 we had the reception of CPAF 2023, the Closing Ceremony to celebrate the 3rd China Partners Academic Forum by Ghent University in the Residence of Belgian Ambassador.
Moderator was Chi Zhang, Representative of Ghent University.

H.E. Mr. Bruno Angelet, Ambassador of Belgium gave the Opening Speech.
Other speeches by Mr. Baoyi Yu, Representative of Beijing Alumni Chapter and by executive members of Beijing Alumni Chapter,  Mr. Gilbert Van Kerckhove (that’s me),  Prof. Jun Zhang (Tsinghua University) and Prof. Mingmei Yu (University of Chinese Academy of Social sciences).
After the group picture there was networking with walking dinner and Belgian beer. Catering was by a specialized Chinese company, nicely done.
I had to leave a bit early as I was expected at the German Christmas Charity Bazaar…


On the afternoon of 2 December Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and his helpers visited the residence of the Belgian ambassador to meet with many Belgian children. Sinterklaas called one by one the children to comment on their recent behavior and give a present. None of the children was hurt. For privacy reasons no closeups of the children.

Snacks provided by Morel’s Restaurant, drinks by the embassy and Morel’s, sweets by the embassy.
I was on duty to serve the drinks (as usual).
See here the official article by the embassy: A Joyful Weekend with Saint-Nicholas.

Cuberdons – neuzekes

One of the sweets provide by the embassy were the famous cuberdons from Ghent.
A cuberdon is a cone-shaped Belgian candy and a popular local delicacy in Ghent. In Dutch it is also known as a neus (“nose”), Gentse neus (“Ghent nose”), or neuzeke (“little nose”) for its likeness to a human nose. In French, cuberdons are also called chapeau-de-curé and chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat).

Cuberdons are traditionally made with gum arabic candy crust with a soft, raspberry-flavored filling. Their color is mostly purple.
The outside is relatively hard, whereas the inside is gelatinous.
There are two hypotheses about its origins:

  1. A clergy member living in the city of Bruges created it — which might explain other names in use for the cuberdon such as “cleric’s cap” (bonnet de curé) and “young nun’s belly-button”
  2. In 1873, pharmacist De Vynck in the city of Ghent discovered the recipe of the cuberdon by chance. In order to increase the shelf life of drugs at the time, many were packaged in the form of syrup. When the pharmacist examined a failed preparation after a few days, he found that it had formed a crust, while the core was still liquid. From this discovery came the idea to use such a technique to manufacture candy.

Source: Wikipedia

Other post about the Cuberdon of Gentse neus, see here.
While the origin 2 above seems to be the overall winner, TEMMERMAN, a household name since 1904 has a different view of the shape.
Temmerman has a rich tradition spanning over a century. The first store in Ghent opened in 1904 and since then, has become known as the grandmother of sweet shops. Today, the fifth Temmerman generation continues the legacy with a passion for confectionery, gingerbread, chocolate, and tea.
Their cuberdons have a different shape, with a face. They claim it is the “original cuberdon shape”. But generally the shape is said to be cone-shaped.
Other sweet shop I had the chance to taste is Geldhof. They simply claim “De énige échte neuzekes –  Sinds 1954 – Onbetwiste marktleider – Vlaams streekproduct”.
Never mind the sweet polemic, let’s simply enjoy!

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing

A full house

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing was celebrated on 17 November 2023. the official date is actually 15 November.
It was full house with over 400 guests. For the first time part of the new embassy was used. See further.
Always a great opportunity to meet Belgian and other friends. In my case, meeting Peter Ritzen, Jim Nobles, the team of (Belgian) Dewit Lawyers Office and many more.
Our host, the Belgian ambassador, was joined by the EU ambassador in China and Chinese VIP. The embassy did a great job.
Also the opportunity to showcase some of our Belgian products, of course beers, waffles, Belgian fries.

Food was done by chef Renaat Morel of Morel’s Restaurant. Corinne and Hongjie serving drinks. Yes I enjoyed my plate of the delicious food!
We were lucky with the weather, it was chilly outside but still pretty nice.
See here the report by the embassy.

The new embassy

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing also gave us a glimpse of the new embassy. I had mentioned the project in an earlier post.
See again the link to the architect and to the embassy project. Do not use VPN…

The Embassy and Consulate General will be closed and the consular services will be temporarily suspended from 11 until 15 December included, due to the move into the new premises. We are advised to apply for documents one might need (e.g. passports, eID, …) on time and preferably before 8 December to avoid problems during the Christmas holidays.
I hope (not really) the new embassy will be more “visitor friendly”. I miss the old embassy of the time when we had direct contact with the staff. Now, forget it. I have NEVER been invited into the temporary embassy, just into the lobby. Sadly times have changed, everywhere. Also in Belgium public services, banks and other have become very remote from the public.

Promoting Belgian beers

Our embassy is a key promotor

Promoting Belgian beers in Beijing happens in many ways but the Belgian embassy has been on the forefront many times.
Delegates from the embassy often officially join commercial promotion events, see earlier post.
Biggest fun for me are the official events at the embassy in Beijing where several distributors join as sponsors and promoters.

Some recent events were National Day on 21 July 2023 and King’s Day on 17 November 2023.
I always find some beers I have never seen and are not yet in my list.

Other promotions

Heaven Supermarket often runs videos promoting Hoegaarden on its outdoor video screen.

Georgia Feast, a well-known and great restaurant, recently had a promotion of Grimbergen.
Sometimes a new venue organizes a Belgian Beer Launch, such as Mystic Alley.
I also collected beer glasses (Corsendonk and KVB) as well special promotion items from Hoegaarden.

Top beer exporters

Dutch ahead in Europe

In 2021, the top Beer exporters were Mexico ($5.49B), Netherlands ($2.11B), Belgium ($1.98B), Germany ($1.38B), and United Kingdom ($513M).
According to figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Netherlands is still Europe’s biggest exporter of beer, and globally is second only to Mexico.
In 2020, Dutch breweries exported more than two billion euros worth of (non-alcoholic) beer. According to CBS, Heineken is, unsurprisingly, the largest exporter.

In Europe, Belgium comes in a close second; while the Netherlands has been the largest European exporter since 2000, Belgium is quickly closing the gap between the two countries. The Dutch neighbor exported 1,8 billion euros worth of (non-alcoholic) beer last year, climbing ahead of Germany and France who occupy third and fourth place respectively.

Top beer exporters, other source

Below are the countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of beer during 2020.

  •     Mexico: US$4.3 billion (28.4% of total beer exports)
  •     Netherlands: $2.1 billion (14.1%)
  •     Belgium: $2 billion (13.3%)
  •     Germany: $1.3 billion (8.4%)
  •     United States: $645.6 million (4.3%)
  •     United Kingdom: $525.5 million (3.5%)
  •     France: $386.4 million (2.6%)
  •     Czech Republic: $297 million (2%)

Source: Beer exports by Country

Belgian beer for everyone

Abbey beers, Trappists, doubles, triples, brown, blonde, or white Belgian beers are known worldwide for their variety. We estimate there are around 3000 different beers in our country spread out over more than 200 breweries. With so much variety, there’s bound to be a type of beer for everyone, whether you like sour, bitter, or sweet. If a traditional blonde “pilsner” doesn’t do it for you, check out which unique beers Belgium makes, maybe there will be one for you!

International Beer Day – 4 August 2023

Or Journée Internationale de la bière – Internationale dag van het bier.
Belgian beer is an excellent cultural export for Belgium and plays an essential role in our economy. Every year, Belgium exports over 6 billion pints! What’s more, our country brews at least 1,500 different beers in over 400 breweries. Internationally, we’re best known for the excellent flavor of our beer. In short, we can be proud of our Belgian beer!Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Belgium


Belgian beers in Beijing

More discoveries

My list of Belgian beers in Beijing that I bought and tasted is growing.
See here some of the new ones in the list:

This now the latest list: Beer bottles.pdf
See also: Belgian beer

Bob’s Wine shop

The small shop on Xindong lu has several Belgian beers. In summer it’s nice to sit outside.

There I did make some new discoveries.

Other interesting locations to find Belgian beers

Actually you can find Belgian beers in many bars and restaurants.
Here some.

I found the Bloembier in a Japanese restaurant on Xindong lu, very near the Greek Freak that also has a few different Belgian beers.
Then we have the famous “Heaven Supermarket”: a vast underground beer, disco and music hall under Shimao Gongsan (corner Gongti bei lu and Xindong lu). There are vast fridges where you find an enormous variety of beers and alcohol. Self-service, pay at the checkout and take to a table. Life bands and disco in separate sections.

Comparing Sint-Bernardus and Westvleteren

I had received several Westvleteren bottles from a Belgian diplomat leaving, the ones without a sticker.
A few days later we did a tasting in Morel’s Restaurant to compare it with a St. Bernardus Abt 12, that we feel is the closest in taste.

Later on I bought online in Beijing the 3 different Westvleteren beers for a bit less than 50 euro.
Westvleteren and Sint-Bernardus are said to be the same but there are some differences. The water used is different and that has an influence. For Westvleteren the monks use a Westmalle yeast while for Sint-Bernardus they use the old Westvleteren yeast. This according to this source.
Other articles such as this one still tell another brewing story: