Belgian National Day in Beijing

Yes on 21 July

For many years Belgian National Day in Beijing was shifted to 15 November, King’s Day because of the summer holidays. A lunch reception was rather for the diplomats, we attended the evening reception along with some 120 Belgians and friends. The weather was threatening the fun, the embassy put a big tent on the patio, good idea as it rained the whole day till late afternoon. It was all in the residence, next to the new embassy that is nearing completion.

It was also the farewell of Ambassador Dr. Jan Hoogmartens and other staff of the embassy. We will all miss them, they were our support during the depressing COVID years.
The new ambassador is said to arrive in Beijing very soon.

Good food, beer and more

We were treated with great Belgian goodies, Belgian fries, Brussels waffles, delicious buffet by Morel’s Restaurant and lots of Belgian beers.
The mystery machine in pic 07 is an authentic Brussels waffle machine.
The ambassador opened the Methuselah Chimay bottle, yes 6 liters! I gave it a try (of course). Happy to discover two new beers for my collection, see pic 13.

Learn more about Belgium

Check this interesting article: “30 things I’ve learned about Belgium in 30 years.
The Brussels Times 1 June 2023


Yantai International Conference

Big turnout

As reported earlier, I joined the 2023 Conference on International Exchange of Professionals and International Experts’ Tour in Yantai. On 18 April 2023 I was present in the Yantai International Conference to listen to the speeches of the Yantai mayor and vice mayors, among others. Yantai as many other Chinese cities is eager to attract more foreign expertise.
During the morning coffee break a pretty impressive buffet table by the hotel, sadly most of the goodies I had to skip because too much sweet and carbs. Instead I tried to talk with the robot but it did not understand Flemish.
There was a big lunch for the participants, again lots of seafood and interesting dishes. And an interview by local media. (What’s new?)

In the afternoon I gave my short speech on the theme of foreign experts.

Free time

On 19 April we had time to relax. And the fog cleared and we could see the sea and the beach from the hotel.
We walked towards the beach, discovering the very large cemetery along the way, hidden in a forest. The area was littered with rubbish as a few weeks ago on 5 April 2023 there was the Tomb-sweeping Festival (Qingming) () when relatives decorate the tombs. But they can no longer burn the offerings so the wind blows it all over the place. Not sure how the deceased feel about it…

The beach was nearly deserted but very large and quite OK.
On the way back, in front of the hotel. we discovered a small Chinese BBQ place that was fully packed. We got a seat in the basement. Surprisingly they had a large beer collection and I had a (Belgian) Kasteel beer with the plate of goose. pretty tasty.
In my next post I will report on the factories we visited, an eye-opening experience.

Stories of Grimbergen and Bayard

When Grimbergen restarted

A look at less known stories of Grimbergen and Bayard beers.

Grimbergen has a remarkable past. After more than 200 years the abbey has started again in 2019 brewing beer since it was ransacked by the French in 1795. The brewers have reviewed 12th-century books detailing the original monks’ brewing methods.
The discovery of books detailing the original monks’ brewing methods has become a source of inspiration for the new microbrewery. The recipes were saved before the monastery was set alight in the 18th century — a group of quick-thinking fathers secretly removed the books from inside a library wall and put them into safe keeping.
“We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them,” explained Father Stautemas. “It was all in old Latin and old Dutch. So the monks brought in volunteers.  They spent hours leafing through the books and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago.Grimbergen’s monks will follow the rules of Belgium’s Trappist beer makers, even if they are not a Trappist order, requiring them to brew within the abbey walls, control the brewing and steer profits toward maintaining the abbey and supporting charitable causes.
The abbey was founded in 1128 and has been tied to commercial brewers since the 1950s when local brewer Maes asked the monks to use the Grimbergen name and emblem on its “abbey beer”.

Here the full story dated 22 May 2019: “Grimbergen monks are brewing beer again — and at 10.8pc ABV”.

You will find their beer in my beer bottles collection.

My Grimbergen

So is Grimbergen a Trappist beer? Not officially, it is still an “abbey beer” according to the International Trappist Association recognized breweries.

The story of Bayard beer

My father was a specialist in repairing flooded cellars and his job got him some unique beer glasses. One I have and cherish is the beautiful real crystal glass of Bayard.

After some digging I found quite a lot of information about my mysterious beer glass.
The Brewery Bayard was a brewery in Dendermonde (Flanders) and operated between 1923 and 1955. In 2000 I got the details from Sofie De Veirman, Coordinator of “Erfgoedcel Land van Dendermonde”, with their former website (, now closed and taken over by this new website “Dijk92 is jouw regionaal cultuur- en erfgoedplatform”.

I managed to find the new links to the publication BIER VAN HIER – by André Delcart (PDF 120 pages), You can download the full publication here Bier-Van-Hier

See the pictures above and also the introduction in Dutch below.
BIER VAN HIER: 300 jaar brouwerijen in het Land van Dendermonde
Een geschiedenis in een notendop
 “Op 1 december 2017 verscheen het boek ‘Bier van hier. 300 jaar brouwerijen in het Land van Dendermonde’. De erfgoedcel werkte hiervoor samen met lokale erfgoedverenigingen, privéverzamelaars en André Delcart, specialist in voeding en streekproducten.”

Other links with much less information::
“De Brouwerij Bayard nv is een voormalige brouwerij in het Belgische Dendermonde en was actief tussen 1923 en 1955.”
Brouwerij Bayard was een bierbrouwerij uit Dendermonde (België).

Types of Belgian beers

How to find your way

Many types of Belgian beers exists such as Trappist, Abbey Beers, Witbier, Lambic, Geuze, and fruited beers and more. In this post an exhaustive introduction to the different beers. A short ABC!

When trying different Belgian beers, don’t forget to use the right glass, every beer has its own glass! Santé!
Below: from several sources. See here one, the original French version: “Le petit guide des grandes bières!”, 8 mars 2019.
And also: Belgian Beer Styles


Trappist is undoubtedly the best known and most famous high fermentation beer in Belgium and is made by five Trappist breweries: Westmalle, Westvleteren, Chimay, Orval and Rochefort. Globally there are only 11 recognized Trappist breweries. Achel used to be the sixth Trappist beer of Belgium until it lost its official status in 2021 after the last monks left the abbey. The quality of the beer hasn’t changed though!
To be considered and certified as a Trappist brewery, brewing must occur in or near an active monastery belonging to the Cistercian order (a certain Catholic order of monks and nuns). Brewing must be done by, or under the supervision of, the community of monks, and the revenues have to be used to support the abbey or fund charitable works. Additionally, all recognized Trappist beers carry the ‘Authentic Trappist Product’ logo on the bottle, which means the beer was brewed in a Cistercian abbey.
Other than the unique brewing environment, Trappist beers tend to be high in alcohol % and rich in aromas, and are most commonly found in, “dubbel” or “tripel” varieties. The terms dubbel, trippel, and quadrupel have been used since at least 1956 by the abbey of Westmalle, and although their origin is uncertain, they are often used to designate the strength of the beer, with quadrupel being stronger than trippel, which itself is more potent than dubbel.

From left to right: the ex-Trappist Achel from Belgium, the Belgian Chimay, the Austrian Gregorius, the Dutch La Trappe, and the Belgian Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.

Abbey Beer

The designation “abbey beers” (Bières d’Abbaye or Abdijbier) was originally applied to any monastic or monastic-style beer. After introducing an official Trappist beer designation by the International Trappist Association in 1997, it meant products similar in style or presentation to monastic beers.  In other words, Abbey beers are similar to Trappist beers, but can be produced by non-Trappist monasteries –  such as Benedictine or other orders, can be made by a commercial brewery in partnership with an extant monastery, or be branded with the name of a defunct abbey by a commercial brewer.
Conditions still apply to be called an “Abbey beer” in Belgium: the brewery has to have a demonstrable, historical connection to the Abbey it takes its name from. Conditions are less strict than for Trappist beers though, so you can say that every Trappist is an Abbey beer, but not every Abbey beer is a Trappist!


‘Witbier’ (wheat or white beer) is a kind of unfermented beer that has gained a lot of popularity worldwide lately. Using a significant proportion of wheat to barley (higher than in most other beers), as well as adding herbs such as coriander and orange zest, give witbiers a pleasant fresh aroma and crisp taste.
The town of Hoegaarden is inseparably connected with witbier, which has been brewed here since human records began. The first written sources that link this sour, cloudy brew to the town of Hoegaarden date from 1318.
As an unfiltered beer, it will also re-ferment in the bottle, and when served in a glass, has a cloudy appearance, due to the heavy concentration of suspended yeast and wheat proteins, which give it a mild and slightly sour taste. With similar alcohol % as a pils, witbier is a refreshing and satisfying drink for any occasion.

Lambic, Geuze, and Fruited Beers

Lambics are another Belgian classic made from spontaneous fermentation. This means that instead of adding yeast to the hops and barley to start the fermentation process, fermentation is started by natural bacteria in the air, which is only possible in certain places. The bacteria responsible for this fermentation are uniquely tied to location, one of the bacteria used in this process is even called Brettanomyces bruxellensis, as it’s typically found and produced in and around Brussels.
Not only due to location, but also the complexity and mystery of the process, Lambic beers are only produced by just a handful of companies. The product’s scarcity is necessitated by a time-consuming method of production that few fully understand and can require several years between kettle and shelf.
The name “lambic” covers a bit more than just a single type of beer. It’s more commonly used to refer to all of the beer styles made from a spontaneously fermented lambic base. This includes not just that simple “lambic,” also known as unblended lambic, but also Gueuze, a blend of a young and mature lambic beer, and fruited lambic variants where the fruit is jammed right into the barrel, kickstarting fermentation that eats up all of the fruit’s sugars leaving a fruity, richly colored beer.
Read “A Brief History of Lambic in Belgium”, one of the many articles talking about this special beer.
And also: Cantillon, Brasserie et Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze.

Flanders Red / Flanders Brown

Flanders red beer are indigenous to the northern half of Belgium and are available in two varieties: red and brown (AKA oud bruin).
Despite their Belgian origin, Flanders red ales likely inspired the tart blended porters that once dominated the English beer market. Eugene Rodenbach, credited with the style’s inception, brought knowledge of porter blending techniques back to Belgium after a stint studying brewing in England.
Flanders brown ales are similar beers but tend to be a bit maltier. Fruit flavors trend toward plums, figs, and dates more so than red berries, and there tends to be a bit less vinegar-like sourness.

The different families of beers

The Triple: The Triple is a stronger blond beer than its little sisters, the Single and the Double. “Triple” is one of the denominations of abbey beers. It is called Triple because of the three stages of fermentation it goes through: a primary, a secondary and a third directly in the bottle.
Ex: Chimay, Kasteel, Westmalle, Chouffe, Karmeliet

The IPA: IPA (Indian Pale Ale) is a beer from the United Kingdom originally intended for English troops in India in the 18th century. It is a beer with a fairly high alcohol content and lots of hops.
Ex: Tennent’s IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Hitachino Nest Dai Dai IPA, La Chouffe IPA

The Pale Ale: Pale Ale beers are quite different from their IPA cousins. They come from different countries and are made from a malt called “Pale”, they are amber and rather red beers. They are made using ancient roasting techniques from England.
Ex: Delirium Tremens (Belgian Pale Ale), Sierra Nevada PA

The Lager: Lager is a low fermentation beer. It can be blond, amber or brown. It is a beer of German origin dating from the 15th century.
Ex: Hitachino Nest Lager, Tennent’s 1885 Lager, Heineken, Tsingtao

Stout: Stout is a beer with a high content of roasted beans. It has a smoky or even grilled taste (which can be similar to that of coffee) and a very dark color. We find the origins of Stout in Ireland and more widely in the United Kingdom.
Ex: Tennent’s Stout, Guinness

Promotion of Belgian Beer in China

Our diplomats at work

Promotion of Belgian Beer in China is of course often by the beer companies but the Belgian embassy and its partners actively promote the different brands. As per a near general rule, events at the embassy (or consulates) have Belgian beers for the guests, through sponsorship.
An example: “International Beer Day” by WalloniaAndChina, see the original article in French. Here the translated version.

7 August 2020, was International Beer Day, a special day for Belgium, which is the world’s leading exporter, ahead of Germany and the Netherlands. Belgian beer is known for its many varieties and for its superior quality. In 2016, Belgian beer was listed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
The brewing sector makes a major contribution to the Belgian economy. It directly and indirectly employs more than 50,000 people. There are now more than 260 breweries in Belgium, for a total production of more than 20 million hectoliters per year. 30% of Belgian production is intended for own use while 70% is intended for export. Domestic market consumption in 2018 was more than 7 million hectoliters.

Belgium is particularly known for its Trappist beers. A Trappist beer is a beer brewed in a Cistercian abbey, under the supervision of Trappist monks. Beer must be produced with a view to social and charitable solidarity. Of the twelve producing Trappist abbeys in the world, six are in Belgium, and three in Wallonia: Chimay, Rochefort and Orval.
Since 2017, a 290-kilometer hiking trail has linked these three abbeys, to the delight of sports enthusiasts and beer lovers.

The best known Trappist in China is probably Chimay. It is produced at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont, and comes in four versions: amber (red capsule, 7%), triple (white capsule, 8%), brown (blue capsule, 9%) or golden (capsule golden, 4.8%). The abbey was built during the second half of the 19th century and currently has 13 monks aged 45 to 99. Its dean, Father Bernard de Give, died in January 2020 at the age of nearly 107.

In Rochefort, the monks of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy abbey brew three types of beer: “6” (red capsule, 7.5%), “8” (green capsule, 9.2%) and the “10” (blue capsule, 11.3%). The discrepancy between the figure attributed to beer and the percentage of alcohol is explained by the use of an old unit of measurement of alcohol, the “Belgian” degree. The Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy abbey was erected in 1230 and the brewery has been operational since 1889.

The mythical Orval is tasted in the province of Luxembourg and has a content of 6.2%. The Notre-Dame d’Orval abbey was founded in the 11th century in the middle of the great Ardennes forest.

Beer Big Bang

On 16 October 2020 our Belgian ambassador Jan Hoogmartens presided the opening of the Belgian beer stand in SOHO Sanlitun in Beijing.

A number of Belgian beers were promoted, such as Lindemans, Hoegaarden, Delirium, Rochefort, Kasteel and others.