News - Brasseurs Belges / Belgian Brewers

News - Brasseurs Belges / Belgian Brewers

Brasseurs Belges / Belgian Brewers



News - Brasseurs Belges / Belgian Brewers


Belgium & UK: Belgian brewers entering the UK market despite Brexit uncertainties  (

The U.K.’s impending departure from the European Union has been blamed for weakening the pound, putting London banking jobs in danger and curtailing economic growth. Now it’s putting at risk a fledgling attempt to bring the complexities of Belgian beer to British drinkers, Bloomberg reported on August 16.

Twenty beer makers from Belgium, which is home to six of the world’s 11 Trappist breweries, descended on London last month to showcase their brands at the inaugural Ales Tales Belgian Beer Festival, where they are seeking to strengthen their foothold in the U.K. market.

About a thousand people lined up to taste the hops and barley concoctions just four months after the U.K. announced its intention to leave the bloc, which precipitated a 5 percent drop in the pound and the longest fall in consumer spending in more than four years. And since negotiations still haven’t started on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, businesses are left guessing what a trade partnership would look like, raising the spectre of new tariffs and questioning the reliability of international supply chains. But some brewers are still willing to take the risk.

“I have no clue about what will happen, but it makes no sense to wait,” said Yvan De Baets, co-owner of Brasserie de la Senne, which was an exhibitor at the festival. “The U.K. and the EU are not that stupid and I’m sure they will negotiate something that both parties will be happy with and exports both ways will still be easy.”

In beer-crazy Belgium, a country of about 11 million people and 1,500 different beers produced by some 224 breweries, craft production has a special status like wine-making in France or the distillation of whiskey in Scotland. UNESCO even added Belgian beer to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. As such, these niche producers in a founding member of the EU may prove a gauge for the post-Brexit appeal of the continental consumer products.

While these producers operate in the shadow of industrial giants Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Duvel Moortgat NV, the challenges they face highlight the economic uncertainties arising from the U.K.’s plan to quit the EU in 2019.

“It may not be the best time to try and start exporting to England, as nobody knows what is going to happen, and the pound is going down making our beers for the British people more and more expensive,” said Jef Van Den Steen, who turned from beer journalism to brewing 15 years ago. “But it will not stop me from trying.”
He is already exporting 80 percent of the 15,000 hectolitres of unfiltered beer he makes at De Glazen Toren in the town of Erpe-Mere, halfway between Brussels and Ghent, mostly to the U.S. and Italy.

“I was a bit scared when I started organizing the festival with a shadow of Brexit and thought brewers would be reluctant, saying ‘let’s wait for two years before we start looking at the U.K.’,” Nicolas Tondeur, the organizer of the Belgian Beer Festival and a banker at BNP Paribas in London, said in an interview. “None of them mentioned it when we met.”

With the fall in sterling, U.K. consumers cut back on spending for a third month in July, with food being among the worst hit, according to a report from IHS Markit and Visa. This comes as the Bank of England downgraded its economic outlook and Governor Mark Carney warned that Brexit uncertainty is weighing on business and households.

Belgium’s 3 billion-euro-a-year ($3.5 billion) beer industry is keeping a close eye on the U.K. market even though it’s only the eighth biggest export destination globally after France, the Netherlands, U.S., Germany, China, Italy and Canada, according to the Belgian Brewers’ Association. Its share of U.K. imports rose to 6.5 percent in 2015 from 4.4 percent in 2010, according to the British Beer & Pub Association.

Earlier this year, the Belgian Brewers Association submitted their views on Brexit to the Belgian Cabinet of Ministers, according to its president Jean-Louis Van de Perre, an InBev and KPMG veteran.

“Will the U.K. increase import tariffs, will it change something with respect to product specification, have a system favoring local beers to protect domestic production?” Van de Perre said, speaking from his office in a centuries-old Brewers’ House in Brussels’ Grand Place. “I hope it doesn’t happen as if the U.K. wants to export their own beers to the EU, they will get a similar reaction.”

Jonny Garrett, a spokesman for Cave Direct beer merchants, which imports beers to the U.K., remains sanguine.

Brexit “was a real blow to our business and has really squeezed our margins,” Garrett said. “We hope in the long run that a good deal will be struck for trade with the EU and will campaign for it if necessary. In the meantime we have adjusted our pricing and continue to grow our Belgian and German brands really well.”


Belgium: Belgian beer officially gains UNESCO World Heritage status  (

Belgian beer is drinking to its recent success. The UNESCO representative in Brussels, Paolo Fontani, on May 19 gave to ministers having responsibility for culture in Belgium a certificate attesting to recognition of the production of Belgian beer. As a consequence, this is now considered to have UNESCO intangible cultural world heritage status, The Brussels Times reported.

An official ceremony took place in the Brussels Town Hall. Present were Alda Greoli (of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation), Isabelle Weykmans (of the German-speaking community) and Sven Gatz (from the Flemish community).

All participants stressed the strong collaboration upon this issue of these three Belgian communities. UNESCO made its official decision on November 30th last year.

The nomination of Belgian beer had been launched two years ago, by the intervention of the German-speaking community. This thus avoided the long queue of applications, which the nomination would have stuck in if it had been introduced by Belgium as a nation.

The Belgian request was backed up by the entire brewing sector: the Belgian Brewers association, professional brewers and tasters, and industry training institutions.

Those who wrote the UNESCO application say that it is the unmatched diversity of the art of Belgian brewing and the intensity of the actual beer production that are vital. These “make it both an integral part of our daily life and all of our country's celebrations,” thus leading to this recognition, when compared to other beer-producing countries.

The next major event for Belgian beer and Brussels will involve the opening of a so-called “Beer Temple” in the La Bourse building (the old Brussels Stock Exchange). The Alderman for Tourism, Philippe Close, emphasised that this is scheduled to take place in 2020.


EU: The Belgian Brewers’ Federation challenges the French Government’s beer tax hike  (

The Belgian Brewers' Federation has submitted an appeal to the European Commission, challenging the French Government's decision to raise the tax on beer by 160 percent at the beginning of the year. The Brewers of Europe association has followed suit, Tax-News reported on July, 24.

The French Government increased the specific tax on beer by 22 cents per litre from January 1, 2013, within the framework of its 2013 social security finance law. The measure formed part of efforts to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, particularly among the young as a matter of priority.

At the time, the Government defended the provision, arguing that the existing tax rate was particularly low compared to rates applied in other European countries. The Government insisted that preventative action was therefore needed to ensure that it becomes financially more difficult in future to access alcoholic products.

Outraged by the decision, President of the Belgian Brewers' Federation Sven Gatz highlighted the fact that a light beer in France now costs ten times as much as a glass of wine. The tax hike is simply "discriminatory" and "anti-European," Gatz said. The Federation had previously warned of the impact of the tax rise on investment in the brewing sector and on employment, both directly and indirectly.

According to the French Brewers' Federation, beer in France is now 14 percent more expensive than in 2012. Production has fallen by 16.5 percent in the first half of 2013.

In December last year, following the adoption of the beer tax hike by French lawmakers, Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, Secretary General of The Brewers of Europe, lamented the fact that beer "has been singled out amongst the other alcoholic beverages – despite beer only representing 16 percent of the French drink market and per capita beer consumption in France already being the second lowest in the European Union."

Bergeron continued: "One of the few rays of light for the French beer sector during the economic crisis has been the growth in micro-breweries, but these small businesses will also be hit with a 160 percent hike. And as for any health arguments that have entered the debate, one only has to note that it is the lowest strength alcoholic beverage that is being singled out here and even non-alcoholic beers will be hit by the top rate of 160 percent."

Alluding to the fact that the measure will hit not just French brewers but all brewers exporting to France, Bergeron pointed out that 30 percent of French beer consumption is imported beer, coming mostly from Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and the UK.

He said: "Simply put this tax increase destroys the business model of many of these brewers and may indeed lead to a number of brewery closures."

Bergeron concluded: "The beer market in France is forecast to decline by up to 15 percent as a result of this measure and jobs in the 35,000 hospitality establishments in France would be particularly hard hit. With the tax expected to lead to a 25 to 40 cent increase in the price of a small beer, this will further accelerate the existing trend from café to home consumption, which has already contributed to the closure of 12,000 establishments since 2007."


Belgium: Exports reached 62% of the beer produced in Belgium in 2012  (

Belgium's centuries-old beers are taking the world's tipplers by storm, reported on June, 12.

From red to golden ales and sour cherry froth, lagers to stouts and lambic beers, the fame of Belgian brews has sent exports soaring 70 percent over the last decade, with 62 percent of the beer produced last year now shipped abroad.

"Beer is to Belgium what wine is to France, it gives our small country a real identity," said Sven Gatz, director of the Belgian Brewers' Federation.

And if France famously is the land of 600 cheeses, then Belgium is the land of 1000 beers.

"Sales of Belgian beer are exploding in Japan. After two decades as a niche drink, volumes increased fourfold just in the last two years," Gatz said.

The price of a pint of Belgian brew in a Tokyo pub is likely to be four times as expensive as in Brussels, however. "People order just one or two, as they would a glass of whisky or very good wine."

"The quality of our beers attracts the new young professionals," he added.

Neighbouring France remains its top buyer in spite of looming trouble over a French excise tax, followed by the Netherlands, the US, Germany, Britain and Italy.

"The prospects look good in the remainder of Asia and in Latin America due to the rise of a middle class keen for classy foreign products," added Gatz.

Among the most popular brands are the trappist beers produced over centuries by monasteries. Belgium boasts six of the world's eight trappist brands, including Chimay, Orval and Westvleteren.

AB Inbev meanwhile has been playing the national card to the hilt for the last couple of decades through the launch of its Belgian Beer Cafes. There are now some 50 of them in 18 countries, from Australia to Thailand to the United Arab Emirates.

But as craft beers grow in popularity in the United States and elsewhere, Belgium's brewers and their 5000 staff "can't rest on their laurels", Gatz said.


World: True Belgian beer cannot be imitated   (

Foreign beer makers often make improper use of the good reputation that the Belgian beers are enjoying abroad, Gazet van Antwerpen recently cited Philippe Buisseret of the Belgian Beer Brewers' Union.
Exports of Belgian beer are doing well. But despite that there is a new trend which is causing concern among representatives of the Belgian beer sector.
"Apparently, we're victims of our own success,” Philippe Buisseret said. "Every country offering Belgian beer, whether it's Great Britain, Italy, France or the United States, tries to imitate our manner of brewing. Local beer producers see that the typical Belgian beers are selling well and try to make their profit from that."
Some pubs abroad are offering beers with the label "Belgian beer", without there being any connection with Belgium whatsoever, says Buisseret. An even bigger problem is that many beer makers are offering their beer with the label "Belgian style" without there being any Belgian connection."
Belgian MP Sven Gatz (Flemish liberal) has launched a campaign to tackle the problem. He has also written to other Belgian MP's to make them aware of the problem. The Belgian Beer Club will meet with the Belgian Beer Brewers' Union to discuss the issue and to think of possible solutions, it is reported. (

Last database update: 15.07.2019 17:14 © 2004-2019, Birkner GmbH & Co. KG