“Fake authenticity” // Overheard at the Brewers of Europe Forum

Disclaimer: Brussels Beer City is a media partner of the Brewers of Europe Forum. As a part of this, it will receive complementary ticket to enter the forum.

The first Brewers of Europe Forum wrapped on Friday afternoon, as weary participants leaked out of Brussels’ Square Meeting Centre after two days of a lot – A LOT – of discussions about beer. Speakers ranged from the CEO of the world’s largest brewer to the owner of a microbrewery on a tiny Greek island, and all points in between.

Some of the conversations up on stage focused on top level, almost philosophical concerns – what is craft? Why is craft? What do millennials want from us? Others got right into the nitty gritty of caramel malt production, filtration technologies, and the latest is yeast and fermentation biotechnology (most of which, admittedly went over my head).

In amongst all of this, there were some interesting said over the course of the two days, and a lot to take in about where in Europe is at in 2018. Here’s some of what I learned about the prevailing trends, theories, and concerns of Europe’s brewing establishment.

Authenticity is what's important. Or is it craft?

“Authenticity refers to the quality of something that is true. The lack of authenticity, the relation to the truth, is threatening the industry, products that are absolutely not authentic.”

“What the Heinekens cannot buy is our ethos - our ideology and our behaviour.”

“There's a lot of fake authenticity out there”

Overheard at the Brewers of Europe Forum

No, wait - craft is the thing

“Craft beer is not the enemy”

“What is craft beer? It is important, but it’s not important.”

"It's not just beer, its ice cream, coffee, cheese, hamburgers. People are looking for that artisanal experience."

“What will define the future is not beer flavour or hops, but what is craft beer.”

Wine and spirits are coming to drink beer's milkshake

“Spirits are the biggest threats. Not who owns who. Our biggest competitor is wine (and) spirits.”

“(In the 20th century) wine became the drink of the decision making classes. Beer became the drink of male bonding rituals.”

“I've heard our greatest competitor is wine. I'm sorry, I don't believe that!”

“We have to learn from wine. I'm amazed to see how wine has a grip on politicians, because of their connection to farmers and the land. But so are we!”

Overheard at the Brewers of Europe Forum

What - and where - are people drinking now?

“IPA isn’t the most popular beer. Ask any barman, and they'll tell you - what's new is the most popular.”

 “They (millennials) really want to spend money not on ownership of a product, but in going and living, Beer festivals answer that call”

“It's hard to see people celebrating something with water...”

And what are the trends coming down the track?

“A beery version of Red Bull fills me with disquiet.”

“Homebrewing is the next craft (beer)”

“Cannabis is a new and emerging challenge to beer. And I'm seemingly the only one who's talking about it!”

The challenges of the beer market today

“Codependency (in the beer market) is not an option, it’s a description of a state of affairs.”

“We've 160 people at our brewery. We're not a big brewery!”

“A brewer in a bigger brewery still has as much to do as a brewer in a small brewery.”

“We're giving 10 minutes of pleasure. If that pleasure is gone, and the beer is no longer true to brand, then it needs to be pulled from the market.”

The Brewers of Europe Forum takes place in Brussels on June 7-8, at the Square Meeting Centre. Registration remains open, and details about confirmed speakers are available at: brewersforum.eu

If you want to know more, read my interview with  Luc de Raedemaeker, founder of the Brussels Beer Challenge and now one of the organisers of the Forum.