Leuven Innovation Beer Festival
This weekend is the 2nd edition of the Leuven Innovation Beer Festival. Taking place on Sunday, May 15 and Monday, May 16th; the Leuven Innovation Beer Festival is the brainchild of the Janssens family of the Hof ten Dormaal Brewery. The idea for the Festival came about after a devastating fire that nearly ruined the entire Hof ten Dormaal family brewery. Instead of looking back, the Janssens decided to plunge forward with a series of collaboration beers and the creation of a unique festival. The festival sets out to collect breweries and beers that are innovative in someway. They could be using innovative ingredients or recipes or could be traditional beers using innovative techniques.
I had the opportunity to attend the first edition of this festival in May of 2015. Leuven is famous as the world headquarters of international beer giant, AB-InBev. Fittingly, Leuven Innovation Beer Festival (LIBF) takes place in the old De Hoorn Brewery, home of the Stella Artois Beer Hall. Filled with natural light from the large windows and lovingly preserved brewing equipment, the De Hoorn Brewery made for an excellent setting for the festival.
It’s not just Belgian breweries. Brewing innovation knows no borders. 2015’s slate of breweries included such innovators as: Freigeist (Germany), Tiny Rebel (UK), Stillwater Artisanal (US), Brekereit (Sweden), Dochter van de Korenaar (Belgium), Brouwerij Kees! (Netherlands), and New Belgium Brewing (US) amongst others. I was pleasantly surprised to look down from the balcony before the festival officially started to see Lauren Salazar, famed blending brewer of New Belgium. With a Belgian brewer, Peter Bouckaert (formerly of Rodenbach), it was only a matter of time before New Belgium started participating in Belgian beer festivals. Turns out the inaugural edition of the LIBF was their first one!
Leuven Innovation Beer Festival 2016 features 17 innovative breweries, including: Naparbier (Spain), Oersop (Netherlands), Kormoran (Poland), Alvinne (Belgium), Bahnhof (Germany), and Free Will Brewing (US). For a full list, check out the full beer list for this weekend’s fest. Between them, there are 90 beers to try.
The Other Pertinents
If you need to take a break from the beer, the cafe attached to De Hoorn has good food but give yourself time as the heavy crowd can slow service down a bit. If you’re not looking for food, there are seminars available throughout the day. If you’re looking for lodging and directions, you can find both on the festival’s website. It’s a nice walk (weather permitting) from the Leuven train station if you’re not staying in town.
The Leuven Innovation Beer Festival is well-organized and fun. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s in the neighborhood. The beer list is impressive and well curated. If you’re tired of the press of massive beer festival crowds, LIBF is an excellent smaller fest and should be on anyone’s “bucket list” for beer festivals.
Disclosure: I received free entrance and tokens via a press pass.