Belgian Beer & Food magazine is a new English-language quarterly magazine being published out of Brussels, Belgium with the stated goal of creating “a luxurious, stylishly designed…fine food and wine magazine, except for Belgian beer.” Publisher and editor Paul Walsh and his team have done that and more.
When I first stumbled upon the news of this project, I subscribed immediately. The first issue was published in September of 2013. Since the magazine was coming from overseas, I had no idea how long it would take to arrive. Fortunately for me, it arrived while I was in Seattle for Elysian’s Great Pumpkin Beer Fest so I had a nice surprise waiting for me when I got home.
I immediately dove into the magazine hoping it would be as good as I wanted it to be. It was. I actually had to force myself to put it down so I didn’t plow through it in one sitting. The writing is good, and they’ve selected an interesting batch of stories for their first issue.
The main focus of this volume is Brussels, including: a walking tour of great beer destinations around the Grand Place (the central square) which features a nice mix of both lesser and well known destinations, interviews with chefs and shop owners, a brief history of Cantillon, and an interview with the owners of Brasserie de la Senne. They also visit the west of Belgium and the city of Kortrijk, Bockor Brewery, and more. Additionally there’s a nice interview/tasting with Vrouwen en Bier (“Women and Beer”) author and movement creator Sofie Vanrafelghem. In a normal beer magazine, this might be it. However there’s a whole lot more.
This leads me to one of my few criticisms. I would actually like a few less articles but for some of the remaining ones to go into greater depth. I would have liked more time with and information about any of the breweries they covered, especially Cantillon (as I think most beer fans would). American audiences like to form a bond with their breweries. Beer quality is important, but the story of the brewery and the brewer helps create brand loyalty.
My other criticism stems from the initial move to focus almost exclusively on the print medium (there are 2 full brewery stories on the website as teasers). Personally, I love holding a book or magazine in my hands and don’t really need a digital version for my iPad, but I would like a downloadable “location summary.” There are a lot of great addresses and contact information that I’d like to have with me when I’m traveling around Belgium. It would be great to have a downloadable map of their Brussels beer walk on my phone so I could follow it via Google Maps. At the very least, it would be nice to have a tear-out map of the walk I could put in my pocket. It’s not really practical to carry a stack of magazines with you. I mean, that’s packing weight that could be dedicated to bringing back beer!
This is a great magazine. It’s well written with great photography and is filled with information that makes me want to keep reading. Most of all, it makes me want to travel to Belgium and walk in the steps of the writers while meeting the people making the Belgian beer and food scene so interesting and vibrant. What criticisms I have are small, and more of a “wish list” of things I’d like to see in subsequent issues. It’s going to be a long, hard wait until issue no. 2 hits my mailbox.
The subscription is ridiculously cheap for Americans and Canadians if you consider that for $29 you get 4 beautiful and information packed issues (65 pages with almost no adds) shipped to you from Belgium throughout the year. I really can’t recommend this magazine enough,especially if you, like me, are a huge fan of Belgian beer, food and beer, and beer tourism.
Note: This is an unsolicited review. I purchased a 1-year subscription.