As an Austrian, it’s hard to imagine my country without beer. It is part of the Austrian’s diet and culture. The Belgians also attach great importance to the alcoholic beverage. However they celebrate their beer cult in a different way.
A visit of one of Belgians numerous breweries makes the people’s enthusiasm for beer visible. In the Kasteel brewery in Emelgem a tour guide explained all the elaborate steps to produce this drink. His eyes were glowing while he showed the huge, metallic lauter tuns and explained that thousands litres of beers are brewed here every day.
The Kasteel brewery produces 24 different types of beer. Extraordinary sorts like cherry, chocolate, framboise or peach are able to convince even people who prefer wine in every other case. Especially the Kriek, a beer mixed with sour cherries, sets the hearts of many Belgians and foreigners aflutter. The fruity and sour beverage is considered a Flemish speciality.
The Austrians have a wide variety of beers too: Dark and wheat beer. Furthermore the small alpine country has 278 breweries, only two less than in Belgium. And the Austrian breweries know their business. They produce tasty and light beer. And even if some fanatics would disagree: Every one of them tastes more or less the same.
Beer cult in Austria: More is more
But that is not a problem at all for Austrians. Because for them quantity is more important than quality. According to the Association of Austrian Breweries, an average of 104 litres of beer per person are consumed in Austria every year. This puts Austria in the second place worldwide. Only the Czech Republic consumes more per capita.
When I surprised the guide of our tour with this high number he wondered how that is even possible, “That is more than half a pint everyday”. But he did not take the different sizes of beer in the two countries in account. Something like half a pint does not exist in Austria. A “Pfiff” is 0,2 litres of beer. It is so unpopular that most of the pubs and bars do not even offer it. A small beer is 0,33 and a big one is half a litre. Also a “Maß” a litre of beer exist. For Austrians it is quite frustrating at the beginning if they walk through Flemish cities and realise that a pint does not even exist in every bar.
Also the prices do vary a lot between Austria and Belgium. While in a Belgian bar half a pint costs around 2,50€ and a pint costs 5,00€ – which makes mathematical sense – a small beer in Austria costs 3,00€ and a big one 3,50€. Only logical that we drink more, right?
At the end of our tour through the Kasteel brewery the dedicated guide provided chocolate and – of course – beer for tasting. And lately if they smell the fine notes and taste the refreshing and ice cold drink, also the greatest sceptics are convinced of the Belgian art of brewing.