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Good Beer Guide Belgium

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by Tim Webb & Joe Stange

A great browse, an amusing read and an absolutely vital item on the beer traveller’s packing list – that's how I've described previous editions of this absorbing guidebook. It'll come as no surprise that this seventh edition comes just as highly recommended.

Good Beer Guide BelgiumThe format remains much as before, but with tighter sections this time devoted to Contexts (background history, geography, travel tips and food advice); Beers and Brewing (including an A–Z of breweries, complete with star-rated beers); Bars and Stores (where to drink and buy beers); and Beer Tourism (must-see places and festivals not to miss).

Some 900 beers are covered, along with 500 places in which to drink them.

What also remains is the guide's suffer-no-fools approach to the breweries who don't play ball with the drinker, often acerbically articulated in a pithy aside or a little throw-away sarcasm.

That's good to see, especially as the guide's founder and sole author to date, Tim Webb, has brought in another writer to shoulder the burden this time around.

But it's not as if he's just plucked someone from the street. American Joe Stange knows Belgium intimately, having lived here for four years and having co-authored Around Brussels in 80 Beers a few years back.

So what is new? Well, the sheer number of breweries for a start. Belgium is not immune to the rise of the microbrewery and, to squeeze them all in, some background info has been cut across the brewery entries. Brewpubs now have their own (short) section, as do gueuze blenders.

Global Influences

The section on Belgian beer in Britain has been expanded to cover the world as its influence continues, but the authors recognize this is not a one-way street. The nature of beer in Belgium has itself begun to change, in line with global trends. Via editorial, the authors bring you, for instance, their thoughts on the increased use of hops in beers.

Neither has it passed their notice that First World War centenary commemorations are beginning to take place. Belgium, of course, suffered more than most from the brutal conflict, which raged across its fields and through its towns. The book reflects on the ravages it brought not just on the people and the land but on its brewing industry, too.

That's a sombre note with which to round off a review, but regular readers of this top book should fear not: as ever, there is plenty to entertain within its colourful pages – from sound practical advice to the effortless way in which the joy of beer hunting in Belgium is celebrated.

Seventh edition (2014)

368-page paperback (CAMRA Books)

£14.99

Available now from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com

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