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Pushing the boundaries of Belgian craft beer

Interview with Nicolas Volders, Commercial Manager of Brouwerij Anders!

European Food: ‘Anders!’ means ‘different!’, and your slogan is ‘Brewed to be different’ – what exactly makes the beers you brew stand out?

Nicolas Volders: We chose this name because we want to be open to everyone who wants to brew beer. We maintain the highest quality standards, but in terms of creativity with possible ingredients, we are open to anything. That is what makes us different from other brewers in Belgium. There is diversity in the beers we produce – a wide range of clients, from home brewers with a unique recipe to large companies.

European Food: So, the Anders! Brewery focuses on brewing specialty beer for established companies as well as hobbyists?

Nicolas Volders: The biggest part of our clientele comprises beer companies that do not have their own breweries. We are a contract brewery. Having us brew their beer means they do not have to invest millions in a brewery themselves. The beer market is enriched by that, in my opinion, because we can brew beers for them that otherwise would not have been made.

European Food: You seem very passionate about your products. What attracted you to this line of work?

Nicolas Volders: I’ve always been interested in beer, especially regional and craft beers. So much so that I pursued an education in zythology – the study of beer and beer-making. About two years ago, I started to work at Brewery Anders!. We’ve been continuously expanding ever since, but for me it’s the creativity that goes into the process of our beer making and the wide spectrum of flavours that keeps me interested. Every day we have the opportunity to redefine people’s expectations of what beer should be.

European Food: Speaking of consumers’ expectations, Brewery Anders! Operates in the epicenter of beer brewing, and Belgian beers in particular are world famous. How difficult is it for newcomers to make a name for themselves in such an established industry?

Nicolas Volders: Belgium is fairly traditional; it has a long tradition in craft beers. Belgians tend to vary on those beers: doubles, triples, blond beers and so on – more subtle adjustments. Dutch people, on the other hand, tend to think that is not adventurous enough. For a long time, almost only pilsner was brewed in the Netherlands – perhaps that is the explanation. People try beers made with chili peppers, cucumber, almond milk – they have developed an appreciation for a much wider variety in experimental beers.

European Food: So, your beers have quite an established fan base outside of Belgium as well?

Nicolas Volders: Well, we have clients from all over Europe, but the majority come from Belgium and the Netherlands. We push boundaries and also try to adapt our recipes to fit the preferences of our clients. For instance, IPAs have become very popular in the Netherlands, but not so much in Belgium. Our Dutch clients come with more hoppy, more adventurous recipes, whereas our Belgian clients come with fairly traditional recipes that are more subtly adjusted.

European Food: And what about your German neighbours? There are strict guidelines on the production of beer in Germany, called the Reinheitsgebot or ‘German beer purity regulations’, that state that beer must only be brewed with water, hops and barley – not any other ingredients. How do you get around that when working with your German clients?

Nicolas Volders: The Reinheitsgebot is not a law anymore, but the laws there concerning beer production make it very difficult to experiment the way we can in Belgium. You can’t always get approval if you want to use ingredients that are not generally approved by the government. There is a craft beer movement starting up in Germany, but it’s not always easy for them to sell their beers as ‘beer’ in that market. Due to EU regulations, you can import any beer made in Belgium as beer to Germany, so creative German brewers can put their craft beer on the market there that way. It is a rather conservative market, but we welcome the opportunity to broaden the taste palette with new and refreshing beers.

European Food: Belgian beer was recently listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. What does this mean for Anders! Brewery?

Nicolas Volders: It put Belgium on the map a bit more as ‘the land of beers’. For instance, in Asia they want to import Belgian beers, asking specifically for beers made in Belgium. This recognition of Belgian beer culture confirms Belgium as the country that has been a craft beer country for hundreds of years. We continue this tradition by pushing the boundaries of taste, exceeding our clients’ expectations throughout the entire brewing process, from conception to production. Our beer is truly Anders!

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