St. Arnould: Belgians bless their beer


Above: Belgian Brewers Day 2018 (tip: play while reading this article).

Webcam Grand-Place: check out the festivities and watch the drinking live.

Belgian Beer Weekend is upon us, with the Belgian Brewers association paying tribute to Saint Arnould, the patron saint of brewers on 6 September, followed by various ceremonies and a beer festival over the weekend at Brussels’ Grand-Place.

The celebration of Arnould is a wondrous spectacle. Members of the association and various beer club members and others dressed in medieval garb troupe up to Saint Michael and Gudula Cathedral with a barrel of beer.

Inside the cathedral there is singing and a ceremony capped off by a priest consecrating the beer. It is a sight to behold and starts at 13.45h.

The ceremony is organised by the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle and the association. New members are enthroned into the knighthood at a ceremony later that afternoon in Brussels town hall (Alas the Beer Idiots were not able to secure entrance so we will not be able to cover this event – perhaps they will notice us next year).

Get knighted

Honorary knights are individuals “who have rendered loyal services to the brewing profession”, the association says in a website blurb. The knights by rights are active members of the brotherhood who, owing to their profession, birth or alliance, are closely related to the brewing industry.

The knights hail Gambrinus as the “King of Beer”, who according to the Knighthood is “Jan Primus”, the Flemish name for Duke Jean I, the son of Henri III and Alix of Burgundy.

According to this version of the Gambrinus legend, Primus “laid down the foundations for Brabant’s brewing industry by allowing the deputy mayors of Brussels the right to grant licences for brewing and selling beer”. He was also the honorary President of the Brussels Brewers’ Guild, the forerunner of the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle. 

The fun begins

For the rest of us ordinary idiots the festivities start at 18h after the inauguration of the beer stands on Grand-Place. On Saturday 13:30h a parade sets off with historical brewery carts and beer wagons though the streets of Brussels.

At 14:30 there is a Brewers’ parade starting from the Grand-Place. Another parade takes place at noon Sunday with several bands and brewers’ confraternities.

All in all it is a great weekend hearkening back to the glorious past and glorious present of Belgian brewing.

So let’s get ready to hear the beer blessing, which according to the Catholic Gentleman magazine is:

Benedic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen

This is translated as:

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant through the invocation of thy holy name; that, whoever shall drink it, may gain health in body and peace in soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Small and big brewers

This year 52 brewers are offering more than 400 types of beers at the stands, with six of the association’s younger members – the micro-breweries – joining their bigger brethren, says Nathalie Poissonnier, director of the Director Brewers.

“We are very happy to see this,” she said in an interview with the Beer Idiots. “It is a chance to show the full range of what Belgium offers to an international audience. We hope that next year even more of our newer members will be able to do the same. But very often they do not have the staff for such an event. It is something for us to think about for next year to see how we can help them.”

The Belgian Brewers annual report for 2018 noted that the number of breweries registered in Belgium increased from 261 in 2017 to to 304 in 2018. “In 2018 it was announced that in 2017, Belgium had dethroned Germany as the main European beer exporter, as revealed in the statistics of our European professional organisation, The Brewers of Europe,” the report states. In 2015 and 2016, Belgian had ranked third. In 2017 Belgian brewers exported 15.80 million hl, compared to the 15.75 million hl exported by Germany and 14.14 million hl exported by the Netherlands.

Pics: Celebration of Saint Arnould September 2018

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