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There are now more than 60 breweries in Northern France – it’s a profession that becomes a vocation. Hence the vast growth in the choice of tipples.

Are there secrets to brewing that they guard closely between them?

Dried hops embellishing the ceiling, cosy wooden seating, glasses tinkling, froth tickling lips – it’s a very French scene. You could almost believe you’re attending a wine tasting. But in Esquelbecq, a picturesque Flanders village, it’s tankards that bring visitors pouring in. Here, Daniel Thiriez – one of the first to exchange his office suit for an artisan brewer’s garb – opens the doors of his micro-brewery for a one-hour guided tours.
There are now more than 50 breweries in Northern France – it’s a profession that becomes a vocation. Hence the vast growth in the choice of tipples.
Flavour and its subtle variations are a life’s work, according to Daniel. And so I can’t help but ask him: what are his brewing secrets’ ?
Daniel smiles. ‘Beer is water, malt, hops and yeast. All natural ingredients – no witchcraft. Five simple steps that anyone can do.’
The personality of a particular beer is like the signature dish of a French chef: it reflects the brewer’s personal touch, their sensibility, their whole life experience… So it’s goodbye to tasteless lagers: beer is all the rage, whether it’s IPA (India Pale Ale) – which is very hoppy and hence bitter –maturer strong pale or ‘keeping’ ales, fruit and even organic beers. As for the flavours: toast, hazelnuts, raspberries, cloves… It all depends on the brewer’s sensibility and tastes.
The four ingredients for beer: water, malt, hops and yeast. It’s all-natural! © J.Stam-Nord Tourisme
A hop field © J.Stam-Nord Tourisme
Beer is sampled in the same spirit as a great wine vintage