|Cheers: A group of connoisseurs enjoy themselves at the Belgian beer festval. — VNS Photo Bach Lien
by Vuong Bach Lien
HA NOI (VNS) — Sipping a glass of a beer known as Chimay at the capital city's first Belgian Beer festival, Nguyen Van Thanh recalled happy days living in Brussels where he used to go to the bar to drink beer with his friends every weekend.
"It's so good to enjoy Belgian beer again and find again a culture that I really appreciate," he said.
Thanh was among more than 1,000 people who went to the festival held at the American Club in Ha Noi last Friday. It was the first event of its kind in Ha Noi.
For him, the event was an occasion to meet friends who studied with him in Belgium and others interested in Belgium's culture and beer.
According to the Belgian embassy, which organised the event, more than 1,000 tickets were sold out the day before the festival.
The patrons, mostly Vietnamese, queued up impatiently for the beer and wonderful Belgian snacks. All the tables were occupied and many sat on the lawns.
"Mot, hai, ba…zo!!" (One, two, three …go!!) and "Tram phan tram!" ("100 per cent" or "bottoms up"), the chants that traditionally accompany a drinking session in Viet Nam were as loud as ever.
Connoisseurs licked their lips over the rich and strong Belgian beers that make many other Western and Asian beers taste insipid.
Known for quality and variety since the Middle Ages, Belgium produces more than 2,500 different types of the beverage, Belgium's Ambassador to Viet Nam, Bruno Angelet told patrons.
Beer festivals are held in different localities throughout Belgium all year round. They give brewers a chance to share their passion for the liquid, which forms a significant part of Belgian culture.
"Beer in Belgium is not just a drink, it's an essential part of social life, culture and tradition," said the ambassador. "Serving and drinking beer is an art with strict rules."
In April this year, Belgium took steps to have Belgian beer recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage product.
Belgian beer has become a passion for many Vietnamese who once lived in Belgium. During his stay in Brussels, Dang Vu Hoai Nam said he had tasted more than 200 brands of beer from around the world, among which were 148 kinds of Belgian beer.
He even collected the bottles the Belgian beer comes in, noting down the characteristics of each. He was proud to take to the festival a bottle of the rare Belgian beer called Westvleteren XII, often hailed as the best beer in the world.
Nam used to go to Delirium Cafe, a bar in Brussels known for 2,000 varieties of beer - as recorded in The Guinness Book of Records.
On offer are beers from more than 60 countries, including many Belgian beers.
In Viet Nam, he still likes a drop of Belgium beer, but here it is too expensive because of its strength and the high amount of duty that has to be paid.
A bottle of beer costs VND70,000 (US$3), several times more than the local drink.
Phan Thuy Thanh, Viet Nam's former Ambassador to Belgium, said at the festival that she believed that Belgian beer would eventually have a bigger place among local drinkers. — VNS