Philip Vandenbruhle: “Belarus needs to develop local breweries. There will be no culture without them ”
It is no secret that the Belgian brewing school is one of the most respected. The Belgians, however, did not come to this immediately. There was a time when beer consumption and the number of independent breweries were unusually low. Pivo.by journalist met with the Honorary Consul of Belgium in Belarus, Philip A.G. Vandenbruhle, and talked about the traditions, culture and prospects of cooperation between the countries.
– Tell us about yourself. What do you work with and how did you end up in Belarus?
– I was born in the city of Bruges and now I live in two countries, as it were. I am in Minsk for a week, and I spend the rest of the month in my own country. By education I am a biochemist engineer specializing in Fermentation Technologies. I worked in large retail chains in Belgium and helped them grow and scale their business. For 17 years I was the Honorary Consul of Belgium in Belarus. At the moment, I am engaged in business development in the agricultural sector and in the direction of export. I advise Belgian companies and help them develop and find investment projects in Belarus. In 2006, I was offered a job in this country, and I agreed.
– Tell us more about this.
– I have a special connection with Belarus, because my ancestors more than 300 years ago (in the 1700s) lived in Braslav and Pinsk. The fact is that my surname (Vandenbroele – approx. Ed.) Is quite old. I found out that the family estate of my distant relatives flourished in due time. Near the estate was a small cheese factory and a small brewery. At that time, microeconomics was developed, and wealthy families could afford to have their own local production. Of course, I would very much like to revive something like that in the same region, but here the question of people’s readiness for such changes.
– Has the country changed significantly over the years that you have been working in our market?
– Yes, of course. The country is transforming before my eyes. Perhaps this is not so noticeable to those people who live here permanently, but I see a difference. The capital is changing, more and more objects of attraction for tourists are opening in the regions, people are changing. Even in the investment climate, I see improvements, especially in the agricultural sector. More recently (before the adoption of the law on visa-free travel), Belarus was visited by about 3,500 businessmen and tourists from Belgium. In the last two years, everything has changed. Now about 27 thousand Belgians visit your country annually.
– What do you think allowed Belgium to become one of the most famous beer countries?
– In my opinion, the whole point is the dispersal of the population throughout the country. The agricultural sector is very developed in Belgium. Together with the rich history of the regions, this area of the economy allowed us to develop farms. As a result, the population did not see any reason to leave for large cities and preferred to stay where their family lived. This tradition and family of business, so to speak, influenced many areas of life, including the emergence of local breweries. People loved to relax and have a drink, and to do it without a brewery in the region is almost impossible. Residents of villages and small towns have preserved the traditions of their ancestors and still treat them very carefully, producing beer according to old recipes. For them, this is more than a way to earn money, it is a tribute to the memory of their family. Over time, cafes and restaurants opened, where it was customary to serve beer typical of this region. This is happening today. Depending on the area, you can try a wide variety of styles. This is an important quality of the Belgians, which we are very proud of. We are a fairly traditional people, with classic foundations. At the same time, we are not trying to imitate someone, we are doing what we consider necessary. This is our uniqueness and this is what makes our beer exclusive.
– What steps should we take to get on the world market and become competitive?
– This is a rather voluminous issue that needs to be approached structurally. For example, the first thing that comes to mind is the rejection of pet containers. This method of storing beer is not suitable for most styles, since plastic packaging seriously reduces the life of the product.
A large share of imported beer. As you know, you have very strong traditional schools in the Czech Republic and Germany. People still think that only beer from these countries can be of high quality and tasty. It is necessary to educate the consumer, expand the assortment and show that in the world of beer there is still a lot of interesting things.
A segment of local breweries should be developed, and it is advisable to do this not only in the capital, but also in the regions. People should want to support their local manufacturer, since it allows you to get a good and high-quality product without leaving the city / district.
I would also note such a parameter as the quality of beer. Many breweries in Belgium do not try to make as many styles as possible. They prefer this small, but honed by time and a large number of brews.