Heavy Hops Ep. 033: Finding Your Way Through Beer Culture (Breandán Kearney/Belgian Smaak)

I first encountered Breandán Kearney‘s work during my time at Local Option beer bar in Chicago. I carried on a tradition of showcasing artisanal brewers from around the world, giving them a draft platform in one of the best beer cities.  Importers such as Shelton Brothers (RIP), B-United and 12% Imports allowed me incredible access to producers who – informed by fresh perspectives – were excited to break with tradition in their own country’s beer culture by exploring new and exciting flavor profiles. The beer landscape was really different then.

In autumn 2016 a distribution rep mentioned they’d received a shipment of beers from Brouwerij ‘t Verzet. His eloquent pitch? “You should check out their feature in Good Beer Hunting” in lieu of being short on samples.  “Look it up online” isn’t normally a sales tactic buyers respond well to; however, on account of my soft spot for Belgian and European artisanal producers I obliged.  Breandán’s longform profile of the new Flemish brewery was interesting because it addressed a number of topics in Belgian beer from the perspective of a non-native looking in. It was the first time Breandán sold me a keg.

Over the years Breandán has interviewed and reported on a variety of influential people involved in the Belgian beer and gourmand worlds – from lambic brewers Frank Boon of Boon Brouwerij and Jean van Roy of Cantillon, to cheesemakers in Catharinadal, and corporate folks – for his publication and podcast Belgian Smaak. His blog and writing for a number of other publications have earned multiple awards from the North American and British Guilds of Beer Writers.

In the conversation that follows we discuss how Breandán ended up leaving Ireland for Belgium carrying with him only a bag and his guitar. We enjoy beers and share stories, discuss themes in his storytelling, and reflect on the impact the localization movement of the last decade and COVID-19 have had on Belgium’s breweries. I learned that Breandán is not only highly interested in the beverage and gourmand industries in Belgium, but that those topics give him a lens through which he can better understand the place he lives.

Find Breandán:
Belgian Smaak
He also writes about Irish beer. Check out “Flying with Clipped Wings” a story about West Kerry Brewery in County Kerry.

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Episode Art and HH Logo By: Bryn Gleason

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Episode Notes: https://scorchedtundra.com/heavy-hops-ep-033-finding-your-way-through-beer-culture-breandan-kearney-belgian-smaak/