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Kwaremont Beer Review

What do non-cyclists think of when they think about Belgium? A small country with two languages? The football resurgence? Plastic Bertrand? Chocolates? The EU institutions? Right now the country is in the news for the wrong reasons thanks to some murderous losers, hopefully an aberration.

As the Dwars Door Vlaanderen race shows, the show goes on. Indeed for the cyclist Belgium rhymes with the one day classics and cobbled climbs where the bleak landscapes are the field for sporting contests. No other country in the world celebrates cycling as much, it is a genuine national sport here. Another area where Belgium is world class is brewing, whether thanks to AB InBev – the giant company with its HQ in Leuven that claims to brew a quarter of the world’s beer – or all myriad of microbreweries and monasteries that produce such a variety of beer. One newcomer to the market is Kwaremont, a brand that’s directly exploiting cycling’s heritage and demographics.

Tasting notes: it’s got fizz and the moment you pop the top the beer tries to escape like a Topsport Vlaanderen rider at KM0 in the Ronde. It pours into the glass with almost as much froth as a Velon press release and reveals an amber tone that’s almost as orange as the CCC jersey but there’s a slight murkiness in the glass, as if a touch of mud from a cobbled lane has dropped in there.

On the nose there’s a cereal note, it smells like a bowl of cornflakes sprinkled with sugar tastes. The first taste is a touch underwhelming, watery and sweet, again with that breakfast bowl aroma. But a sip or two more seems to reveal more fruit and satisfaction and if it’s light then it’s quite drinkable and would go well with food, perhaps some Flandrien cheese. The longer it is left in the glass the more notes of malt appear. The 6.6% alcohol ensures a longer finish than a headwind sprint into Oudenaarde.

Marketing Triumph: overall it’s very drinkable and fun thanks to the cycling association. In a country with over a thousand beers there are probably better beers but given this diversity it’s a matter of taste: anyone claiming to know The Best Belgian Beer is either a liar or bossily imposing their taste on others. Even if you tried to taste them all by the time you’d done it you’d find different beers suit different moments.

The branding is surely the reason why you’re drinking it. It’s called Kwaremont, sharing the name of the cobbled climb, the Oude Kwaremont, that features in many Flemish races. The climb is notable for its length, some 2.2km and not as steep as others but it is often decisive. Only it’s a marketing ruse because ride up the climb and you might see the stables next to the road but there’s no sign of a brewery. It’s brewed in Bavikhove, next to Harelbeke, and about 25km from the Oude Kwaremont.

It’s here that Kwaremont makes perfect promotional sense. Beer is a crowded market anywhere in the world and perhaps no more so than in Belgium where 1,150 different beers are brewed, plenty for a country of 11 million people. So how do you make a new product stand out? Cycling is very popular in Belgium and the races attract excellent audiences on television. But it’s still accessible for sponsors, this is not football nor Formula 1. So poach an iconic name for your beer that’s not trademarked – like Kwaremont – and off you go.

Kwaremont beer was launched in 2010 and had a cycling link in its branding but it was gentle, see Dutch wikipedia for the image of the older branding. In the last two years this has been ratcheted up with the direct link to racing rather than the landscape. The beer revels in cycling’s mythology and exploits cultural symbols. The alcohol content on the front is displayed in a warning triangle, like the roadsign that states the gradient ahead and the label says it’s gebrouwen vor kopmannen, “brewed for leaders”. In a land with over a thousand beers appealing to the cycling demographic is an obvious way to get noticed.

Amstel Gold Beer

Good or bad? When Zdeněk Štybar won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico the other day he made the ritual champagne-style celebration. But he didn’t take a sip, such was his focus on upcoming races. Not that everyone in the peloton is so spartan or perhaps it’s just that Štybar prefers a plzeňské, a pils instead? There is still a section of the bunch that likes a beer after a race, all of course in moderation, at least during the season. For example it’s said that Alexis Gougeard likes a bière and there’s little wrong with it given it’s got some energy and is a source of silicon. Then again so is a banana. IAM Cycling even have a sponsor with Velosophe beer, a brand of craft beer from Switzerland that’s got added minerals and vitamins for recovery. Proost, santé, cheers!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tom H Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 2:43 pm

    Great review, I have some good laughs here and will be enjoying the “Kwaremontjes” soon.

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.815975625106804.1073741832.100000831213845&type=1&l=bba838d5c7 🙂

  • Foley Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 3:04 pm

    Cheers indeed, Inrng. You’ve struck a perfect, timely note once again. Enjoy your time in Belgium.

  • Larry T. Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 3:10 pm

    Nice post, thanks! I’d wondered about the Kwaremont signage along a few routes during TV broadcasts…so now I know. Regarding the LIDL branded bubbly sprayed around earlier this season – I popped into LIDL here in Italy the other day. All the wines, beers, etc. in this store were labels from the maker/marketer, nothing with LIDL’s name on it, so who knows what the stuff spraying around really is? Good to know DWARS is going on as planned – life and sport must go on!

  • Elliot Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 3:16 pm

    I thought ‘murderous losers’ was perfect – flags the seriousness of the events (full condolences to all affected), but shows a complete lack of respect for the perpetrators (which is what they deserve).

    Glad Dwars went ahead as well: cycling, beer and frites – a perfect Belgian riposte to those murderous losers.

  • Graham Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 3:27 pm

    Now seriously motivated to find something other than Leffe or Hoegaarden for the weekend.

  • Andrew Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 3:59 pm

    A source of silicon?

    • Eskorrik Asko Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 5:02 pm

      Yes, indeed! “A new study suggests that beer is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for increasing bone mineral density. Beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon,” “Researchers say that silicon, the most common metalloid and a known booster of bone-mineral density, is highly bioavailable when consumed in beer.”

      • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 5:05 pm

        Exactly. “I think I need to take some supplementary silicon for my bones” is a good excuse for a beer.

        • Andrew Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 8:47 pm

          I just ate my motherboard, and I feel awesome!

        • Mike Thursday, 24 March 2016, 8:41 am

          Definitely high on my list for aiding in the recovery of my broken collar bone!

  • Neil Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 4:12 pm

    “almost as much froth as a Velon press release” – possibly my favourite line from a cycling blog ever.

  • Jarkko Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 4:25 pm

    Excellant review, thanks! Highly suitable to be enjoyed after a long day in a saddle on Flandrian roads & Hellingen. Brilliant glasses, sad that they don’t sell them anywhere.

  • DMC Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 4:58 pm

    BRYAN COQARD! Noooooo. Poor guy, he pulled a Zabel at the line.

    • Michael B Thursday, 24 March 2016, 9:22 am

      Ha! Just watched this. If I was a DS I’d fine any rider lifting their arms in a group sprint before the line. It’s ridiculous.

      • J Evans Thursday, 24 March 2016, 9:32 am

        He was impressively magnanimous about it, but yes, ride to the line, then put your arms up – looked like he might have won with a better throw (Debuscherre’s throw looks much more ‘stretched’ in the finish line photo). Gaviria went far too early, but it was interesting to see him doing well in a cobbled race.

        • Michael B Friday, 25 March 2016, 12:25 am

          Yeah, Gaviria looks awesome generally but that’s two finishes in a row he’s got wrong. Not instructive overall but enough to suggest vulnerability.

  • DMC Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 5:00 pm

    Great review Inrng – makes me really wish I could be on the Kwaremont drinking a Kwaremont as the riders battle to the top. Hope you enjoyed your day out there, and that all the fans (especially the locals) feel safe – really gutted hearing about the attacks yesterday, terrible situation 🙁

    Here’s to a great Classics season, and hoping that Inrng brings us more beer previews, especially for ones that are distributed to Canada so I can try them!

  • AK Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 5:11 pm

    Cheers! On beers with a cycling association, since a year or two the ‘radler’ beers (or beer mixes actually) are being promoted quite heavily here in NL.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 5:35 pm

      The “radler” beers have a direct cycling origin of course, with “radler” meaning cyclist in German. A diluted beer meant more hydration/less drunken riding.

  • DaveS Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 5:45 pm

    Sitting on the banks of the Meuse down in the Ardennes with a Belgian beer or four is a summer pilgrimage my wife and I make every year. Sometimes Namur, where the climb up to the citadel has to be seen to be believed, sometimes down to Dinant for a stay in the Ibis overlooking the river, but ALWAYS the beer.

  • JaimeRoberto Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 6:23 pm

    You often get corrections for your English, now I must correct your Czech. Unless you are personifying the beer, it should plzeňské.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 6:29 pm

      Thanks, that sounds right. I will fix the piece above. As ever corrections welcome.

  • Velosophe Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 7:49 pm

    Cheers @ The Cycling Beers Brigade

  • Jarvis Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 7:55 pm

    Kwaremont used to be brewed locally to Oude Kwaremont and only for the Flanders weekend. I was bought a bottle by a local we got talking to on the Paterberg in 2003. Can’t find the bottle now, but I wrote something about it
    http://www.velominati.com/general/guest-article-oude-kwaremont-beer/

  • Tim Michell Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 8:21 pm

    The glass has a cyclist on the stem and cobbles on the base. Looks good in your (wo)mancaveNot sure if I can mention it here Mr Inrng but if you are in the UK you can buy it from http://www.belgianbeerfactory.com/

    I will be getting some in for Flanders week.

  • Chris Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 8:40 pm

    is it laterally stiff and vertically compliant?

    Have too many and lose vertical compliance

  • Will Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 9:02 pm

    cheers

  • Dominic Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 9:40 pm

    Galibier, a micro brew lager from the same mountain as the pass. Refreshing on a hot alpine day, not seen it outside that region but worth a gulp if you’re there

  • Andrew Folpe Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 9:53 pm

    There’s a lot of potential here:

    MSR Lager: “A largely flat, somewhat featureless brew, saved only by its gigantic bottle and a surprisingly excellent finish”

    Roubaix Red Ale: “A horrid, massively unpleasant ale- can I have another?”

  • choke Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 9:55 pm

    Lizzie Armitstead was given a personalized super-sized bottle of Kwaremont at the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. http://www.yarak.cc/omloop

    • Anonymous Thursday, 24 March 2016, 9:39 am

      so did Evie Richards (and probably Sagan – I think all the WC got one).

  • RayG Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 10:22 pm

    “So poach an iconic name for your beer that’s not trademarked”.

    I take this to mean that Specialized don’t do a Kwaremont bike, then.

    • matt Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 10:42 pm

      If they did Id not taste a drop! I guess Specialized-being American would name the beer ‘Roubaix Lite’ with a low alcohol percentage and be the colour of AG2R shorts.

      • matt Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 10:52 pm

        -with ‘SmartweldedtTM’ cans

  • Goonie Thursday, 24 March 2016, 1:54 am

    The English-speaking world’s trendy microbreweries have done a fair bit of bicycle-related (and Belgium-related) branding.

    My local brewery does a nice “Bicycle Beer” (an IPA), and the New Belgium Fat Tire ale is quite drinkable.

  • Matt Thursday, 24 March 2016, 7:12 am

    InnerRing, you write so well about beer, really, you should skip the cycling blog (no money) and go into marketing (big money.) Well done, sir. “Pours into the glass with almost as much froth as a Velon press release” is the most brilliant thing I’ve read so far this year. Beer soaked chapeau.

  • Dai Bank Thursday, 24 March 2016, 9:02 am

    Tasting Notes, the whole section is just full of excellence

  • More please! Thursday, 24 March 2016, 2:36 pm

    Can we have the same again for the Giro (coffee) and the tour (wine) please?

  • cthulhu Thursday, 24 March 2016, 7:21 pm

    I hate to knitpick, but we have three languages in Belgium…

  • BeckyD Saturday, 2 April 2016, 8:12 pm

    I remember having a Kwaremont in 2012 and finding it delicious. I had one earlier today and didn’t really like it very much. Has the recipe changed in the last few years? Either way I’m still drawn to it simply for its connection to my favourite race and its special glass with the cobbled base and cyclist riding up the stem is genius, Cheers!