Brussels Beer Project, a craft brewery born out of the eponymous Belgian capital, will expand its global reach by opening a new bar in Paris, France. Located in the Pigalle district, a stone’s throw from the famous Moulin Rouge, the bar will set up shop near the tourist-heavy cultural hotspot of Montmartre. This announcement follows the brewery opening a bar in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district earlier this year.
Brussels Beer Project is one of a number of modern Belgian breweries to have come under fire from the more culturally enshrined sectors of its home industry. Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne, for example, described them as “fake brewers” since they contract brew the majority of their production. Similarly, several of the Brussels’ most famous beer bars, including Moeder Lambic, have refused to stock their beer for the same reason.
However, this hasn’t prevented this brewery from creating a thriving niche in its home market, using its taproom as a launchpad. The relatively quick success of breweries such as Brussels Beer Project could be a signifier that Brussels’ modern beer scene is beginning to hit its stride, perhaps giving the nation a chance to stretch beyond preconceived cultural ideals set by products such as Trappist beers, Lambic, and Gueuze. The fact that this young company, which was established in 2013, is able to market its brand to other countries like France and Japan is strong evidence of exactly that.
“Brussels Beer Project is built around its community in Brussels,” brewery co-founder Sébastien Morvan tells GBH. “[As such,] it feels incomplete to just send beers over to another country without having the possibility to engage with the local breweries and beer lovers.”
The Tokyo bar was opened in collaboration with the brewery’s Japanese distributor, Koichi Fujitasan. Brussels Beer Project had been exporting to the Japanese market for three years, and Morvan says the Tokyo project was driven by their love for the country. He also admits that France has been a big customer for Brussels Beer Project and that opening a bar in Paris, where the seeds of modern beer are now firmly taking root, seems like the next logical step for the business.
“Both Tokyo and Paris are getting very excited about this new idea of beer, while still lagging behind hotspots like Portland, London, or what have you,” Morvan says. “Both of these cities are rooted in other long lasting traditions: wine for Paris, and saké for Tokyo. A new story is being written now, and that's where Brussels Beer Project fits in the picture... We can grab people by their hands and take them away from their comfort zone.”
The stigma attached to modern methods often employed by young breweries—contract brewing, for example—has ensured that Brussels Beer Project’s formative years have been slightly controversial. But Morvan says young craft beer markets—like those in Paris and Tokyo—are crying out for something different as they find their feet in the beer world.
“We certainly hope to push local craft breweries on the front line,” Morvan says when asked what his brewery will bring to these new locales. “In Tokyo, we always serve local beers next to our own and you should expect the same in Paris. It's not just about serving craft beer in our bars. It's about being part of the ecosystem that pushes the industrial brewers outside the equation.”