Wow: The Netherlands is the second largest beer exporter in the world, after Mexico. It valued at 1.6 billion euros in 2014. A few years ago we were exporting more than any other country, by the way. At considerable distance follow Germany and Belgium: both ‘did’ in 2014 just over one billion euros. All countries by far export the most to the United States of America. Somewhere in Belgium someone got red marks on his neck and foaming at the mouth.
The gentleman in Belgium with those red spots and the mouth foam was none other than Ben Vinken, a long-respected beer writer, – lover and – connoisseur. Ben loves, incidentally, especially Belgian beer: in his view, the world is divided into Belgian beer (tasty), water (not brewed yet) and non-Belgian beer (depending on his mood: dirty or tainted water). A reporter from Het Laatste Nieuws phoned Ben and asked his comment: I guess he fancied a bit of a giggle. Well, he got a bloody big laugh because if Ben Vinken, next to red spots and mouth foam, also gets something to say , you have an explosive combination. Ben delivered his commentary that was equally nice and subtle as a mustard gas attack, as it was realistic and truthful as a paw-giving dinosaur on the Grand Place in Brussels in March. I quote:
“Ben Vinken is not at all impressed by the Dutch and their beers. “98 percent of their production still consists of lager, so this must all be viewed in the proper proportions. Moreover, the Dutch have always been good in selling themselves more expensively than they are, but to see The Netherlands as a beer culture is pure nonsense.”
As far as quality goes Vinken is even stricter: “There is precious little brewed there that even tastes like anything, and I express myself mildly. They just throw handfuls of ingredients together and see what comes out. Out of every hundred new beers there’s perhaps one that’s drinkable. That’s not a beer culture, Sir!”
You do not have to like the taste of Dutch beer, or regardless where it is brewed, but to twist facts so blatantly as Vinken does here is beneath contempt, even his. Well, in Belgium the ratio lager – non-lager is 70-30 whereas it is 85-15 in the Netherlands today – that’s a huge difference. And the only thing Vinken is saying is that he does not like lager, which he’s allowed to, but it does not change the fact that lager is also the most exported Belgian beer. But yes, red spots and foaming at the mouth tend to cloud the brain.
There’s no arguing about taste, except with Ben. The fact he doesn’t know what he’s talking about is clear: he has not had a single Dutch beer in years. And together with another Belgian gentleman he is still the only European who believes that Americans cannot brew good beer. He also refuses to respond to the remark that some non-Belgians occasionally make, observing there’s precious little taste difference between those hundreds of Blonde Abbey beers (or doubles, or triples, or white beers).
In short, had one found Vinken with red spots in the neck, foaming at the mouth, his right hand in his jacket like Napoleon, seated on a bedpan with a black-yellow-red kettle by means of headgear, while every few hours a nurse wipes his behind, and had he then made these statements: well, we probably hadn’t even been humored but felt compassion. Since he is still wiping his own behind however, we can’t but laugh. Or no: I feel compassion stirring, while Ben cherishes himself like a paw giving dinosaur in the glow and warmth of a storming meteor shower.