Styled after a classic Belgian Whit, Belgian Moon is now in Canada. If you’ve already tried it, you probably loved it. After all, it’s the type of beer that even self-proclaimed non-beer drinkers can’t turn down.
We caught up with brewmaster Keith Villa, who’s been brewing and tasting beer for over two decades, to find out more about the beloved brew’s arrival in our own backyard…
What inspired your career choice?
Originally, I was planning on becoming a medical doctor. I wanted to be a pediatrician and work with kids. I found out that you could actually get a PhD in brewing in Europe, so I went to Belgium and got one from the University of Brussels.
I became a beer doctor instead of a people doctor. It was funny because my mom is a retired nurse and my uncle is a retired anesthesiologist, so it seemed natural for me to get into medicine. When I told my mom I would take a different direction, she wasn’t happy. When I created Belgian Moon and it became a success, that quickly changed. Now she likes to brag about it.
What would people be most surprised to hear about your career?
They’re not surprised to hear that it’s fun. What they are surprised to hear about is how much fun you can actually have in pairing beer with food. Even five years ago, it was difficult to find restaurants that paired beer with food. Now, people are called upon to have expertise in this realm. You can treat beer just like wine, and even swap it for wine.
What is the process of creating a new brew?
I try to gain inspiration from the seasons and from chefs. I love to see what they are doing with spices and different culinary trends. I also gain inspiration from travel and tasting food and drinks from different countries.
I convey my ideas to the marketing team and we usually pick the top five out of 15. I will write a recipe and the brewers will make those beers. We will agree on tweaks as we develop the beers. To go from idea to finished beer is about five weeks. Then we have a few to work with before we narrow that down to one final prospect. That will take about five months.
Why are Canadians going to love Belgian Moon?
I think that Canadians have really great taste when it comes to beer and food, and Belgian Moon is going to be a beer they go for because it really does taste good. We’ve won a bunch of medals, so it’s not just me saying that. The competition and judges call it an award-winning beer.
Finally, it pairs so well with food. Yes, you can drink it on its own, but it’s a beer with a profile that pairs perfectly with seafood, white meats like chicken and pork, and spicy food like Thai. It’s a really nice, versatile beer – it’s almost like the chardonnay of the beer world. It pairs with anything.
What are the main things people should keep in mind when tasting beer?
The one thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that, when we taste beer, we are almost like a scientific instrument. Our senses work together to tell us whether we are going to like something or not.
You may not know why, but from a brewer’s perspective, I put in spices and malts and mix them together in a way that goes nicely on the palette. As you taste our beers, you have to have an open mind and accept and enjoy the mingling of the flavours on the palette.
What do you do to combat that beer belly?
I think the main thing is to enjoy it – don’t overindulge and stay active. I notice here that a lot of the people who enjoy Belgian Moon enjoy an active lifestyle. I don’t see people sitting around and drinking. I see them consuming it in an active, social setting with friends. That’s key.
What does the future of beer look like to you?
I think it looks fun. Right now, there are so many new breweries that have come online in just the past month and there’s more to come. Eventually, I think there will be a thinning out process, but the best brewers will survive in a survival of the fittest style and stay around. I think it will keep getting better for the beer drinker.
I think there’s always going to be a place for beers like Molson out there because those are sporting event type beers, but people are really going to want specialty beers. You’ll see the best specialty beers survive.
If you could share a beer with anyone in the world, who would that be?
I would probably go for someone who was really mysterious, smart and innovative like Nikola Tesla, who was sort of an enigma because he was so futuristic yet not super well-known to people. Thomas Edison is another – always thinking about the future and looking to change things for the better.
What makes a beer exceptional?
It starts with the ingredients – when you can procure the best, highest quality ingredients, that’s the start of making that beer exceptional. The next is having brewers who are passionate about making that beer and putting the ingredients together in a way that makes them taste great when poured in a glass. Finally, make it a beer that stands out in any occasion. That’s what makes Belgian Moon so exceptional.
Any advice for anyone who wants to be a brewmaster?
It’s a passion that you have to work hard at, but it’s very rewarding. It’s physically and emotionally intense, whether you’re selling it, marketing it, or making it. It’s rewarding to establish new friends and relationships and learn about how other establishments function – like restaurants and retailers.
Judging from the success of Belgian Moon, it’s safe to say that’s an understatement.