Boston-Based Company is Bringing More Than 60 Belgian Beers From 9 Small Breweries to the American Market
When I received an invitation to meet the head of a U.S. distributor of a number of Belgian craft brews, I first said, “yeah, beer tasting!”
But then I briefly hesitated. Belgian beers can be so strong in alcohol it’s like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. You don’t know if you’ll come out alive. And these were craft beers. I had better not drive.
I did agree to meet Steve Villani, president of Global Beer Network. We would have the brews at Tony P’s Dockside Grill in Marina del Rey, CA. I could get there on my bicycle taking the bike path along the Pacific Ocean. Then cab back if necessary.
And so, on a super sunny summer afternoon, I was greeted by Villani and his local associate Drew Thaller. Tony P., himself was also there, and that was a bonus. Tony P’s carries Global Beer Network’s beers, has beer dinners every two months (five beers and five courses for $55, and that includes tax and tip; the next one is Aug. 15, and the one after that is Oct. 17) and is also the official University of Florida alumni game-watching bar during college football season.
Belgian beers tend to be heavy tasting and heavy in alcohol. But in the three that I tried from Global Beer Network – Piraat, Gulden Draak and Wittekerke – none exhibited those qualities. And Piratt and Gulden Draak pack a 10.5% alcoholic punch!
I should have been stumbling around as if I had just hit on Manny Pacquiao’s wife. Instead, I was ready to try another and would not hesitate to order them on a sunny afternoon rather than on holding off for a rainy winter’s night.
That was just a sampling of what Boston-based Global Beer has behind the bar, so to speak. It imports more than 60 beers from nine breweries. Witterkerke, a somewhat fruity and mostly refreshing beer with slight wheat overtones, is its biggest seller, primarily because it’s quite popular in Florida.
The beers are sold in 47 states, in bars like Tony P’s that offer huge choices of brews, plus big beer chains like the Yard House, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and the fast-expanding World of Beer. It’s also sold in specialty stores like Whole Foods and BevMo (in California) as well as some supermarkets such as Kroger and Publix. And Villani wants more.
“We’re growing at a rate of 30% a year,” he said. “But we don’t want to grow too fact because it will sacrifice the quality of the beer. I’ve been doing this for five years now (he spent 17 years with Anheuser-Busch) and we can triple in size and still keep the beer quality.”
Villani travels the country and even takes clients on multi-day trips to Belgium a few times a year so they can tour the actual breweries.
“I’m having fun,” he says. “I travel across the country, meet great people, drink great beer and eat great food. Plus, I get to go to Belgium a few times a year. Life is pretty darned good.”
And so, too, is the beer he distributes.
Here are the breweries that provide the brews to Global Beer Nework:
• De Halve Maan
• The Musketeers
• Van Eecke
• Van Steenberge
Link: Global Beer Network