It’s a big deal for a Belgian to leave his country and brew beer in America, but that’s exactly what Three Taverns Brewery’s head brewer, Joran Van Ginderachter did. Since the age of 16, the Belgian has had an interest in beer production- in fact, he wrote his high school thesis on the Geuze and Lambic beers of the Zenne valley in Brussels. In 2008, after receiving a degree in biochemistry, Van Ginderachter came to America to intern at New Belgian Brewing Company in Colorado. Brian Purcell, Three Taverns’ founder, connected with Van Ginderachter about working on the start-up microbrewery. Here we talk beer and culture with Van Ginderachter.
Explain the significance of a Belgian brewer leaving Belgium to brew in America.
I came to the Unites States as the third Belgian Brewer after Peter Bouckaert (New Belgium) and Steven Pauwels (Boulevard Brewing). Considering the amount of Belgian beer or Belgian-inspired beer you can find around here, there aren’t many of us. The process to get the right Visa to be a brewer in the U.S. is very long and time consuming. I think Belgians generally are homebodies and like to live where they grew up, so it’s a big change to move here and leave friends and family behind. Some of my friends didn’t really appreciate it.
Some say that brewing is in a Belgian’s "DNA". What is that skill?
Tradition. Brewing in Belgium is one of tradition. Among Belgian beers there are many styles.
Is anyone else in your family involved in brewing?
My uncle is currently Brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Company. It’s hard to say that he wasn’t involved in my decision to choose a career in the brewing industry. He was part of the reason I started a career in the United States to begin with. Also a few generations back the “Van Ginderachter” family had a brewery with a famous beer called ginder-ale, which is now owned by the big AB-Inbev.
What was the appeal to work at a start-up microbrewery?
To be part of a start-up is a whole different story. The idea really captured my attention. I always wanted to be part of something from the beginning and help a company grow from the start.
Did you know much about Atlanta before moving here?
I only knew about the 1996 Olympics before I came here. I had never lived in a big city before either, but I quickly found out that there is a big Belgian community living in Atlanta. I really enjoy Atlanta and I can see it changing in a good way since I’ve been here. For instance, I see more people on their bikes, which I can only encourage.
How does Atlanta's beer scene compare to Belgium’s?
The Belgian beer scene is dominated by tradition. The majority of the breweries have been around for quite awhile. It’s normal to have many choices on a beer menu. But in the U.S., everything is new and exciting. Years ago, you could only choose between five different macro lagers and an import macro lager. All of that to say there is a lot of room to experiment in the U.S. whereas in Belgians stick to recipes that have been working for a long time.
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