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New board game takes beer lovers on a race through Belgium

Photo from The Belgian Beers Race

If you’ve ever wanted to pit your extensive knowledge of Belgian beers against that of your friends, you’ll very soon have the chance to do exactly that.

A board game by the name of Belgian Beer Race is currently in production and due for release this summer, meaning beer lovers and brew-thusiasts will be able to literally win at beer.

The game is the brainchild of Michael Boutriaux, a native Belgian living in Brussels who saw the chance to combine two of his passions while documenting an important part of his country’s culture.

The object of the game is to travel around Belgium using a mix of bikes, buses, trams, trains, and hitch-hiking – sampling beer along the way from different breweries, all of which exist in real life.

“The idea of the game is that everything is real,” Boutriaux told The Brussels Times.

“It’s real, what you can do at the brewery. If you can buy beer in the game, you can buy it in the real world. The public transit routes are all real. You can play the board game, then do it in real life.”

The project started over four years ago, and when Boutriaux first contacted game publishers with the concept, he was told it was impractical and had ‘no future.’

But after a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for a prototype shattered its €15,000 goal, garnering over €80,000 in funding, some of those companies had a change of heart.

“Before, everybody said, ‘no, it’s not going to work,’” remembers Boutriaux, who shopped the concept around at both beer festivals and board game conventions.

“But after the Kickstarter, we found a distributor. Now we have someone asking for a French version, and an American version. More and more people are coming on board.”

Boutriaux has already aligned with distributors for French and American editions, and there has been interest in one for Germany, as well, which has a similarly rich history of brewing.

“Beer is not only Belgian,” Boutriaux pointed out. “There are good breweries everywhere in the world.”

When it comes to the ones that made it into the Belgian Beer Race, Boutriaux has sampled them all. He stressed the independence of the decision-making process when it came to choosing which breweries to include in the game.

“The breweries have to be chosen with no schmoozing,” said Boutriaux. “There’s no money exchanged, we ask for nothing – it’s an independent choice. These are great, independent breweries that make their own beer.”

Not every brewery does, but the 40 featured in the game (six of which are located in Brussels: Cantillon, Brasserie L’ermitage, Brussels Beer Project, Brasserie de la Senne, Brasserie No Science and En Stoemelings) make all their craft beer in-house.

Photo from The Belgian Beers Race

Another aspect of the game that’s important to its creator is the environmental footprint – Boutriaux was adamant that production take place in Europe, using recycled materials and certified-green manufacturers whenever possible.

“It’s a little bit more expensive than a game produced in China, but for us it’s very important,” said Boutriaux.

While reluctant to choose an all-time favourite, Boutriaux lists one of his most-loved craft breweries featured in the game as Brasserie d’Orval (a trappist beer brewed in Wallonia), and says he prefers stouts and darker beers.

Belgian Beer Race is even teaming up with Brasserie de la Mule, new to the Brussels brewing scene, to make their own beer.

“During this year of the pandemic, of being home, I drank 500 beers,” Boutriaux said.

“Beer is part of my life – it’s a passion for me. I love beer.”

The game is set to be released this summer with versions in English, French and Dutch. It will be available for purchase online and in the Brasseries and beer shops featured in the game.

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