Hoegaarden and European Nonalcoholic Beers


This summer I went on a trip to Europe to visit my family. My parents emigrated from communist Poland in the 80s right before I was born. I've always been in awe at their courage to take two small children (my siblings) and escape from the only country they've ever known to find a place of opportunity and give their family the best. Polish was my first language, I went to Polish school every Saturday for eight years, and I visited Poland as soon as communism ended. I grew up flying there to see my family often as a child, since other than my parents and one aunt, everyone I am related to is in Poland. This summer, I especially made the trip to be with my grandmother. She raised me as a child and I grew up with her living in our home every six months of the year (and the other six warmer months in Poland). At 95, she said farewell to her home in California and permanently moved back to Poland. I felt very strongly that I needed to see her and went to visit the homeland with my parents.

The trip was amazing and I never had to worry about waking up with a hangover and going sightseeing in misery. I spent quality time with my grandma, as she showed me photos of herself as a teenager before World War II, a newlywed and new mother during the war, surviving the aftermaths once my grandpa escaped from a concentration camp, and then as a glamorous mother during the later forties and fifties. Although I’ve only known her as an older person, her own identity remains firmly rooted as her younger self. Time passes in a glimmer and before we know it, we look back at what could have been. I am so grateful that with alcohol, I stopped letting fear run the show and just went for it, went for a sober life.

I was also able to spend a few days in Belgium wandering around fairy tale medieval cities. And so on my trip, I scouted the local nonalcoholic beer scene. And I can just say that Europe puts the US to shame. From my observations, it seems that every single beer company in Europe makes a nonalcoholic version of their beer. In Poland this included Lech, Warka, Zywiec, Birell, and more. In Belgium I saw Jupiler, Carlsberg, Hoegaarden, and Heineken. And it’s readily available, not just in random specialty stores. It’s in the restaurants, in the convenience stores, and even on billboards and bus advertisements. Do you know what this does? It normalizes nonalcoholic options for the entire society and makes alcohol less of an automatic choice. It makes it easier to be the designated driver, or to keep up a health routine, or to honor one’s intentions. And it makes it easier to be me, alcohol-free.     

Hoegaarden Wit Blanche is spice and nice with a mellow wheaty flavor. When sipped on the quay of Ghent’s canals, it makes for a lovely non-intoxicating afternoon.

I am sorry, most of these are not available in the US, but Hoegaarden Wit Blanche may be ordered online from this Dutch Expat Store.