Belgium Toasts a Beer Knight Beer is among Belgium's top exports and a source of cultural pride. Belgians take the subject of suds seriously enough to bestow knighthood on those who are particularly knowledgeable about the nation's 700-plus beer varieties. American Bill Catron became Sir Bill this weekend at a ceremony in Brussels.
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Belgium Toasts a Beer Knight

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Belgium Toasts a Beer Knight

Belgium Toasts a Beer Knight

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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History has given us the Knights of the Roundtable and the Knights Templar. Belgium has another honor that goes back for centuries. The Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs, or - this will be better - the Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff, bestowed upon beer masters who promote the traditions and nobility of the Belgian brewers trade.

Foreigners weren't eligible for the knighthood until 10 years ago. Since then, only 14 Americans have been so knighted, and Homer Simpson isn't among them. But Bill Catron, the beer specialist at Brasserie Beck, a Belgian restaurant in Washington, D.C., is. He's in Brussels to be knighted this weekend.

And do we say congratulations, Sir Bill?

Mr. BILL CATRON (Beer Sommelier, Brassiere Beck): Yes. Thank you very much.

SIMON: And what do you got to do to be a beer knight?

Mr. CATRON: You have to have a love and passion of Belgian food and Belgian beer, and travel the country and actually learn a lot about these beers and the complexities of the beers because they're so diverse and there are so many of them. I mean, I think that there are roughly 700 Belgian beers from a hundred breweries.

SIMON: So you don't have a Belgian beer to just wet your whistle, then?

Mr. CATRON: No, you don't have that. I mean, what you would want to do, in all honesty, is match it or prepare it with food.

SIMON: Now, may I ask what do you do at Brasserie Beck?

Mr. CATRON: I am the beer sommelier. We have over 170 beers. We have 11 on tap.

SIMON: So when you're a beer sommelier, if somebody says, okay, I want the mussels, just the traditional mussels.

Mr. CATRON: Sure.

SIMON: And so what do you pair with that?

Mr. CATRON: I would say any kind of Saison beer. The best-selling Saison beer that we do for that would be Saison Dupont. That's the best style to match mussels with beer.

SIMON: Obvious simile to make. Are the Belgians about beer, the way the French are about wine?

Mr. CATRON: Very much so. I mean, in all honesty, it's their commodity. The Belgian breweries, I mean, this is very, very, very, very big for them. It's probably the biggest export besides chocolate.

SIMON: When you're a beer knight, do you get a, like a chain mail, a suit of armor to wear? Do you get anything to put around your neck? I mean...

Mr. CATRON: You do get a coat of arms to go around your neck, yes.

SIMON: You do?

Mr. CATRON: Yeah. And it's quite impressive. Everyone else at the festival that has been knighted before who's in the knighthood, they come up to you and congratulate you.

SIMON: I - as I probably don't have to tell you, Mr. Catron, Washington, D.C., is a very status-conscious city. You know, senators expect to get seated, and visiting movie stars expect to get seated, and the heads of big law firms and lobbyists expect to be seated. It occurs to me none of them have been knighted, and now you have.

Mr. CATRON: Well, you know, I think the difference between all that would be they can put esquire on a card and I could probably put sir.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: So a server says, I'll send Sir Bill over to your table to advise you on your choice of beer.

Mr. CATRON: Exactly. Sir Bill will be arriving soon. But I don't think that the chef will ever call me that. He'll always call me Bill, and probably yell my name and tell me to get over here faster.

SIMON: Sir Bill Catron, beer specialist at Washington, D.C.'s Brasserie Beck, and now a Knight of the Brewers' Mashstaff.

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