You can enjoy regional produce and specialities from Brabant all year round. For instance in the spring you can enjoy our famous anchovies, strawberries and asparagus. And year round delicious dining with local game is something that we've been doing for centuries in Brabant. And luckily we still are! You can also always find local specialty beers, Trappist cheeses and Bossche bollen to enjoy.
They really like to enjoy life in Brabant. That includes enjoying a beer or two in great company too. Whether that's at home with friends, or in a bar or on a terrace.
We don't pride ourselves only on our ever-increasing range of specialty beers. It's also the case that you're increasingly able to drink them in some truly unique locations. And North Brabant is also known as the beer brewing province of the Netherlands. With around four beer brewers per 100,000 inhabitants, we have the largest number in the country.
Autumn and winter are the perfect time for comfort food: game and beer. It's a perfect combination. But which beer goes with which dish? That's not quite as simple to work out. You would have thought that the powerful flavours of game work well with a heavy beer - a triple say. It's an option. There'd certainly be enough flavour, but it might also be a bit heavy on the stomach. If you're eating a good chunk of hare or wild boar, a triple from Brabant might be a great option. Preferably one with soft and floral hop flavours.
But it's also true of game and beer: don't overdo it! A strong beer shouldn't overpower the taste of the dish. A guinea fowl or quail for instance call for a little more refinement. And that's not just in the taste of the meat. The frequently served side dishes of potato roses and the subtle flavours of beetroot, pearl onions, chicory, quince, and baby vegetables require a little finesse.
In general, the caramel tones of a bock beer are great with game. And bear in mind that the number of bock beers are just mushrooming these days. So make sure you try some for yourself.
The phenomenon of specialty beer is on the rise. From hobby brewers and microbreweries to the big players: there are more and more types of beer these days. Several breweries in Brabant are definitely worth a visit. A number of them offer excursions and tasting sessions. We do recommend that you book in advance though.
A real culinary celebration starts every April in Brabant. That's when the first asparagus and strawberries are harvested, and together with our famous anchovies form the three things that Brabant is famous for. Many restaurants are inspired by these ingredients at this time of year, and create dishes that let them shine.
When you think of asparagus, you think of North Brabant. You can enjoy this delicious seasonal product in Brabant every year from April to June. The 'Brabantse Wal' asparagus is even a recognized European regional product, which owes its distinctive salty taste to the pure groundwater of the Kalmthoutse Heathland and the ocean breezes of Zeeland.
These events are simply not to be missed! Come and enjoy what's known locally as 'White Gold'!
The Van Dort family from Bergen op Zoom is the only family in the Netherlands that still catches anchovies. As soon as the sign with the text 'Fresh anchovies available' appears on Artillery Street, a true run on this delicious fish happens. They are caught in the traditional way in traps.
Tip! Watch the anchovy catch on a boat trip to the weir fishery (in the period May to beginning of June)
The strawberry completes the trio, and is usually included in desserts in our famous seasonal menu. This delicious fruit is often sold at the farmhouse gates of various farms in the region.
When we think of game, we tend to think of the area around the Veluwe National Park, but Brabant also produces delicious game. In North Brabant, we tend to have small game as well as big game such as wild boar and deer. Small game includes hare, rabbit and pheasant. The villages of Nieuw-Vossemeer and Steenbergen in West Brabant form the westernmost point of North Brabant (separated from Zeeland by the Scheldt / Rhine canal) also star in the 1925 novel by A.M. de Jong "Merijntje Gijzen's Jeugd". The main characters in the novel (besides Merijntje) are Flierefluiter the tramp, and the rough-around-the-edges poacher De Kruik, who lay traps for pheasants and other small game. Together they wander through the wild land. And that's exactly where you'll now find a beautiful cycling and walking route. The jealous De Kruik ends up in jail after murdering the new constable and his beloved, Janekee. Merijntje steals some mispels from the parsonage garden - and they taste wonderful with all that game.
A little further, and at William of Orange's court in Breda they also ate lots of game in the 16th century. As well as large game, hare and rabbit, they also ate many birds such as snipers, plovers, thrushes, pigeons, pheasants, wild duck and roosters that wandered over from the Biesbosch. The pheasant is a remnant from the times when these birds (originally from Asia Minor) were bred here to be shot by the nobility and then eaten during the famous Pheasant Feast. Between 1650 and 1850, falconers used to hunt them with peregrine falcons (the town of Valkenswaard was named for them). Swan was also eaten by the nobility in Den Bosch during the annual "Zwanenbroeders dinner". Eventually though, swan and pheasant disappeared from the table and were replaced by smaller game birds: quail and partridge. Quail and partridge also disappeared thanks to the Mansholt policy of the 1970s which saw the grain fields disappear to be replaced by large-scale pig farms (the pigs were fed with soy scrap from the Far East). And that's how the pheasant became the culinary bird of choice once more.
Enjoying game in Brabant all year round - it's been possible here for centuries, and luckily it still is!
See www.jagersvereniging.nl/wildopdekaart for more information on when various game is available (in Dutch).
Author: René Zanderink
Biologist, journalist, Dutch heritage guardian and ambassador for Dutch Cuisine