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Can licensees pick up any tips from our Belgian cousins when it comes to serving beer, or are the Brits best behind the bar? Interbrew set up a...

Can licensees pick up any tips from our Belgian cousins when it comes to serving beer, or are the Brits best behind the bar? Interbrew set up a week-long bar exchange between a venue in London and one in Brussels to find out. Ewan Turney went along too, and discovered just how divided Europe really is

In Belgium, beer is celebrated as the national drink and loved with the kind of pride normally reserved for royalty. It's a different story in England, where Continental, rather than home-grown brews rule.

Inspired by the different approaches both nation's take when it comes to beer, Interbrew held a competition giving two bars ­ one in London and one in Brussels ­ the chance to swap places for a week. The brewer, whose portfolio includes Hoegaarden, a range of speciality Belgian beers as well as the ubiquitous Stella Artois, wanted to see what both countries could learn from one another. Interbrew key account manager Stephen Parker explained: "The aim was to take a Continental approach to speciality beers through education and hands-on experience, reflecting the UK and Belgium markets."

Maria Jansen from the Social in London swapped her upmarket venue, where cocktails share the limelight with beer, for Brussels "beer temple" Le Roi D'Espagne, where Frederic Langers is a bar man. At the same time Langers spent a week at the Jerusalem in London. Although the experience threw up a handful of industry and cultural differences, reflecting on the impact it has had on both pubs once Jansen and Langers were back on home soil, Parker says: "The experience proved highly successful in terms of the knowledge that was gained.

"The Jerusalem is now selling a Moules and frites dish with a glass of Hoegaarden, and on Valentine's night you could get a Belle Vue Framboise or Kriek served with chocolate."

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