New Yorkers offer Jan. 15 toast to beer import pioneers Vanberg & Dewulf

373483_121612931339906_766731895_nDo you remember the first time you had Duvel? How about Saison Dupont, Rodenbach, Scaldis or Boon?

Without Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield we may never have had a chance to try any of these classic Belgian beers.

Back in 1982, having departed a life in Belgian where they worked as ex-pats, for the U.S., they decided to import the beers they had come to love. Their company, Vanberg & DeWulf, today continues to import Belgian beers—and from other counties, albeit with a somewhat changed portfolio of beer. They moved from Cooperstown, N.Y., to Chicago and some of the portfolio names are the same, some are gone and there are new ones, such as Lambrucha, Lambickx, and DeCam.

Wendy Littlefield

Wendy Littlefield

Their mission was to support the  independent, family-run breweries and indigenous beer styles that expressed the spirit of a country the size of Maryland that today has almost 200 breweries.

They also conceived and built Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y., which they sold to Duvel Moortgat. Moreover, they published the first edition of “The Great Beers of Belgium” by Michael Jackson and to pioneer cooking with beer education at the Culinary Institute of America and The James Beard House. For their efforts, they were the first Americans inducted into the Belgian Brewers’ Guild.

Don Feinberg

Don Feinberg

Last year, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of Vanberg & Dewulf, Feinberg and Littlefield arranged a nationwide Coast2CoastToast with sanctioned bars and retailers hosting tastings. It took place Nov 15. But not in New York, which was just beginning to recover from Hurricane Sandy.  The company estimated that a third of its New York accounts suffered damage and about 20 percent of its New Jersey venues were shut.  Their New York wholesaler, Brooklyn-based Union Beer Distributors, had been flooded by the storm surge.  They postponed the New York version of Coast-to-Coast to Jan. 15.

Now, that day is at hand.

On Long Island, where I am based, Waterzooi, the Belgian-style restaurant in Garden City, has been designated an official host for the toast. There are 50 venues in and around New York City playing host. You can find the list either on this interactive map or at Union Beer’s web site.  In Manhattan, the Gingerman is offering 28  brews starting at 6 p.m.

Twitter followers can keep up with the latest on Coast-to-Coast-Toast-2 by following  #C2CT.

I certainly toast their success and wish them continued good fortune.

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