“It is like being a child in a sweet shop,” said one customer as he walked around Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds.
René Vandenoort has had the enviable job of sampling some 500 beers over the last two years, before selling them at his St Johns Street shop.
“It’s terrible,” said René with a smile. “It is really difficult when I get a new batch and there are 15 to 20 beers that are new to me. I like to try before I sell it. It is always hard work.”
Beautiful Beers opened in 2011 but had been five years in the planning when René used to run the Baytree restaurant just a few doors away.
“It had been in the planning for about five years – ever since we started selling Belgian beers in the Baytree – we sold 12 Belgian beers and they were very popular.
“I really struggled to get a supplier – and so I thought why don’t I import the beers myself.
“I’m Dutch. I speak Flemish so I found it easy – and the rest is history.”
Although Belgian beers is his speciality, Beautiful Beers also stocks beers by 20 local – and not so local microbreweries including Brewdog in Scotland, and beers from Germany, France and Holland.
“Our biggest per centage beer at the moment is Brewdog’s Tokyo which is 18.2 per cent. We did have Tactical Nuclear Penguin also by Brewdog which is 32 per cent and was very popular for Christmas.”
René was not always so passionate about beer.
“I was a chef and so all my catering training was with wine and the classic wines of France. I still enjoy my wines as well but I discovered there is a far greater variety of beer and even sometimes greater complexity.”
He says his favourite beers are the Trappist beers.
“They are the most rare and the most traditional in style There are only eight Trappist monastaries in the World that brew beer and we have all eight.”
They are also the most expensive with Trappist Westvleteren – the rarest and number one beer in the World according to 45,000 beer drinkers at ratebeer.com – costing £20 a bottle.
The most popular beer he sells meanwhile is Delirium Tremens.
“It is also a medical term. It is Latin for getting the shakes after alcohol poisioning. It is not a good name but the beer is wonderful. It is very very popular,” René said.
He now stocks 300 beers at any one time and has another 50 available through his website.
It has been a success story that was born out of recession.
“The first year was very tough,” René said. Now he wholesales to restaurants and pubs – including Benson Blakes across the road.
René also sells beer kits for about £40 and has a Bury home brewers club which meets every first Friday of the month to try their beers.