This week Belgian civilisation is shaken to it's core by the revelation that beer prices will rise as a result of the hike in world oil prices.
The news that the cost of beer will go up three percent on 15 September set off a wailing and gnashing of teeth across the country (probably). Rises in the price of energy and chemicals have led to rises in the price of beer kegs, bottles and plastic containers used in the production process.
The industry points out that beer prices only increased 11 percent over the last 10 years compared to 21 percent for colas and 24 percent for bottled water. This is little consolation to the connoisseur consumers used to excellent cheap beer whenever they want it.
Belgium is beer paradise, and beer holds an exalted status here with hundreds of small breweries producing a huge range of unrivalled quality. Beer is drunk at all times of the day, and in my local cafe, opposite the station, I regularly see men (rarely women I admit) relaxing over a glass of Chimay Bleu or Orval before catching the morning train to work. This is perhaps increasingly less common, but still widespread, especially since it's a tradition enthusiastically embraced by Welsh expats intent on soaking up the complete "Belgian experience"...