Can beer help bridge nation divided? Anheuser-Busch Try.

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WARSAGE, Belgium – In recent months there has been no real government in Belgium. This is after the elections in 2010 (541 days) after Guinness World Records had already reached the longest period of government in a peacetime period.

A big brewer beer could help with beer.

What a maker Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona learned is that people sit down and drink free beer even if it is not non-alcohol – then steal the table.

Belgium, home

Anheuser-Busch InBev

NV, in May, ran a national election which was unsuccessful in providing a parliamentary majority. Politicians from the two major Belgian regions – Dutch-speaking Flanders and Dutch – refused to cooperate.

For the third time in 12 years, a caretaker government was left in Belgium due to disagreements between Walloon and Flemish politicians. The outgoing prime minister will leave December 1 to take up another position, putting further pressure on reaching agreement.

Executives at AB InBev, who had a political discourse on their products on route stools around the world, decided to try Belgians to speak over the divide last month. Their approach was a weekly political science experiment involving hundreds of yellow folding tables and chairs in parks, forests and on lake shores along the 250 mile language barrier.

The bait of a free brew version called Leffe was a free glass. “Almost three months after the elections,” AB InBev liked ads that prompted participation, “we still don't have a federal government. Does Fleming and Walloons differ? ”

Both sides were so enthusiastic to find that Leffe had a non-alcoholic version, a brand that is renowned for its strong beer varieties; AB InBev introduced Leffe Blonde 0.0% in January. Some of them wrote on social media that they were disappointed that the beer was alcohol-free, intended to keep civil conversations and adhere to free public service of alcohol.

The company's officers call it marketing for good reason. “Our role as a beer maker is to bring people together,” he said

Alexis Meeus,

Leffe senior brand manager. “We want to show politicians that a Flemish-Walloon solution is feasible.” T

Bhfuil Are nets and Vowels so different? 'Participants considered the issue of Leffe beer without alcohol.

Photo:

Valentina Pop / The Wall Street Journal

Flemish nationalists want independence, or greater independence in Belgium at least, and often show the poorest Wallonia as a lazy interest and living away from it. Walloons are worried that Flanders is going too far and that the Belgian nationalist movement will destroy.

InBev FE attendees tended to make a compromise, as two people agree that Belgium generally agrees with beer and transfer for politicians.

“It is a shame that a multinational company would have to think about this idea,” said Cindy Pirard, a Walloon participant who spoke politics for more than an hour in a bad sun along a dirt road surrounded by farmland. .

In Belgium, just can not speak hard. French speakers have been running the country for many years, and the Dutch speakers are still happy with it. Many Flemish refuses to speak French, even if they can. Not many Dutch Walloons speak.

Ms Pirard and her Flemish board partner, bilingually, discussed matters other than Belgium, including Brexit. They could not find hot beer without alcohol. An hour later, a van with a refrigerated van came with a van.

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From the start of the campaign, many people did not. Many complaints about Facebook indicated that the Belgian capital, Brussels, was not included in the online registration menu for participants to communicate their home region. Others caught those organizers who left the German speaking region of Germany out of the blue.

The pop-up conversations took place at a different location each day, and GPS coordinates were emailed to participants.

On each table there was a link to an online questionnaire prepared by a political scientist. “Say hello to your debate party. Take your smart phone. Find your discussion topics, ”the instructions mentioned. “Have a good debate and courage!”

InBev AB installed hundreds of Flemish-Walloon border tables to encourage debate within Belgium. Some were distributed.

Photo:

Valentina Pop / The Wall Street Journal

Compulsory responses to the questions, questions from taxation to retirement, must be agreed jointly before submission. These include: “How different are Flemish and Velvet – very different, quite different, not very different, we are all Belgians.”

“The questions are a bit meh,” said Jos Stevens, a Flemish pig farmer who did not get the event almost as he could not find the board on a forestry road near the village of Warsage, where medieval monks surrendered a strong beer, t like original Leffe.

Finding spots along the invisible language border proved challenging for the curator, Mr Meeus said. A local lever club which crossed the lake crossed one idea – putting a table on a raft in a picturesque lake. The tables were placed on the shore.

Elsewhere, the border crossed private farmland, so the organizers changed to nearby paths. Some sites changed the last minute, leaving potential participants going to outdated GPS coordinates, some of them made a complaint on Facebook.

Flemish pig farmer Jos Stevens, on the left, and his discussion partner Walloon did not lose this table in a forest.

Photo:

Valentina Pop / The Wall Street Journal

Others came to find any discussion party from the other side. Many people drank and left them. “If the organizers wanted to show that the Belgian model is not working, they are successful,” wrote one participant in a social media post.

A group session came near a church, where participants pulled three tables together, believing that they all preached the choir. They agreed that the Belgian problem is more with people in deep Flanders and in Wallonia and with politicians who refuse to talk to each other, residents are not close to the border.

“The people who take part are not representative,” he said

Dave Sinardet,

the political scientist who put the 10 questions together.

Mr Sinardet, who teaches university students on Belgian nationalism and nationalism, said he was working initially with a multinational company but that it was going on anyway and that good questions would improve the discussion.

“Initially, I delayed,” he said. “It's a good initiative – people talk a lot about each other, but they don't speak to each other. But it is a publicity stunt. ”

At a group discussion near a church, the participants decided that they were preaching on the choir.

Photo:

Valentina Pop / The Wall Street Journal

The target of the campaign was 2,000 attendees. It drew 800 signals, and 243 tabled responses. Some non-partner went into other tables, adding to the number, AB InBev spokesman said

Laure Stuyck.

The company was pleased to spend about 1,500 beer, she said, which meant that Leffe people liked alcohol-free.

They also liked the yellow tables and chairs. More than half of them disappeared, AB InBev said. One van driver spoke about her “personal nightmare at Waterloo,” when boards were stolen inside minutes after they put them up.

“If they really liked them, and on the table there is a big sticker that says Náisiúnta National Debate,” said Ms. Stuyck. “We are delighted that they have taken the tables.”

Write Valentina Pop at valentina.pop@wsj.com

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