New Belgium’s Belgian White Isn’t Brewed in Belgium, So They Hired an ‘Actual Belgian’

Karel Deruwe brings dry wit with a twist to new campaign

Belgian actor Karel Deruwe brings some old-world authenticity to the American brewer. Erich and Kallman

You might recognize the pitchman in New Belgium Brewing’s latest commercials—but only if you’re a devotee of Belgian TV and cinema.

Karel Deruwe, a seasoned Flemish actor with a resume that spans four decades, lifts a pint stateside in agency Erich and Kallman’s first campaign for the brand.

Seated in a bar, the slender, bespectacled Belgian, his beard touched with gray, delivers a half-dozen subtle but amusing performances.

In the first ad below, he discusses the ale’s fresh ingredients. So, naturally, we also learn that UFOs are really just pigeons that swallowed glow-sticks:

“Our assignment in launching Fat Tire Belgian White was not only to introduce a new product, but to educate people about the beer,” agency co-founder and creative director Eric Kallman tells Adweek. “And when the beer is a Belgian White, and the name of the brewery is New Belgium—founded by a guy who got inspired when he rode his bike across Belgium drinking Belgium beer—we thought the best person to tell us about the beer would be an actual Belgian.”

Actually, the product is brewed right here in the US of A. That’s why they call the stuff “Belgian Style Ale” in various promotional materials. A toast to truth in advertising!

Next, Deruwe riffs on his proud heritage, bemoaning the fact that his son chooses to literally drape himself in the American flag:

“The campaign targets men in their 20s and 30s by not only clearly communicating Fat Tire Belgian White’s attributes, but by doing so in a way that actually breaks through,” Kallman says. “Competition in the Belgian White space includes Blue Moon and many others. But while almost everyone else in the category is simply showing their product and listing its attributes in straight-forward and forgettable ways, our Belgian spokesman gives you something to like and someone to connect with. It’s a character you’ll look forward to seeing again and again. It’s advertising you’ll remember, and possibly even talk about and share.”

Deruwe might share a tad too much about his choice of footwear in this installment:

“We never considered using a different Belgian person in each spot,” says Kallman. “We wanted to find the perfect character to tell us about Fat Tire Belgian White. Someone you like and can’t wait to see again.”

Though Deruwe’s English is excellent, and his laid-back but ever-so-slightly-edgy approach quite engaging, there were, naturally, some issues on set given that he was working in a second language.

“There was a lot audio clean up and many words and phrases that were totally replaced from other takes — probably at least once in every video,” Kallman says. “We didn’t want him to over-enunciate, and we loved his intimate delivery, so with his naturally thick accent we knew we were bound to do a lot of audio work in post to ensure clarity.”

Though a word still gets lost here and there, he comes across as highly likable—the kind of seasoned bloke you’d want to share a drink with.

Deruwe, who has done lots of crime thrillers and dramas, responded well to the very American-style comedy scripts.

“Karel did understand the humor, but found it to be different from what he’s used to,” Kallman recalls. “Karel told me, ‘Your dialogue goes beyond normal, but it works.’”

You can sample the campaign’s remaining rounds below:


Client: New Belgium Brewing
VP Marketing: Shaun Belongie
Director of Brand Marketing: Kyle Bradshaw
Brand Manager: Nora McCombs

Agency: Erich & Kallman
Creative Director: Eric Kallman
Managing Director: Steven Erich
Art Director: Rob Stone
Copywriter: Pat Newman
Producer: Marco Vidalis
Account Director: Julie Pfleger

Production: ContagiousLA
EP: Natalie Sakai
Producer: Sean Barney
Director: Andrew Laurich
DP: Filip Vandewall (Belgian)
Associate Producer: Jordan Flack
Casting: LeQuartier Louis Pons (Belgian)

Post: Arcade Edit
Editor: Sean Lagrange
EP: Crissy DeSimone
Producer: Adam Parker
Colorist: Marco Cordero

Mix/Sound: Barking Owl
Audio Engineer: Patrick Navarre
EP: Damian Bayett
CD Kelly Bayett
Producer: Ashley Benton

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.