Chris DeCicco during his knighting ceremony

Good Knight: Chris DeCicco honored in Belgium for beer stewardship

America may never be a monarchy, but Westchester can now boast its very own knight.

Chris DeCicco during his knighting ceremonyJoanna Prisco
Chris DeCicco, co-owner of DeCicco & Sons family-run markets, was enthroned as an honorary knight in a grand ceremony in Brussels earlier this fall by the Knighthood of the Brewers Mash Staff in Belgium.

“It was quite the honor,” said DeCicco in a recent interview inside the beer cave at the DeCicco & Sons market in Armonk. “The history and the culture of brewing in Belgium is incredible. My parents and my brother went over, and even my cousin from Italy flew in for the event.”

On Sept. 1, the Belgian beer community gathered in the Brussels Grand Place as part of a three-day beer festival honoring St. Arnold, the patron saint of brewing.

During the celebration, honorary knights from around the world were enthroned for their “loyal services to the brewing profession,” with DeCicco being one of only four Americans honored and only the second retailer ever from New York state.

“The ceremony was intense. It was a crazy, all-day thing,” he recalled. “They carry this cask of beer up through Grand Place, then there’s an hour-long ceremony all in Flemish and a priest blesses the cask of beer, then everybody marches out through the streets of Brussels. Then, you go into the main city hall, the mayor of Brussels speaks, and then they start the whole knighting ceremony.”

But instead of a sword, the Knighthood of the Brewers Mash Staff use a mash paddle, an integral tool of the brewing process, to tap each shoulder.

Each DeCicco & Sons location includes a vast selection of brews in the beer department, which Chris DeCicco oversees. He credits much of his preliminary education in the beer world to experiencing the Belgian beer boom during the mid 1990s.

“That’s what first opened my eyes up to the world outside of your typical Budweiser or Coors,” he said. “It was like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know beer could taste like this.’ To this day, the best beers in the world are coming out of Belgium. The only difference is that now more American breweries are starting to produce similar styles.”

If you’ve never experienced Belgian beer, DeCicco notes that the flavor profiles will likely be a pleasant surprise.

“They don’t do much with hops, so there aren’t many bitter Belgian beers,” he said. “The flavors are maltier, sweeter and more complex.”