Eight myths about lambic debunked

The author doing field research in Belgium...The lambic family of beers, consisting of lambic, gueuze, faro and kriek, has been making a remarkable comeback. Doomed to be extinct in the early 1970s, as drinks made for old men by old men, these beers from Brussels and surroundings were kept alive by passionate people that at first must have been regarded by locals as ‘quite crazy’. By now, their perseverance has paid off: today, lambic and gueuze are beer specialities highly coveted by beer lovers around the globe. (more…)


Gueuze in barrels (2)

A la Mort Subite, the café owned by Albert Vossen. Source: WikipediaIn the previous article, I wrote about gueuze, one of the best Belgian beers, known for its refermentation in bottles like champagne. However, in the past it was often also sold in barrels. For instance, in 1909 one Edmond Mineur described an old man from Brussels who every morning invariably had a gueuze from cask, but in the evening closed his day with a few good pints of gueuze from bottle, smoking his pipe.[1] So what was gueuze actually? And why is it a bottled beer almost by definition today? I found a few surprising answers… and they have everything to do with the trade of gueuze blender itself. (more…)


Gueuze in barrels (1)

Advertisement for gueuze-lambic from Maes Frères, 'in barrels and bottles'. Source: Patrick Goderis, Bières et brasseries bruxelloisesGueuze: the Belgian beer style known as the ‘champagne among beers’. After all, this spontaneously fermented beer belongs in a bottle, where it can develop its foam that joyously bursts in all directions when the cork pops out. Right? So why do I keep finding old newspaper ads where gueuze is advertised… in barrels?

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A lambic from Eastern Flanders from the early 1900s

View of the village of Schoonaarde by the river Scheldt, with the brewery's chimney.If there is one Belgian beer of which its fans want to know all about its history, it has to be lambic. This extraordinary beer from the Brussels region is surrounded by an aura of age-old tradition: supposedly, it is a kind of ‘primordial beer’ from the Middle Ages. Even more so, the ‘High Council for Artisanal Lambic beers’ HORAL (which is an incredibly pompous name, what’s wrong with just calling yourselves ‘Association of Lambic Brewers’?) pretends that ‘the first lambic was already brewed before the year 1300’.[1]

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A pub guide to Ghent, 32 years later

I spent last weekend in Flanders, in the beautiful city of Gent (or in English: Ghent). City of Medieval towers, quiet canals, overcrowded Christmas markets, and of pubs. At the Sunday book market alongside the Ajuinlei, I stumbled upon the Gentsche Kroegenboek, which roughly means ‘Ye olde Gent pub book’. Published in 1985, it describes the fifty best beer cafés of that moment. Which of course prompted a comparison: where are those pubs now? And: how is the beer doing, 32 years later? (more…)


Thanks marketing guys, for ruining Rodenbach forever

Head brewer Rudi Ghequire (right) had to participate in this circus. Source: youtubeIs there any protection for historic beers? Old castles and town halls are protected by law and you can’t just add a plastic conservatory or a bay window to them. But beers are fair game. I say this because it has happened: the marketing people have effectively destroyed one of my favourite beers forever. (more…)


The original 17th century Tripel Karmeliet recipe

Tripel KarmelietTripel Karmeliet is one of Belgium’s most famous beers. It has received multiple international awards and rightly is a modern classic. And according to the label it is brewed ‘according to a 17th century recipe from the Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde’. Which of course made me wonder: what recipe? Or: why real Carmelites are not allowed to brew this anymore. (more…)


East-Indian Haantjesbier

Last week’s Friday I had the honour of introducing the rebirth of a lost beer: Haantjesbier. At a festival about 19th century rebellious Dutch writers, in Amsterdam, because they were among its original drinkers. And it turned out to be a really good beer! (more…)


Lost Belgian beers: Keute from Namur

Namur, capital of the French-speaking part of Belgium known as Wallonia, is where the Brussels Beer Challenge started today. 85 beer judges will taste over 1400 international beers. However, I already was in Namur last week, where I stumbled upon an old friend: kuit beer. Time to rewrite a part of this Dutch beer’s history… (more…)


The evolution of Luiks beer

Beers change over time. Even when they keep being made by the same brewer, even if they keep carrying the same name. Even lager is not immune: currently it is moving from sweet to bitter, under the influence of the popularity of IPA, at least in Holland. About fifteenth years ago however, it was moving the other way and our pils was only getting sweeter! The most well-known Dutch supermarket, Albert Heijn, has recently revamped its lager beer: they are now dry-hopping it. However, back in 2002 they announced the opposite: that they were giving their lager ‘a less bitter and more full-mouthed taste.’[1] A nice example from the more distant past is the taste evolution that Luiks beer went through, from a fresh, light-coloured spelt beer to an aged brown barley beer. Here is the whole story, including a recipe! (more…)