Double saison from Maastricht

An old poster for steam brewery De Keyzer in Maastricht, specialised in 'young and old beer'.Researching lost beers demands quite a lot of imagination. More than often the available brewing records are illegible, messy, incomplete or they simply look like something from another planet. The problem is of course that the brewer who once wrote them down was completely familiar with his own brewery and the ingredients, so he didn’t record everything. Clearly he didn’t think: ‘Would someone still understand this in one and a half century’s time?’ Today’s breweries, big or small, differ greatly from the situation back then. What was a hopback at the time? How did you handle a mash tun or a fermenting vessel? Only slowly old texts start to make sense. Therefore, it’s very helpful to see everything for real. And that is possible in Maastricht, a city at the most southern tip of the Netherlands. (more…)


A French (and Belgian) beer for factory workers and farm hands

George Cruikshank, The Bottle, Plate IV, Free library of Pennsylvania.The French-speaking part of this world has a lot of beer history yet to be discovered. An example is an old Belgian magazine that I found, La feuille du cultivateur, published in Brussels as a ‘journal d’agriculture pratique’, which means: journal of practical agriculture. (more…)


Brasserie à Vapeur: Belgium’s last steam brewery

BLocal lads empty the mash tun at Brasserie à Vapeur, Pipaix, Belgiumack in February I visited the wonderful Brasserie à Vapeur in the small village of Pipaix in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. Going there is quite an experience: because of the monumental preserved brewery, and because of the uniquely festive atmosphere a brewing day has there. (more…)


Fact check: the Vandervelde Law

L'alcool est un poison, ca. 1900. Collection Jenevermuseum, HasseltA Belgian law from 1919 aimed at combating alcohol abuse, is credited with creating the heavy Belgian beers we now know so well: the dubbels, the tripels, the Duvels. But is it true? Time for a fact check.

This is what well-known Belgian beer writer Jef van den Steen has to say about it, in connection with the rise of ‘heavy’ trappist beers after the First World War:
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The lost hop varieties of Belgium

Belgian hops: making a comeback? Source: WestflandricaBelgium is a hop producing country. Right? However, the Belgian hop growing sector is only a bleak shadow of its former self. Not only has the total surface and production been receding for years and years, Belgium also has given up its native hop varieties long ago. Varieties that were once a staple of lambic and all the other traditional Belgian beers. (more…)


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…)