Lost Beers - Blog

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…)


Bavarian beer from Breda

Publicity poster Drie Hoefijzers - Source: Stadsarchief BredaAn aspect of Dutch beer history I hadn’t dealt with sufficiently so far, is ‘Beijersch’ (which means, in old Dutch spelling, Bavarian) beer. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, it replaced the old Dutch beer types, especially after the 1868 beer law made its production a lot cheaper. Often this Beijersch beer has simply been equated to pilsener, but that’s not right. Pils came to the Netherlands only in 1876, and initially sold only  in modest quantities. So what kind of beer was Beijersch? (more…)


Gruit: nothing mysterious about it

Münster town hall, with the Gruetgasse (Gruit Alley) to the right. Inset: bog myrtle. Source: WikipediaGruit was a Medieval beer ingredient in the Low Countries and westernmost Germany, as we saw in the previous article. Local governments had a monopoly on it and made good money selling it. But too often, people like to pretend there is something mysterious about what exactly gruit was composed of, and what purpose it served. However, gruit isn’t such a big mystery: more information has been preserved than you may have thought. So here’s a quick survey of gruit, and now you never need to say anymore that we don’t know anything about it.

Aloys Schulte. Source: Wikipedia

Aloys Schulte. Source: Wikipedia

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Fact check: where did gruit occur?

British Library - Petrus de Crescentiis - Rustican des ruraulx p. 157Recently someone added me to a gruit chat group on Facebook, called ‘The Gruit Guild’. That meant many pictures of brews and of people picking herbs out on the heath. After all, gruit was a herb mix added to beer in the Middle Ages, before people started using hops. But recently, someone asked a historical question, so I was happy to interfere. The question was: where did gruit actually occur? A fact check!

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