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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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…)


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…)


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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Lost Belgian beers: Uitzet

Dubbel uitzet - Source: amsterdambookauctions.comSo far on this blog I’ve been concentrating on Lost Beers from the Netherlands. After all, that’s where all the old-fashioned top-fermenting beers got forgotten, after being outcompeted by lager. Compare that to Belgium, the open air museum of beer, which always stayed faithful to its lambic, Flemish old brown, white beer and saison. Although… Belgium too has quite a lot of lost beer types.[1]

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Fact check: The Belgian Beer Book

Fact check: The Belgian Beer BookThe Belgian Beer Book is an impressive edition. With 704 full-colour pages, it weighs 2 kilos. The book that Belgian beer culture and tradition deserves, you’d say. Last September, when it came out, I happened to meet one of the authors, Luc de Raedemaeker. He had the book with him, he was barely able to carry it. I opened the book and immediately I broke out in a cold sweat. It contains the worst collection of glaring bollocks on beer history I’ve ever seen put together.

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Lambic: the real story

Lambic busted - Original from: delcampe.netSometimes you suddenly see the light. At least I did last Saturday, at the Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam. I was invited to do a talk at this wild yeast festival, and it was another nice opportunity to socialise with other Dutch beer enthusiasts. Blending my own Mestreechs Aajt with beer writer Henri Reuchlin at the bar at the Arendsnest for instance, from the extremely sour barrel beer and a few commercially available beers by Gulpener. Great fun, but to me the climax was the (undeservedly poorly-attended) talk by Raf Meert, the lambic mythbuster.

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