What is Belgium’s oldest beer?

Beer museum, SchaarbeekWhen making a beer trip to Belgium, you can easily get mesmerized by all the history you see: venerable old brown pubs, knighthoods with seemingly Medieval outfits, stained glass windows, old carriages and most of all: lots of labels. Labels featuring emperors, monks, coats of arms and of course most prominently a year of supposed origin, usually a millennium or so ago. So that’s why this time I’ll try to answer the inevitable question: what is Belgium’s oldest beer? (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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Dutch faro and lambic revisited

Brewery De Sleutel Dordrecht 1928 (detail) - Source: geheugenvannederland.nlIn the previous article I summarised what lambic mythbuster Raf Meert had found out about the history of this wonderful beer type from Brussels and surroundings. To put it briefly: everything lambic brewers’ association HORAL and self-proclaimed authorities like beer writer Jef van den Steen had claimed so far on this subject is embarrassing hokum, unfortunately. In reality, this remarkable tart beer doesn’t go back further than the eighteenth century, and it contained a lot more wheat than today. Initially faro was the strongest kind of yellow beer, until the even stronger lambic appeared. So here’s my contribution: how do the faros and lambics of the Netherlands fit into this story?

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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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Dutch Faro and Lambic

Faro Sleutel DordrechtBelgium has its lambic, faro and geuze, spontaneously fermented beers that can only be produced in the Zenne valley and the Pajottenland near Brussels. Or can they? Learn about the historical Lambic beers of Holland. With a recipe.

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