Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brouwerij De Graal

Top photo:Brewer/Owner Wim Saeyens.
Bottom photo:the brewery

One of the smaller Belgian breweries that I have visited in the last couple of years is Brouwerij De Graal, located in Brakel, in the Province of East Flanders. Brewer/owner Wim Saeyens was a homebrewer for years before opening the brewery in 2002. Wim has a Ph.D. in chemistry, and attended the brewing school at the University of Ghent.
De Graal products include Gember, the first commercial beer, brewed with Ginger, as well as Blond, Dubbel, Speciale and Tripel.
I visited in December, 2007, with Belgian beer lover Carl Kins of Kortrijk and Mark Smith of Ohio. The temp inside the brewery was a cool 55 degrees, but we were soon warmed by the De Graal beers!
We found the Gember to be very well balanced and not overly spicy. Its 8% alcohol is well hidden. As to its prime ingredient, Wim had this to say: “I mill (grind) dried ginger root and add it to the beer. It’s a natural ingredient.”
Wim pointed out that he has four brewing kettles, two boiling kettles and two lauter tuns: “This is so I can brew continuously on a brewing day. I usually produce about 550 to 600 liters of beer per batch, or about 2.4 hectos per day.” About 750 hectoliters were produced in 2008.
De Graal also has Bierbrand, a sort of bier schnapps distilled from six of Wim’s brews, produced at a distillery near Oudenaarde. We all found this 40% abv tipple to be very good. Sadly, I don’t believe Shelton Brothers, which imports the De Graal brews, imports Bierbrand.
De Graal has several interesting beers, including Triverius, a strong wheat beer with 6.8% that was commissioned by the town of Brakel to mark an important anniversary. “It could be classified as a Double White beer, as some similar brews are now being called” Wim told us as we enjoyed a sample.
Wim enjoys bitter, hoppy beers, so he was receptive when Carl Kins asked him to brew a special beer a couple of years ago. Carl related the story to us “I travel to the U.S. every year, for the GABF and other events. I wanted to have a special local Belgian brew crafted for my 50th birthday: one with American hops and Belgian yeast. So, I asked Wim to brew SloCK, and it has now become so popular that it is a regular De Graal beer. It has 55 ibu and 6.5% abv, but it’s not really an IPA. It has a fruity character due to the hops used. It’s also very drinkable but not overpowering. There are no herbs or spices used either.”
The De Graal beers are unpasteurized. A centrifuge is used to remove any remaining hop pellets. German Hallertauer hops are used in some of the beers. A different yeast is used for brewing than for bottling conditioning. In fact, Wim uses several different yeast strains for in his beers. Blond, Dubbel and Gember have the same yeast, while the other beers use different yeasts.
De Graal has an Italian bottling line which can fill 33 cl and 75 cl bottles. Shelton Brothers imports only the 75 cl bottles into the U.S.
Wim mentioned lots of plans to expand the brewery and add new equipment during our visit.
I enjoyed the beers of De Graal, and I think this is a brewery to watch in the future.

More photos here: De Graal photos

For more info, see: De Graal's website

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Belgium's "Champagne-style" Brut beers and Brouwerij Malheur

Top photo: Malheur Brut Reserve.

Left photo: Manu de Landtsheer with
Malheur Cuvee Royale Brut beer.

I noticed recently that the url for my article in Celebrator Beer News about Belgium's "Brut" beers, produced in the "Champagne-style" changed sometime last year, and the old, incorrect web url shows on web searches.

The new link is here:

Belgium's Champagne-style beers

I visited Brouwerij Malheur (De Landtsheer) for a second time in May 2008, with owner Manu de Landtsheer once again my host.

I was joined by Stephen Lipps of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and Belgian beer lover Carl Kins of Kortrijk.

After a pretty late night in Ghent the previous Thursday, we were a little slow getting started. It was a tough morning....

Manu arranged for the four of us to be part of a quality control blind tasting, beginning at 10:30 am on Friday May 23.

The beers were served in dark glasses, making it hard tell whether it was a blond or dark beer being tasted, solely by visual means.

Though we did not know for certain what we were being served, I guessed the first beer was Malheur 10. I was right. The problem: Manu's quality control person told us that the beer was available in 33 cl, 75 cl, and on draft, and that of the three glasses of beer we each had, two would be either 33 cl, 75 cl, or draft, and one glass would be of one of the other two serving methods....though we had no idea which. It could be any combination. The goal was: which beer do you prefer, and is one serving style (33 cl 75 cl, or draft) "better" than the other. Turns out we had two glasses of 75 cl and one 33 cl, in this case.

Malheur 10.....what a great way to start a morning.....while on a beer research trip! We also enjoyed Malheur 12, Malheur Brut Reserve and Dark Brut Reserve.

Manu also showed us the building where the old brewery used to be, and other parts of the brewery complex I had not seen on my first visit in 2006.

I think Malheur is producing a lineup of great beers. It is one of my favorite Belgian breweries.



Photos, from top to bottom:

1) Manu with his World Beer Cup awards
2) Manu (L) and Steve Lipps (R) at quality control tasting
3) more quality control tasting
4) entrance to Brouwerij de Landtsheer (Malheur)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Brasserie Authentique

Photo: brewer/owner Frédéric Baert, with a 75 cl bottle of Blonde.

I had the pleasure of visiting one of Belgium’s smallest breweries back last May 31st.
As part of my tour of Wallonian breweries, Belgian beer lover Carl Kins (of Kortrijk) and I visited Brasserie Authentique in Blaton, Hainaut Province.

“I brewed 60 hectos of beer in 2007” brewer/owner Frédéric Baert told us as we toured the brewery, one of the smallest in Belgium. “I plan to produce about 120 hectos this year (2008)” he continued.

Baert has plans to buy a new brewkettle in February of this year. The present ones are made for dairy use; yes, as in milk! I’ve seen such kettles at other small breweries, such as La Frasnoise in Frasnes-lez-Buissenal, also in Hainaut Province. They must be much cheaper for small breweries than new brewkettles.

The fermentation tanks were brand new in early 2008.

Brasserie Authentique opened in 2004. Up till last year, Baert was brewing just once per week, but he told me plans to brew twice per week in 2009, and has a goal of achieving 500 hl of production in the near future.

The two flagship beers are the Blonde and Triple. The Blonde has 6.5% abv, and is flavored with coriander and white pepper. The hops used are Brewer’s Gold and Hallertau.
I found it a very pleasant and easy drinking beer, with interesting spice notes. The Triple has 9.5% abv, and uses the same hops. Both are offered in 33 and 75 cl bottles. The other brews are all in 33 cl bottles, which are usually purchased new.

I found the Ambrée (Amber) to be a very fine beer, with a lot of body and flavor for its 5% abv. It has only Brewer’s Gold hops in its recipe.

The “621” a Brune (brown) ale with 7.5%, also was a pleasing, malty and yeasty brew.

The Noel (10.5%) uses star anise and Belgian juniper in its recipe. Sadly, though not surprisingly, it was out of stock when I visited .

The Authentique beers have a 6 to 8 week timeframe between brewing and when they are released for sale. There are typically two weeks in the warm conditioning room and two weeks to settle after the warm conditioning. There is also 1 to 2 weeks of primary fermentation and 2 weeks of cold-conditioning (lagering.)

The beers are unpasteurized and bottle-conditoned. A different yeast is used for primary fermentation and bottle-conditioning.

The Authentique brews can typically be found at Delirium Cafe in Brussels and the HopDuvel beer warehouse in Ghent, among other places.

Baert is looking to expand, as he needs more room for warm-conditioning, storage and other things. He also wants to buy a new, larger bottle-filler and better bottle labeler.

Baert told me I was the first English-speaking journalist to visit his brewery, which was a surprise. Authentique was also the 75th Belgian brewery I had visited, so it was a fine little tour and tasting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The new website from Danny Van Tricht

My friend Danny Van Tricht has created yet another website on the subject of Trappist beers.

This site is

It is offered in English and Dutch versions.

The site is rich in photos at the Abbeys, breweries, Trappist cafes and more. Additionally, much of the Trappist breweriana Danny has collected, such as glasses and signs, are pictured.

Danny and I have made multiple visits to all seven Trappist Abbey breweries.

His other Trappist website is

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Belgian feature article in All About Beer magazine

The January issue of All About Beer magazine just arrived in my mailbox yesterday, and it's a good one.

I may be a little biased, as I have a 3,500 word feature article in this issue: "Belgium: Diverse Beer Styles, Delectable Brews."

I cover nearly all the Belgian beer styles, as well as making recommendations for the best Belgian beers to try within each style.

I also mention many of the best American and Canadian-brewed Belgian-inspired beers.

I'll post the article url once the All About Beer website has been updated with the new issue.