Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bzart Lambiek, a Lambic/Champagne-style beer

Geuzestekerij Oud Beersel has been quite a success story
since it was purchased by Gert Christiaens and his father
Jos in 2005. The old brewery has been beautifully preserved,
and they have added much more lambic fermentation capacity-eg,
more barrels, in the last couple of years.

Photo, above: Gert Christiaens in front 
of a foeder at Oud Beersel.

Gert works closely with the new Lambic Beer Visitor's Center,
De Lambiek, and is running tours from Brussels to De Lambiek
and Oud Beersel on Saturdays this summer. See here for details.

Another exciting new project is one that I can tell you about now.
Beer and wine enthusiast Luc Dirkx, originally of the Maasland
region of the Netherlands, just over the border from Limburg
Province in Belgium, has partnered with a winemaker in Limburg,
and the Oud Beersel lambic blendery in Beersel, to create a sort of
lambic  champagne beer.

"Bzart Lambiek" is a 13 month old lambic from Oud Beersel,
finished with a champagne yeast. The lambic was placed in
barrels in December, 2009. The Champagne yeast and sugar
were added at bottling, to spark a refermentation in the bottle.

Image, above: the back label of 
the Bzart Lambiek. 

Prior to this, the 1,300 bottles in the 75 cl size of this brew
underwent what is referred to as "Méthode Traditionnelle."
This would be called the "Method Champenoise" when
dealing with a true Champagne.

A sparking wine maker, Guy Geunis, performed the riddling and
disgorgement process at his location in Borgloon. Geunis sold his
wines under the clever name "Champinnot" for years, before being
recently forced to change the name by champagne producers in
France. The new name is "Optimbulles" meaning "Optimum

You can see photos of Dirkx and Geunis, and articles about the
venture (in Dutch) at these websites:

Geunis, with childhood friend Dirkx, and the local wine club,
Domus Ad Fontes, will market the beer in top Belgian restaurants.
These include De Karmeliet in Bruges, Couvert Couvert in Heverlee,
near Leuven, and Brasserie Latem in Sint-Martens-Latem, among

A photo taken at the Michelen-starred De Karmeliet shows it is
offering glasses for 15 euro and bottles for 75. Certainly, a
Champagne price.

Photo, above: Bzart Lambiek. I received a bottle on
May 1st, before they were labeled. 

Gert presented me a bottle on May 1st, which I enjoyed with
friends a few weeks later stateside. I found it to be a fine beer,
very well balanced, with a mild tartness, and very bubbly. In
fact, Dirkx, Geunis and the wine club were aiming for maximum
effervescence, and they certainly hit the mark.

Gert tells me they have 250 bottles on hand for sale at Oud Beersel
as of yesterday, and that another 1,000 will be sold in restaurants
in Belgium.

None is slated for export this year. "More will  be produced in 2013,
and we hope to export some then," Gert added. Better get yourself to
Beersel asap if you want a bottle!

Some even better news is that other versions of Bzart are already
in the works. Limburg Province is Belgium's primary fruit growing
area, and hence, Dirkx plans fruit-infused brews. Cherries,
strawberries, and perhaps other fruits will be among those used.
I look forward to tasting the "fruits" of his labors!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Brasserie d' Achouffe and Chris Bauweraerts

Photo, above: Chris Bauweraerts, Brasserie d' Achouffe

Well, back after two weeks. Summer is tough, eh? With Belgium's
Independence day last Saturday, and other events all last week, no
time to update.

But good news: I just had an article, "Thirty Years of Chouffe Beers,"
published in the August/September issue of Celebrator Beer News.

55,000 copies were printed. You can also read the entire issue on-line
here. See page 7 for the start of the article, and page 45 for the end.

I wrote about Brasserie d' Achouffe, its founding, and a short outline
of its history throughout the years. For a full history of the brewery,
you only need to buy a copy of the book, shown below.

Photo, above: Chris inside the new Chouffe shop.

Authored by Chris Bauweraerts, "My Chouffe Story" was recently
published, and Chris will be selling and signing copies at the
"Belgium Comes to Cooperstown" beer festival the weekend
of August 4. He will also be at the Modeste Bier Festival in Antwerp,
Belgium, on October 6-7.

Photo, above: Larry Bennett of Brewery Ommegang 
(left) and Chris Bauweraerts at the "Belgium Comes to 
Cooperstown" beer festival,  2011

The book contains 224 pages, and weighs in at nearly three pounds.
It is loaded with photos, and printed in four languages. It should be
available shortly in the U.S.
So get a copy...and enjoy!

Photo, above: Chris and I outside Les 3 Fourquets
in Gouvy in 2004.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Brouwerij and Alcoholstokerij Wilderen

Last September 24, I visited Brouwerij and Alcoholstokerij
Wilderen in Wilderen, near St. Truiden, in Limburg province.
This place is nothing short of amazing, with an intact distillery
dating to 1890, as well as a new distillery and  brewery, on site.
There is seating for 500 people outside on the terrace (patio) in
good weather, and there is seating for a couple of hundred more
inside in a huge barn which has been converted into a tasting
room. The barn originally dates to 1743.

The new brewery officially opened on July 9, 2011. "We
started with two beers. One is a blond called Wilderen Goud,
a simple beer of 6.2% abv, brewed with one hop, and no spices.
This is our beer for the masses, as we don't sell any other brews
here. Nothing from any of the big companies. It's a pleasant
enough beer that you could have several in an evening. Our
other beer is a Tripel called Kanunnik, which is brewed with
four grains: barley, oats, wheat, and rye. It also has three
different spices and two hops in its recipe, and contains
8.2% abv," co-owner Mike Janssen told me last year.
Janssen's business partner is also his wife, Roniek Van Bree.

"We do have eight taps here in the bar, so my plan is to have
that many different beers within about three years," Janssen

Janssen produces a Graan Jevener (32% abv) and an Eau-de-Bière
of the same strength in his new micro-distilley. As to the old, 1890
distillery on site, he commented: "This is the largest distillery of its
size and age still in existence anywhere in Europe. It's amazing the
Germans never found it during either World War."

The German army took most of the copper kettles in Belgium
during the First World War to make armaments with.

Janssen has worked at cafes and breweries in Belgium for
24 years: "I started at Riva in Dentergem in 1988. I was
involved with other breweries and cafes, including Brouwerij
Ter Dolen, over the years. Now I hope this is the last one I
will ever open. I have everything I want right here," he
remarked, grinning.

Janssen clearly knows how to market his products. With specially
made glasses, bottles, coasters, shirts, and other beery items, he
offers a full range of mementos. Wilderen also offers pralines
(chocolates) and a delicious cheese called HopKaas.

The 2011 Italian-made Velo brewhouse is the 250th one
that company has ever produced. "I was using a Velo system
at Ter Dolen years ago, so it's a product I believe in. We
can produce 20 to 35 hectos per batch, but generally we are
making 22 to 25 hectos a batch with our current beers," Janssen
remarked. We did 62 brews between early June (2011) and today
(24 September 2011) so that is 1,500 hl roughly, already. I think
we will make about 3,000 hl our year," he added.

In fact, Wilderen has produced 3,500 hl since last July 9.

As to visitors, they get 1500 to 2000 on the average summer
day. "Last September 18, we had 3,750 visitors on a single
Sunday. We gave 41 tours of the site, with 40 to 50 people
per tour. So it has been a great start, despite our rainy summer
this year,"Janssen commented.

There are a couple of rows of 40 and 50 hl fermenters, and
beers are kegged on site. Beer is sent via tanker to Brouwerij
Huyghe for filling in 33 and 75 cl bottles.

The water source used is the same 92-meter (300+ feet) deep
well that was used by the 1890 distillery. "We make about one
liter of beer per four liters of water," Janssen commented. The
spent grain is given to a farmer with 600 cows: "They are the
happiest cows in the region," Janssen added, smiling.

As to the new micro-distillery, Janssen said: "It is a 180-liter
still. For the Eau-de-Bière, it takes 500 liters of completely finished
Kanunnik Tripel to get 140 liters, or 280 bottles, of the Eau-de-Bière.
We have sold 3,000 bottles at 19.50 euros a half-liter since we
opened. That is in only 2 and a half months."

This place moves some alcohol, there's no doubt about it!!

As of today, Janssen tells me they have filled about 10,000
bottles of the spirits, mostly the Eau-de-Bière.

I think can feel a shot of that one coming on tonight.

"I also have twelve 200-liter former Jack Daniel's and Buffalo Trace
barrels full of a Wilderen Whisky Single Malt, that will first be
released to the public on August 2, 2014," Janssen told me and
my Belgian companions. "The whisky must stay in the barrel
for a minimum of three years,"he added.

There are also some old huge oak barrels in place that could be used
for wood-aging, and Janssen made it a point to add that Limburg
Province is the fruit-growing region of Belgium, and that there
are cherry trees on site. In fact, a cherry beer of 3.5% abv was just
added this year. 95% of the Wilderen beer is sold on-site, as well
as in a few select cafes in the Netherlands.

Exportation to the U.K., Italy, France and the U.S. is expected in
the near future. Wilderen is having additional fermenters added in
September or October, which will boost yearly capacity to 10,000 hl
of beer per year. The brewhouse itself could easily do 20,000 hl per
year, if demand-and fermentation capacity-allows.

Brouwerij and Alcoholstokerij Wilderen has even been nominated
as one of the top five monuments in Flanders for 2011. The winner,
which receives a 12,500 euro prize, will be announced in Brussels
on September 3. Being beer-related, I know who I will be pulling

For a look at another 50 or so photos, see:

That's a good sample, though I actually took 324 on my visit.