Friday, March 15, 2013

Late 1940's-1950's St-Sixtus Abdij Westvleteren bottle

This Sint-Sixtus Abdij/Westvleteren bottle likely dates to
the late 1940's or early 1950's, and is one of the few I have
seen from Westvleteren with a label.

I have heard different stories behind the origin of the bottle.
There are also two different versions: one with the word
"Abt" in the lower left corner, and the other with "12" with a
degree mark to the upper right of the "12." While the bottle
shown above is slightly torn in the area, it is clearly the 12
and not the "Abt."

This video from Tournée Générale Season 2 Episode 2 shows, at
the 9.30 mark, Brouwerij St. Bernardus Sales and Marketing Manager
Marco Passarella with a number of old St. Bernardus bottles, of which
he says this one is the first ever with a label.

However, the bottle shown here and the third one from the left
in the video both have the Palm tree of St. Sixtus on the label,
rather than the metallic-appearing cross that appears on later
St. Bernardus bottles.

The photo linked above, which I took, shows the two of the same
bottles on the floor of the old brewery at Westvleteren. So the question
remains: were these bottles brewed and filled at Westvleteren, within the
walls of the abbey, or at the St. Bernardus brewery in Watou?

The website of expert Cyril Pagniez shows Westvleteren labels here
and St. Bernardus labels here

Note that the 1941 Watou/St. Bernardus labels cannot have been
made that year, as the St. Bernardus brewery did not exist until 1946.
The 1941 date must have referred to something else.

If anyone can shed any light or has a definitive answer for this
mystery, please let me know!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

3 Fonteinen's new brewery set to be christened

3 Fonteinen has a new brewery, and it will soon be officially
christened. I can't give details, but watch this space for news.

Check out the brewery's new logo, above. Disregard the leafs
at the top, as they are not part of it. Very cool, eh?

Look for more and more great things (meaning beers!!) from
a reinvigorated Armand Debelder, with the help of wife Lydie
Hulpai and protege/brewery co-manager Michaël Blancquaert.

Full speed ahead.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Biercentrum Delvaux and Brouwerij de Kroon

(Photo, above: from left, Dr. Filip Delvaux, 
Dr. Freddy Delvaux, and Peter Delvaux,
inside the new but still under construction 
brewhouse, at Brouwerij De Kroon.)
There are a lot of very interesting projects going on in the Belgian beer world 
right now, and I’ve had the privilege of visiting many of them in the last couple 
of years.
One that really stood out during my December 2012 trip will be a major 
destination spot for beer lovers from around the world. The principals involved 
are big names in the Belgian beer world, and internationally.

(Photo: the site before renovations began.)

Professor Emeritus Freddy Delvaux of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and 
sons Dr. Filip Delvaux and Peter Delvaux, are working on a multi-purpose site 
called Biercentrum Delvaux and Brouwerij de Kroon.
This translates as "Beer Center Delvaux and the Crown Brewery."

(Photo: a look from the street.)

Dr. Freddy Delvaux is an expert on brewing science, quality control, and recipe 
creation who worked at what is now AB-Inbev in Leuven for 17 years, and then 
went on to create a laboratory of brewing science at the University in Leuven, 
where he has worked to this day. The lab began with a 60-liter test brewery and 
was later expanded it to 500 liters. Courses on brewing science are offered, and 
the brewing school at KU Leuven has awarded over twenty doctorates.
   His son Filip was awarded his Ph.D. for his studies on Belgian witbier, and 
has worked at the University lab for 15 years himself. The two formed a 
consulting company where they perform quality control, recipe creation, and 
lab analysis for about twenty breweries, most of which are in Belgium.  

(Photo: part of the brewery complex prior to

   During my visit on 14 December, Filip told me: “I usually visit each one 
of the breweries we consult for about once a month, to discuss the results of 
our analysis from the previous month, and to pick up new samples for testing. 
So we always have fresh beer here.”
 That’s certainly a nice advantage of visiting breweries on a regular basis!
Freddy then mentioned: “About 3 or 4 years ago, we started thinking about 
doing something different, as normally I would have to retire at age 65 in 
Belgium. I’m past that by a couple of years now, and will likely retire from 
my position at KU Leuven in the near future. So, we looked for a suitable 
site for our plans and found this place.”

(Photo: a brewkettle in the old brewery.)

The locale is Brouwerij De Kroon (The Crown) in Neerijse, a little town 
about 10 km south of Leuven. De Kroon opened in 1897, and closed in 
1972. The German army took away the brewery’s copper brewkettles 
during the First World War. The circa 1920’s to 1930’s brewhouse still 
exists, with a mash tun, direct-fired boiling kettle, and a coolship. The 
boiling kettle is 35 hl in size.

(Photo: another old brewing kettle.)

The old brewhouse still needs renovation, and will be a museum when it 
opens. The last owner’s grandson still lives on site, and will conduct tours 
of the old brewery. Look for a couple of 1955 Opel Blitz beer delivery 
trucks to add to the museum experience. Very cool, it shall be.

(Photo: one more old piece of brewing 

“Let’s see the new brewery now,” Dr. Filip Delvaux suggested. I agreed, 
without hesitation. “This is a 5-hectoliter (about 4 U.S. barrel) Italian built 
Velo system, where we will make many experimental beers. It is fully 
automated, so we can do as many as three or four batches a day if we want,” 
Freddy commented. He continued: “We will serve these beers in the brewpub 
that will also be constructed here. We’ll have piping running under the brewery 
to the brewpub, and there will be four duotank serving vessels there.”
Filip added: “We haven’t yet decided how many taps we will have in the 
brewpub. But there won’t be too many, as we want to make sure all the beer 
served here is fresh. At first, all our beers will be exclusively served on site. 
Down the road sometime, maybe we will offer special cafes some of our beers. 
But that is something we will decide in the future.”

(Photo: this will be the second floor tasting room, 
where tastings and lectures will be given. It is above 
the brewpub's main floor.) 

“We additionally have some old recipes from the old De Kroon brewery, and 
we may try and recreate them on our new brewery,” Filip commented, smiling.
“We will also have guest beers on tap and in bottles from the breweries that we 
consult for,” Freddy remarked. Some of the experimental brews may end up 
being new beers at breweries that enlist the Delvaux’s services.
Above the brewpub, which will serve food, including beer cuisine, there is 
a tasting room where courses/lectures about beer will be given. I suspect that 
some of the brewers reading this article will be sitting in that room taking a 
course in the not too distant future…and that you will be loving every minute 
of it!!
Peter Delvaux ran an event management company for 15 years, and he will 
manage the brewpub, marketing for it, and events associated with it.
Barrel-aging, you ask? Yes, indeed. Ask and ye shall receive: “It’s another 
very interesting thing that we want to do here, and we will have barrels in 
the cellar, aging various things. But we won’t tell you all our secrets about 
that yet,” Filip commented, grinning.

(Photos: the coolship/koelschip in the old

Hmmm, with a renovated coolship in the old brewery, and barrels in the 
cellar…it makes one think of what goes on in places on the south and west 
sides of Brussels. Places like Beersel, Itterbeek, Kobbegem, Lembeek, 
St-Ulriks-Kapelle, and Vlezenbeek. But I won’t mention the “L” word here.
Neerijse is in the Province of Flemish Brabant, as is the Payottenland. 
Will spontaneous fermentation be a part of Brouwerij de Kroon? Only time 
will tell, but my fingers are crossed for the answer to be….yes! J

(Photo: inside the new lab at Biercentrum Delvaux.)

The lab that Drs. Freddy and Filip Delvaux ran at the University in Leuven 
was moved to the new site in mid-November, and it is now officially named 
Biercentrum Delvaux. “Beer starts and ends here. So, we got the lab up and 
running first,” Freddy remarked. It is definitely a high-tech laboratory, as 
demonstrated by the equipment I saw inside. Two women were conducting 
labwork during my visit, late on a Friday afternoon. I had the feeling that 
sipping a Belgian beer wasn’t too far off in their future that evening.

(Photo: inside the new lab.)

“This is what we call a beer center. Science, tasting, history, and brewing,” 
Freddy said, beaming. Filip added: “To summarize, Biercentrum Delvaux 
is the brewing lab which serves the Belgian brewing industry with technical 
consulting, an analytical lab, product development and research. Brouwerij 
de Kroon will encompass the old museum brewery, the new, small-scale 
brewery, and brewpub with tasting room. There, you can learn about ancient 
and modern brewing, and taste house-brewed beers, and a selection of 
Belgian specialty beers. In short, it will be the place to be for Belgian beer 

(Photo: a baudelot/heat exchanger in the old brewery.)

As is obvious from the photos, the project is still a work in progress. The 
Delvaux’s began brewing on February 12, and plan to open to the public 
on April 22nd. That, my friends, is the weekend before the Zythos Beer 
Fest (ZBF), which is Belgium’s biggest.

(Photo: the old brewery under renovations.)

“We started work here on 28 April 2012,” Freddy told me, as we sipped 
a brew after my visit. “It would be nice to be open within a year, especially 
by the time of the ZBF weekend.”
Happily, it looks like that will happen! However, please note that the 
April 22nd opening date is not an absolute guarantee. You never know what 
can come up at the last minute when opening a new brewery, restaurant, and 
the like.

(Photo: on the second floor of the old brewery,
where the coolship is.)

I have even more good news for those taking public transport in Belgium: 
there is a bus that runs from Leuven and stops at the brewery, which runs 
till 11 pm weeknights, and till 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights. It takes 
about 15 minutes. I’m not going to tell you which one, yet, until the marvelous 
new beer destination is open to the public.
        Cheers to Biercentrum Delvaux and Brouwerij de Kroon!!

Special thanks go to Marie and Tourism Vlaams-Brabant for
their help. See here for more info on the Province of Flemish Brabant
and here for more info on Flanders.

(Photo: new fermenters in the new brewery.)

(Photo: brewing equipment under renovation.)

(Photo: an old bottling line.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1963 Abdy Westvleteren bottle

It's a shame this 1963 Abdy Westvleteren bottle is empty.
Perhaps this one contained the mighty 12, or Abt as it was
known in those days. Must have been a good one. Or a
great one.

Beautiful bottle though, eh?

Belgian Babble column in Ale Street News February 2013

I'm a little late posting this, but as it is still the current issue,
I'll tell you that I have a 1,000+ word piece on several
Belgian subjects in the February/March issue of Ale Street

and you can read it, for freehere

I'll let you know that I covered Brouwerij De Plukker,
Seizoensbrouwerij Vandewalle, Brouwerij Alvinne,
and B&B with cafe, De Schraevenacker.

I hope you enjoy it!