Tag Archives: Bishop

#193 – Saint-Martin Cuvee de Noel

#193 - Saint-Martin Cuvee de Noel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

It had been a while since my last grapple with a St. Martin beer (#69), and I tried the Cuvee de Noel with next to no anticipation whatsoever. It was better but really only marginally. So who was this St. Martin whose reputation seems relatively under threat now due to this recurring crap beer association?

He was born in Italy of all places in the 4th Century, the son of a Roman military officer and tribune. He would join the army himself at the plucky age of fifteen having recently discovered Christianity, and ended up serving in a garrison in what is now Amiens in France. He clearly wasn’t the fighting type though, and he was jailed for cowardice at a young age for refusing to join a battle; citing his faith as the catalyst for this change of heart. He chose instead to help the sick and needy, and is famously represented in modern day imagery giving half of his officer’s cloak to a beggar who entreated him. It’s difficult to make out but this also seems to be the illustration on the beer’s label.

A lull in the war saved Martin, who was released from all military details. He promptly took up service as a spiritual student at Poitiers, and sought to convert all those he came into contact with; from the thief who once robbed him in the mountains to his own mother back in Lombardy. He was eventually chased out by heretics to the island of Gallinaria (now Isola d’Albenga) where he settled as a hermit for ten years, eventually forming a Benedictine Abbey in Liguge with a bevy of likeminded monks. He gained great success in building churches and converting the unconvertible, and his reputation soared culminating in his eventual consecration as the Bishop of Tours in 372.

St. Martin continued to live as a hermit after becoming a Bishop becoming clearly a much revered figure who gave almost everything he had to help the needy and the poor.  I’m sure though that he would have also liked a good beer in those days – after all what monk didn’t? although I don’t really think he would have approved of this particular beer. An instantly forgettable, thin and uninspiring ruby red beer which started spicy enough but ended up losing all its strength;  just as St. Martin did in 397 before dying amongst his brethren.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale, Brunehaut, Christmas Beer, Horse

#133 – Vicaris Generaal

#133 - Vicaris Generaal

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.8 %

The beers of the ‘vicar’ brand have been lovingly created and commissioned by Vincent Dilewyns since 1999 although de Proef have been brewing them on their behalf since then. So popular though have these beers become that by the end of the year, the Dilewyns family will have taken over the brewing themselves in a converted facility in Dendermonde.

Beer runs through the veins of this family, but that’s probably another story. What is intriguing me though is what inspired Mr Dilewyns to pursue a range of ecclesiastically titled beverages?

Vicaris Generaal, actually translates into ‘vicar general’, and refers to the deputy of a bishop. The vicar general wields the baton on all administrative duties in his diocese, and holds considerable executive power. He is appointed by the bishop himself, and should the bishop die or vacate his role, the vicar general is then immediately terminated. The next incumbent bishop is then expected to appoint his own vicar general. The only real stipulations on a candidate is that they must have a minimum of thirty years knowledge of, or a degree in, theology or canon law. Nothing to do with beer as far as I can see.

Forgetting the religious connotations for a moment, I am beginning to notice that if a beer is made at de Proef, it is normally of a high standard. I get the impression they don’t just brew any old rubbish. The Vicaris Generaal certainly is no exception. Settling back on the sofa with a black and white movie, this was a decent accompaniment. It was dark, mysterious and very strong, with definite licorice and malt that seeped deep into your bones. It remained fairly bitter till the end, and at one stage I faintly hoped that it might sweeten but it never really did. Certainly a well-made brew and full of character but perhaps just a bit too stoutish for me to command my more generous grading.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Dubbel, de Proef, Horse

#70 – Adelardus Trudoabdijbier Bruin

#70 - Adelardus Trudoadbdijbier Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

The Adelardus Trudoabdijbier Bruin is a bit of a mouthful, and is yet another example of a beer linked to an abbey – this time the remainder of what is left of the Abbey of St. Trudo in Sint-Truiden, in the quiet province of Limburg. There isn’t much left of the old buildings thanks to the pillaging that accompanied the French Revolution, but what does remain is fairly clearly evidenced on the label of the beer – the famous tower – and there is of course as ever a story behind it.

The Abbey itself was founded way back in the 7th Century by a Frankish nobleman by the name of St. Trudo, on the farmland of his wealthy parents. It never really became a major player in the monastic history of Belgium until the middle of the 9th Century when it was taken over by the Bishop of Metz and placed under Benedictine stewardship. The place soon became a popular place of pilgrimage and it made the town rich.

St. Trudo was one of Belgium’s more modest examples of a grand abbey until a certain Adelardus rode into town in the 11th Century. During his tenancy as Abbot of St. Trudo between 1055 and 1082, he oversaw the rebuilding of an extension of the main church, and a number of other ecclesiastical buildings in the town. The church was enormous – measuring 100 x 27 metres, with the famous Romanesque tower pictured on the label, looming high above the town. Adelardus has become famous for this achievement, and it is testimony to him that this beer was made, and indeed his architectural skills that the thing is still standing after all these years. In fact little evidence remains of the magnificence of the church, although if you visit the Abbey there is a bronze replica to feast your eyes upon, and remember what might have been if it hadn’t been for the Revolution.

The beer was actually fairly pleasant, with a thin sepia head on a dark brown fizzy lake of flavour. The flavour was spicy and ardent thanks to a local mixture of herbs called ‘sweet gale’, with the dark fruits and brown sugar that offset well the slight weirdness of the gale. It worked well but did fade somewhat, and ended just a little bit too thin. This beer is good but will never tower above other browns.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Kerkom

#69 – Saint-Martin Blonde

#69 - Saint-Martin Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

This is another beer that looks like a supermarket beer from the label. In Tesco in England I once tried a stubby bottle of some similarly titled beer and it tasted of baked beans. I did not therefore have high hopes for number #69 on my journey.

It was refreshing I suppose to learn that at least there is an Abbey of Saint Martin, which was founded in Tournai in 1096, based on the teachings of the famous St. Martin. Again as was common throughout Europe at this time, beer was brewed on the premises as a safer alternative to water during the age of disease. This was emphasised when Bishop Radbod gave special charter to the Abbey during the Great Plague, to brew beer and try and halt the widespread starvation that permeated this dark period.

The brewing of beer continued until the late 1790’s when once again the French Revolution wielded its destructive hand on the monastic community. The Abbey of St. Martin lost almost all of it’s abbey structures apart from the relatively new Abbots Palace, and parts of the 13th Century crypt and 14th Century cloister. In fact visitors to Tournai can still see these remnants of one of Belgiums’ greatest abbeys, by visiting the Hotel de Ville. Set in an attractive park, the town hall is one of Tournai’s top tourist destinations.

While the brewery area was completely decimated during the revolution, the recipes for the St. Martin beer were kept well hidden from the revolutionary plunderers, and in 1890 following an altogether more reasonable revolution – the industrial one – there was increased prosperity in Belgium, and the Brasserie de Brunehaut took up the task of recreating these recipes. Either the recipes required the stale, disease-ridden water which would have been used in days of yore, or maybe Brunehaut have just misinterpreted the recipes, but it may really have been better for all if the recipes had been lost during the destruction of the Abbey.

This was a very poor beer. Clear, thin and pasty in appearance, and even more anemic on the tastebuds. Slightly floral in its essence and lacking in any kind of character, this is one to put out of the memory quickly, although I would have to wait three days for the next beer to take away the memory of this one.

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Filed under 5, Abbey Beer, Belgian Ale, Brunehaut

#40 – Floreffe Double

#40 - Floreffe Dubbel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.3%

Floreffe is a reasonably sized town in Namur, which is renowned probably only for its monastery, and then its range of colourful beers, now brewed by Lefebvre. As with most Abbey beers, these were once brewed on the premises, but of course the ravages of history took care of that.

Our old friend Norbert of Xanten (#8), the founder of the Premonstratensian order of monks was responsible for the founding of the Abbey – the second such one after Grimbergen. The Abbey was named Flos Mariae – The Flower of Mary, and soon became known for the legend of the altar stone. The Abbey chronicles reveal that while celebrating mass, St Norbert saw a drop of blood issuing from the sacred host (bread) onto the paten (offering plate). This sight was confirmed also by the deacon, and further miracles were said to have happened in 1204 and 1254 on the occasion of the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross, where blood leaked from the remnant of the True Cross kept at the Abbey. This has since been relocated but remains within the rich history of Floreffe.

Following the French Revolution, the Abbots were expelled and although they did eventually return, they were never able to muster the numbers to continue the order,  and so the Bishop of Namur turned the buildings into a seminary in the early 1800’s. It is still a training school for priests to this day and I ended up here in the summer driving through the town. It’s a fairly attractive place to wander around, and there is a bar that sells the Floreffe range of beers. The tourist shop sells them but stupidly you can’t buy a pack with all the different beers and the price was ridiculous anyhow.

The beer was drunk after its best before date, but that doesn’t normally affect good Belgians that have been stored well. The beer really looked the part throughout the whole experience – dark and rich with a solid creamy head that barely flinched as I quaffed it. The aroma promised profound flavours but it really never delivered even from the off. Maybe there were some darker flavours somewhere in there but like the beginning of the second half of the England game I was watching I soon began to lose interest.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Lefebvre

#18 – Pater Lieven Bruin

# 18 - Pater Lieven Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

Pater Lieven translates from Flemish as the ‘Father of Lieven’ – the father being a certain patron saint of the local parish – St Livinus. Now, any art lovers may have heard this name before, but if like me, you have been touring the brouwerijs and brasseries and not the museums, then perhaps you might wish to make a stop at the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Inside is the famous painting by Peter Paul Rubens, called ‘The Martyrdom of St Livinus’ (1633). I have stuck the picture in the People section for anyone keen enough to get a closer look at poor St Livinus having his tongue ripped out by a torturer.

Lebwin, or just Livinus, as he was known then, was actually the son of a Scottish nobleman and an Irish princess. He was raised in Ireland, and eventually left for England where he studied and was ordained into the monasteries. His mission took him on to Flanders where he eventually became the Bishop of Ghent. As was common at the time, the secular protestant society often found themselves grumbling at the church and in an effort to stop Livinus preaching he had his tongue forcibly removed. Legend has it however, that the tongue continued to preach on its own.

St Livinus was one of a number of martyrs at this time, celebrated by the Jesuits during the counter-reformation. St Livinus lives on as a hero of legend locally, and hence the reference for this range of beers from Van den Bossche.

This was another exploder that I failed to learn my lesson with. New trousers back in the wash ! A good creamy aroma, with a fantastic soft head maintained trimly atop a dark brown ale. The taste was distinctly chocolately although perhaps ended up just a little too subtle to register as a classic. The missus was impressed though.

(Post-Script) – a less impressive beer though was the Pater Lieven Blonde (#73).

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Filed under 7, Belgian Ale, Van den Bossche