Monthly Archives: January 2010

#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

#68 – Antiek Super 8 Blonde

#68 - Antiek Super 8 Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Deca is a fairly distinctive brewery in that it rarely brews its own beers nowadays. The facilities in the rurality of Woesten-Vleteren are regularly used but only by others. You might call it more of a brewhouse than a brewery, and the business is now known as Deca Services which more than adequately paints the picture of the current priorities of the owners.

Deca started up in 1991, taking over from the previous brewery on the premises – Isebaert. They have made a number of their own beers over the years, some of which are quite hard to pin down as to being made by themselves or recipes of others. Even research on the Antiek Super 8 Blonde was difficult. I haven’t even been able to find an identical representation of the exact label on this beer. Most beer experts have shared my frustration.

The premises at Deca are renowned for their copper kettles and the reputation that affords the complexity of flavours and textures of beers made in these receptacles. It was no surprise that the brewers De Ranke set up shop here for a number of years, and most recently since 2006, the highly regarded Struise Brothers used Deca to brew their recipes and to store the end product. Deca may go back to concentrating on their own beers now as Struise are rumoured to have finally found themselves a place to call home in Oostvleteren * – or of course they may decide to continue renting to another up and coming ambitious brewer, as there is decent money to be made. One of the main reasons breweries struggle to get going is that the costs of the kit and maintenance of brewing is so high. The result of this is an inevitable dichotomy.

On one hand it gives the genius brewers such as De Ranke and Struise Bros the opportunities to be part of the Belgian scene and get a start on the road to success. On the other, it encourages brewers to pimp their beers to the unscrupulous marketeers keen to make a fast buck out of the new wave of Belgian beers by adding splashes of juice or spice to existing beers, and making up exciting stories to sell the dream. On my road to 1000 Belgian beers, I am preparing myself for dipping my toes in more than a few of these.

The Antiek Super 8 Blonde eventually turned out to be a pretty decent brew though, and one may assume that the influence of the Struise brothers may have rubbed off on the mysterious owners. The pour was a cloudy orange amber, and the flavour quite malty and yet fruity. The tagline refers to the Golden Age of brewing, and this beer represents this well. I just wonder if I will ever see it again.

* (Post-Script) – De Struise finally did move to Oostvleteren in late 2009.

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Deca

#67 – Abbaye des Rocs Brune

#67 - Abbaye des Rocs Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The Abbaye des Rocs Brewery has a big name these days, especially in the USA, however in reality it is just a small farm in a picturesque little village in the heart of the south Belgian countryside. The village in question is Montignies-sur-Rocs, and the name of the brewery derives from the ruins of the Abbaye des Rocs which rot only a few hundred yards away.

The beers from Montignies qualify as Abbey beers, but the current beers were never actually brewed there. In fact, the brewing at the farm only began in 1979, and the owners used the fortunate location of the old Abbey to add credence to their range. There isn’t a great deal of information available about the history of the Abbey, but almost certainly it will have involved a golden era, plenty of beer and then years of plundering. The current lack of tourist value suggests it fared badly during the French Revolution.

There is more information available however on the actual village, which dates back more than a thousand years, although the name has changed on numerous occasions since. It now forms part of the High Lands National Park, and is often known as the “Pearl of the High Lands”. This terminology stems from the plateau on which the village is built – often called Plat Caillou (flat stone), or more often ‘le Haut des Rocs’. It isn’t difficult to ascertain how the brewery got its name.

Visitors to Montignies-sur-Rocs are more than likely there specifically for the brewery although if you are passing there is a cracking little watermill, and a church with a cave. Blaugies (#65) isn’t too far either so watch out for ghosts of evil highwaymen !

I took this beer in the garden of a friend on a beautifully warm evening. It was probably not ideal for this kind of day, although I needn’t have worried too much as most of it ended up on my lap as it exploded rather selfishly as I removed the cap. Once the heavy sediment and froth had finally settled, and I was able to clean myself up and borrow a pair of trousers, I was finally able to tuck into this highly rated beer. Figs, caramel, chocolate, malt – the usual winter flavours. To be fair I think I did the beer a disservice drinking it on a warm day and the amount of sediment in the end swayed my vote somewhat, but it really didn’t stand out for me.

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Filed under 7, Abbaye des Rocs, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale