Category Archives: de Halve Maan

#151 – Straffe Hendrik

#151 - Straffe Hendrik

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The Straffe Hendrik hasn’t always had things it’s own way. Life certainly hasn’t always been kind, and the fact that the beer is still alive and tastes so damn good is one of the great miracles of Belgian beer.

The original Straffe Hendrik beer was only launched in 1981, by the Brouwerij de Halve Maan. It weighed in at about 7.5% – 8%, and was only available in small kegs. It was named after the original brewer of the Die Maene (The Moon) brewery, as it was back then. His name was Leon Maes, but was affectionately known as Henri I. The beer was particularly potent, and thus it became known in Flemish as Heavy Henry (Straffe Hendrik). The beer is thus greatly symbolic of the brewery, as a succession of head brewers were all sequentially named Henri.

The symbolism of the beer was such, that in 1988, the Riva brewery took over the brand name. It continued to be brewed in Bruges though, until 2002 when the whole package moved to Riva in Dentergem. This was where things seriously began to go amiss for Hendrik. The quality of the beer began to mysteriously subside, and the ABV soon dropped as low as 6%. Hendrik was losing his weight fast, and like an aging prize fighter, he was hanging on to the ropes to retain what reputation he had left. The poor quality though soon had a devastating effect on the Liefmans Breweries (of which Riva was one), who went backrupt in 2007. Duvel Moortgat took them over, and immediately closed the plant. Heavy Henry was dead on his feet waiting for the count.

It was never to come though. In 2008, the nostalgic hands at De Halve Maan made an agreement with Duvel Moortgat to buy back the brand of Straffe Hendrik, and within months, Henry was back, this time as an utterly delicious 9% Tripel. I had spent the morning with the folks wandering the sights of the old town of Bruges, and while everyone else was happy to stop for a croque monsieur and a coffee, I was gagging for a beer. I had recently read about the revival of Henry, and where better to try it out than its’ spiritual home. It was absolutely perfect – creamy, sweet, bitter and potent and the perfect accompaniment to some local cuisine. An hour later, like a dazed boxer, I stumbled back into the afternoon sun, knowing full well I would be back for plenty more Henry this weekend.

(Post-Script) – In late 2010, Henry was re-united with his old brother. For a time while at Riva, a dark Straffe Hendrik beer was introduced, although of course it really wasn’t working for them at the time. The Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is a dark complex beer weighing at 11% and is definitely on my hit-list for my next trip to Bruges.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, de Halve Maan

#36 – Brugse Zot

#36 - Brugse Zot

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

The beer Brugse Zot is actually a slight against the people of Bruges. The jester or fool on the label is meant to represent the people of this elegant, quaint tourist haven. This isn’t just a wild accusation of widespread idiocy by the brewers, but actually a legend that stems from the colourful history of the town.

The modern day country of Belgium was once part of the wider Netherlands, which was also a part of the enormous realm of the Holy Roman Empire. For sixty years from 1459, Maximilian ruled the Empire, and did much to protect the lowlands from French rule as a way of defending his first wifes inheritance (Duchesse de Bourgogne, #105). Many Belgians were extremely fond of the emperor for his attempts to stabilise the area, and none more so than the people of Bruges who welcomed him on a visit to the town with a colourful parade of merrymakers. At the end of the visit, local dignitaries asked the emperor if he would be so kind as to provide hard cash for a new lunatic asylum in the town. Maximilian responded with the immortal lines ‘Madmen? Lunatics? Since I got here I’ve seen nothing but lunatics – Bruges is a madhouse!”. The nickname for the people ‘Brugse Zotten’ stemmed from this day.

It is unclear in what context Maximilian made his reference, although it should be pointed out that the burghers of Bruges once held Maximilian hostage for several months in an attempt to raise a ransom. Whether this was before or after Maximilians remarks would largely go someway to defining just how foolish the people of Bruges actually were.

The beer itself is the flagship beer of the town of Bruges, brewed by the De Halve Maan brewery. It had a nice pale colour on pouring with a frothy white head. It looked a bit lagery on first glimpse yet the aroma was polished with a really fruity bouquet. The first swig was though quite mild in comparison, with a pale flavour that threatened to explode at times but remained firmly in the anonymous camp. The odd hint of daring citrus just wasn’t enough to turn this beer into anything but an average Belgian blonde. I’d certainly be a fool to buy a crate of this !

3 Comments

Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, de Halve Maan