Category Archives: Lefebvre

#220 – Kossaat

#220 - Kossaat

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.7 %

The Kossaat beer is brewed by the unremarkable Lefebvre, but on behalf of the Brouwerij Vercauteren. There is a genealogical link for the name of this beer which takes us way back through history. It will explain the rustic looking gentleman on the label of the beer.

The Vercauteren story starts in the late 18th Century with Cornelius Cuyckens who was a farmer and occasional brewer by trade. He tended a small plot of land on the edge of the village at Malderen, and when he died he left behind seven children. It was one of his sons Peter who would take over the reins of this small-holding, and when he too eventually died, again the reins were passed on. Eventually after a couple more generations one of the granddaughters of Peter married an Alfons Vercauteren who took up the challenge and inspired the eventual modernisation of their practices. The journey continued through son Maurice and then grandson Andre before the brewing finally stopped with the latest in this long line – another Alfons Vercauteren.

The gentleman celebrated on the label of the Kossaat beer is the original farmer and brewer of this long chain – Cornelius. A Kossaat is/was a term largely used in Prussia during the 18th Century for a farmer who lived on the edge of the community and who largely eked out a living from their small plot of land. This was often impossible, and so they might have worked extra manual work for the richer farmers and landholders. Neither though were the Kossaaten the poorest around – at least they had some land, and the odd bit of livestock. The etymology of Kossaat derives from the Kotta, which was the Germanic name for the small cottages in which they would live. The term Kossaat literally means ‘those who sit in the cottages’.

It is likely that the Kossaten were of Slavic origin, and that this spread through to Prussia and into this Western corner of Europe. Cornelius Cuyckens certainly lived this simple lifestyle, as did his ancestors, and he was the one who essentially kickstarted the Brouwerij Vercauteren all those years ago. The beer, as you would expect from Lefebvre was distinctly average with very little to get excited about. It was a standard pleasant blonde with a light fruity flavour that was laced with some faintly impressive hopping. The history of the Kossaat may be semi interesting but the beer certainly isn’t.

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#77 – Hopus

#77 - Hopus

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Hopus is a beer that has everything to do with hops. Many breweries attempt to offer a varied range of beer styles, and it is common nowadays to include highly hopped beers in that range. In fact, already being 77 beers in to the journey, it is fairly surprising we haven’t really spoken about hops as yet, as they have been integral to the beer making industry for over 700 years.

Their primary uses in brewing are that of a flavouring agent, and an antibiotic against less desirable micro-organisms than the specific type of yeast selected, and it is probably worth dealing with the science before going any further. Hops are most often dried before use in an oast house or similar facility, which goes to work on the resins within the plant. These resins contain two types of very useful acids – alpha and beta. The alpha acids contain a mild antibiotic effect against harmful bacteria and as already mentioned help to propagate the yeast used. These acids tend to also give the beer its bitter flavour. The beta acids do not tend to add to the flavour of the beer, but through their addition to the wort can give the beer wonderful aromas. The brewers choice of end product will largely determine exactly what type of hops to use in the brewing. The former are generally known as ‘bittering’ hops while the latter are known as ‘aroma hops’.

This degree of bitterness imparted from the hops depends on the extent to which alpha acids are isomerized during boiling, and they tend to be measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs)*. Many European hop varieties tend to be ‘aroma’ hops, whereas the newer American types, are often ‘bittering’ hops. Bittering hops tend to be used for about 60-90 minutes of the brewing process, whereas aroma hops are often only used at the very end of the process. This normally occurs within the last five to ten minutes of the boil. Often, and this is very evident in Orval (#37), the hops are added after fermentation cold to the wort, which gives a very sharp hop flavour, and is usually known as ‘dry-hopping’.

There is plenty more to discuss on hops, but I shall go into that as and when the opportunity arises. This leaves me time to discuss the Hopus. Another beer poured from the rare swing-top bottle and one that exploded into the glass with a wholesome russet colour and a majestic head. The Hopus was certainly a sipper, which in fact lasted a whole episode of Match of the Day 2, and the flavour stayed true to the end. Nothing special, but certainly worth the trouble.

* For a more detailed discussion of IBUs, see Urthel Hop-It (#150).

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#48 – Barbar Winter Bok

#48 - Barbar Winter Bok

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This was the last chance for a Barbar beer to redeem itself in my eyes – the darker version which is marketed as a brown ale that also contains 2.5% honey. The label suggests that the warrior needs to rest in winter as well, and that Lefebvre has produced a beer available in the dark months from October to February. How thoughtful of them!

At least this gives us an insight into the naming of the beer, and it is clear that Barbar refers to the warrior, or the barbarian. The general definition of a barbarian is that of an uncivilised person or a cruel savage person with a penchance for warmongering. Whatever the final definition it would seem the etymology originally came from the Greek for ‘not-Greek’, and the structure of ‘bar-bar’ as an onomatopoeic representation of a language not clearly understood ie ‘blah blah’, may hint at how the saying “well, its all Greek to me?” came about.

The label clearly defines Lefebvre’s view of what a barbarian warrior might look like, but it is fair to look back in the history of the Middle Ages and associate beer with what could loosely be termed as barbarians. Once wine became imported from the Mediterranean, beer took something of a back seat, as a cheap and readily available drink. This is no different probably now if one considers the comparison between a wine bar/bistro and a pub. I would argue that Belgian beers are definitely bridging the gap for those that want something just that little bit classier or tastier, although I would suggest that Barbar Winter Bok isn’t there yet.

This was the latter beer to celebrate the start of my prolonged period of annual leave . Relaxation of this nature however deserved a better beer. The final Barbar for me, and really can’t see what all the fuss is about. The pour promised much with an ebony gush and a thickset head that looked too good to be true. There were certainly deep and dark flavours in this beer, and it was better than the honey blonde (#19), but it just lacked authenticity – being largely synthetic in its genetics. I could have scored it higher but felt let down by Lefebvre on the brand. There are plenty of dark beers around with plenty more bite than this. More Librarian than Barbarian !

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#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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#19 – Barbar Belgian Honey Ale

# 19 - Barbar

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This beer was probably the first Belgian beer I ever drunk back in 2000, when I was travelling through the lowlands while supporting England during the European Football Championships. I was actually driving at the time, and felt safe having a quick half. I wondered why I was half cut getting back in the car, and it was then I learnt that Belgian beer is not to be messed with.

I think the main reason I chose it back then on that warm summers day was that it said on the menu that it contained honey. I had a sweet tooth so it made perfect sense. How wrong I was. If you consider that beer dates back to the Egyptians and Sumerians (#1), then honey beer is quite simply Neolithic. Essentially ‘mead’ – as it translates from the term honey in many languages – is fermented honey and water, and was actually discovered by accident. During the harvests of the Middle Ages, honey was raided from beehives and preserved for its properties as a sweetener and other uses, in large vats of boiling water. Once the liquid cooled, and the slabs of honey removed, a sweet mixture remained that had naturally fermented with the yeasts in the air. This became the drink of the workers, and after a long hard day, men would dunk their cups in the vats and drink and be merry. Of course, honey was more expensive than naturally grown cereals, and so mead eventually declined in popularity, but its place in the history of beer is clearly evident and is now often drunk on special occasions.

Barbar disappointed me intensely. He barely smelled of anything on popping and there was little or no carbonation. I kept waiting for the taste of honey, that really just didn’t come. Barbar was smooth and the strength was well-hidden, but that was really just it. Next time – show me the honey !

(Post-Script) – I had hoped that the Barbar Winter Bok (#48) might have redeemed the Honey Ale, but alas it also fell short!

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#14 – Abbaye de Malonne Blonde

#14 - Abbaye de Malonne Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.3%

Malonne is a small village in Namur, where the Abbey Notre-Dame de Malonne once sat. The abbey was built in the 7th Century by an Anglo-Saxon monk named Saint Berthuin. The Abbey was the centre-piece of the heavily forested local area, and the village grew up around it. The Abbey has  long been dissolved, but the people of Malonne still celebrate the memory of the Irish monk.

Every year villagers carry a shrine throughout Malonne, which is offered to everybody to touch to bring good luck throughout the year. Inside this silver and gold shrine are the bones of St Berthuin. Nice !

The beer itself is elaborately brewed with natural ingredients according to monastery traditions including Bavarian hops. It all started well with a good typical blonde smell, and a buoyant head, but it fast faded – ending watery and distinctly unmemorable. There is little substance to the beer and even if this was to bring me good luck for a year I definitely wouldn’t touch it again!

(Post-Script) – I did later touch the Abbaye de Malonne Brune (#92) and to be fair it did little to lift the reputation.

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