Category Archives: Van den Bossche

#227 – Kerst Pater Special

#227 - Kerst Pater Special

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Christmas beers largely exist for a number of perfectly good reasons, which if you want to revisit please feel free to check out the Bush de Noel (#83) – the first Christmas beer of my journey. For me, the best reason to have a Christmas beer is to snugly sink into the traditions of yuletide, and a strong, dark, rich and wholesomely fruity beer is simply perfect on a cold winters night.

The idea of these kind of drinks is nothing new, especially in the UK, where mulled wine is a particular favourite at Christmas. I began to look back historically at the types of drinks served at this time of year and one of the earliest forms of Christmas beer turned out to be a drink known as Lambswool, which seems to have been fairly common as far back as the late 15th Century. The brew consists of spiced ale (or in later years cider) and baked apples. There are various explanations for the name; although the most likely is that the light colour and frothy appearance on the surface looks remarkably like the sheared wool of a lamb.

The odd looking drink was traditionally associated with the act of ‘wassailing’ – which basically amounts to a procession of merry persons (usually inebriated on lambswool) who wander their locality toasting either a) their neighbours or b) the environment. The first custom of ‘house visiting’ usually requires the females to dress up in bows and ribbons and offer their bowls of lambswool to owners. The second custom is slightly more bizarre, in that usually the males wander fields and orchards ladling their lambswool over crops and trees, and singing ancient rhymes. The idea in Pagan times was that this would guarantee the crop for the following year. It is largely now just a fading tradition of folklore which tends to occur in country villages around Somerset and Gloucester on Twelfth Night (January 5th) or thereabouts.

I normally make some kind of mulled wine over Christmas, however as we approach this festive break I am going to break from tradition and supplement my Belgian beers with some lambswool. Essentially a good half a gallon of real ale, combined with some apples, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar should suffice. I will be the new boy in the street so will decline the dressing up as a morris dancer part though. Anyway, enough of this frivolity – what about the Kerst Pater Special? This is a much better beer than the other Pater Lieven brews (#18, #73) that I had tried thus far. It was punchy on the nose, and continued to work on my tastebuds. It had all the attributes you associate with a good Christmas beer – rustic fruit, spice, cloves, and cinnamon. This beer doesn’t get a lot of press but is certainly too good to waste pouring over your neighbours perennials.

 

Thanks to Bernt Rostad for the photograph

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Van den Bossche

#196 – Buffalo Belgian Bitter

#196 - Buffalo Belgian Bitter

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

The Brouwerij van den Bossche is most well known for it’s range of Pater Lieven beers (#18, #73), however they have also been brewing another range called Buffalo for well over a hundred years now. As ever, there is an interesting tale behind the name.

It all started in 1907 on the town square in Sint-Lievens-Esse – the home town of the van den Bossche brewery which had started up a mere ten years earlier (#73). At this time the town square had been taken over by an American travelling circus and the entire local population were clamouring with excitement to see this exotic show. With this in mind, Arthur van den Bossche for one particular noon showing gave a pass out to all his brewery staff to attend the circus. They were still in heavy production of their beers, and so Arthur arranged for the youngest apprentice to stay behind and tend to the brewing kettles.

The luckless young man who had missed the show duly watched the kettles meticulously in their absence however had forgotten in all the excitement to regularly stir the contents. The result was that the beer had completely roasted due to the young boys’ negligence and caramelised on the bottom of the kettle. There was general dismay on Arthur’s return as the exuberant workers returned to survey the wreckage. It was only when a number of staff actually tasted the resulting beer that they decided they actually quite liked it. From that night on, this style of dark burnt beer became the staple diet of the brewery, and the recipe has remained virtually unaltered to this day. The ‘Buffalo Bill’ travelling circus though was gone the next day.

It wasn’t the famous stout I was trying tonight, but the Buffalo Belgian Bitter, a solid 8.5% amber blonde. It was a great beer to accompany a night on the cards, and much better than I had expected on first surveying the bleak label. In fact I would go as far as saying it was pretty much on a par with the XX Bitter (#131) from De Ranke. The full hoppy flavour was clear and sharp, and each mouthful was perfectly crisp on the tongue. I’d definitely recommend this beer for anyone wanting their Buffalo wings!

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Filed under 8, Belgian Strong Ale, Van den Bossche

#73 – Pater Lieven Blonde

#73 - Pater Lieven Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

We have already met the Father of Lieven back in the late teens (#18), and this beer is the second toe dipped in the same range from the Van den Bossche stable. It is worth spending some time introducing the family who for over a hundred years have made quite a name for this brewery.

It started back in 1897 when Arthur Van den Bossche purchased a small plot of land in the picturesque village of Sint-Lievens-Esse in the wonderful Ardennes region of East Flanders. Arthur cannot have imagined the legacy he would leave on the village and in many respects we can see how he almost has come to be revered as the Pater Lieven himself. Arthur had married into a family from Wieze Callebaut who had something of a reputation for making fine chocolates. Between himself and his wife, they began to make quite a business for themselves in the village. It was clear though that Arthur had more of a passion for beer, and set about building a large estate around the brewery for his family. The passion had clearly rubbed off as in 1925 when Arthur sadly passed away, his wife and two sons, Willy and Mark, picked up the reins and really began to turn the legacy into a thriving business. During this tenure in 1957, the highly popular Pater Lieven beers were introduced to critical acclaim.

The baton was further handed down in 1975 when Marks’ son Ignace was made a partner, who then became manager in 1981. The brewery was massively modernised to cope with the modern day brewing requirements, which then takes us bang up to date, where Bruno, the fourth generation Van den Bossche, and eldest son of Ignace now runs the commercial functions of the brewery. Even Ignaces youngest son, Emmanuel, has a functioning role in the day to day work.

This family history is particularly prominent in the many craft breweries in Belgium, and stories such as these permeate the history of beer in the low countries. In many ways it is a testimony to how good Belgian beers are, that so much love goes into the making of them.

I wouldn’t say the Pater Lieven range is anything special, and to be honest I felt this one let down the darker one I tried previously. The pour was golden and carbonated with barely any head, and the first flavours accompanied dinner well. There was plenty of citrus and a slight tartness, however this dissipated into a stereotypical blonde beer after just ten minutes of opening. Certainly not unpleasant but more lagery than craft beer !

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Filed under 6, Belgian Ale, Van den Bossche

#22 – Lamoral Tripel

#22 - Lamoral Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Lamoral Tripel is more than a beer. It is in many ways a celebration of national pride. It may seem a long time ago, but Belgium and the present day Netherlands were under Spanish rule back in the 16th Century. At that time, Lamoral the Count of Egmont, was a wealthy and influential statesman and general who despite being loyal to Prince Philip II of Spain, was very much opposed to the introduction of the now-legendary Spanish Inquisition. He was not alone, with both William of Orange and the Count of Hoorn reflecting the views of the increasingly frustrated populace. Egmont even travelled to Madrid to beseech the King to withdraw this policy, but met with complete disinterest.

The people continued to revolt, and during the period of Iconoclasm, when the protestants began to attack the Catholic church, Egmont remained loyal to his King, while William of Orange read the warning signs and decided to flee the country. It was to end badly for Lamoral, who along with the Count of Hoorn was captured by the Duke of Alba, who had been sent to quiet the unrest in the lowlands. On June 5th 1568 both men were cruelly beheaded in Brussels main square, and this essentially sparked what became the Eighty Years War which eventually led to the independence of the country.

Who knows to what degree the majesty of Belgian beer is owed to the Count of Egmont – at least enough to dedicate a beer to him – unfortunately it wasn’t a particularly memorable one. It started well, with a pumping froth and an amber tangerine liquid bubbling away. Good first tastes, strangely of licquorice and a certain floridity, but it really didn’t last which was a shame, ending fairly average and meekly unlike Egmont who went down dignified right to the very end of his life.

(Post-Script) – It turns out beer runs in the family. Did you know that Kastaar (#96) was allegedly the son of the Count of Egmont?

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Filed under 6, Abbey Tripel, Van den Bossche

#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