Tag Archives: Alken Maes

#176 – Brugs Witbier

#176 - Brugs Witbier

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4.5 %

Brugs Witbier, or Brugs Tarwebier as it is known locally, is a cloudy unfiltered wheat beer which is based on a traditional Brabant recipe. Although now mass produced by the Brasserie Union (Alken Maes), it was once upon a time brewed exclusively in Bruges, at the now defunct Gouden Boum brewery, which you may recall also used to produce the Brugge Tripel (#104).

Although the above is all now just history, the Brugs Witbier label still interestingly adorns the logo of the Gouden Boom (Golden Tree). This is a nostalgic reference back to the Gouden Boom trophy which was awarded to knights that won medieval tournaments in the city way back in the Middle Ages. The Golden Tree has been a key symbol of Bruges since 1587 and even now is still a key part of the traditions of the City. Tourists often flock to the Pageant of the Golden Tree which is a massive carnival held in the town square which seeks to recreate the famous wedding of Charles the Bold (the Duke of Burgundy, and Count of Flanders) to Margaret of York (the sister of King Edward IV of England) which took place in 1468. The modern day festivities usually comprise well over 2000 actors, six choirs and 100 horsemen who retell the events within around ninety different scenes.

Even now wandering around Bruges, it is difficult to wander the cobbled streets and not feel yourself transported back in time. It is unlikely however that the Cities’ coaching inns and taverns would have served the Brugs Witbier to its discerning customers. In the 21st Century, the Brugs Witbier is traditionally served with a slice of lemon, and is brewed with bitter orange peel and coriander. Had any man asked for a pint of this in bygone days, then execution for treason may have been a suitable punishment. The beer is though particularly turbid, which would have been representative of beers of the Middle Ages, where particularly crude filtering techniques would have been employed.

The Brugs Witbier that I was drinking was very typical of a modern day wheat beer – it was cloudy, fairly tart and even without a slice of lemon was reminiscent of citrus. I really struggle to get excited about most Belgian wheat beers today. I don’t think any country really makes a better wheat beer than the Germans, and this was absolutely no exception.

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Filed under 6, Alken-Maes, Belgian White (Witbier)

#135 – Hapkin

#135 - Hapkin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

Hapkin may now be brewed by giant Alken-Maes, but it hasn’t always been this way. The Brouwerij Louwaege was formed in 1877 and lasted five generations until its premature closure in 2002. The 7500 square metre site in Kortemark, West Flanders was eventually demolished after the acquisition and it is hard now to find much information on this sad demise.

The axe truly fell across the head of another community brewery – a fairly apt analogy for a beer symbolised by the weapon of choice of a certain Lord Hapkin of Flanders. Also known as Boudewijn Hapkin/Baldwin VII – the Count of Flanders.

This terrifying figure only ruled Flanders for eight short years, but his contribution in this time was a bloody rebellion against the murderers, thieves and oppressors of the people of his land. A kind of Belgian Robin Hood, seeking a peace for his land by the most ironic means. Often this was at the expense of the nobility who wielded horrific abuses at the hands of the middle classes.

Hapkin was born in 1093, and came to power at a rather unripe 18 years old. He would eventually die on the battlefield in 1119 – legend has it through a resounding cut to the head – a fitting end for a man renowned for his bloody axeplay.

It seems a rather odd choice of hero for a beer, but there is a nice twist to the tale. During his reign over 900 years ago, Lord Hapkin commissioned a strong blond beer at the Abbey Ter Duinen Cistercienzerpaters, a beer which history dictates was the original recipe of the latest Hapkin incarnation. The beer was allegedly so good that it was known country wide, and so strong that it made even the most cowardly soldier feel invincible. It is almost taken for granted now that Lord Hapkin would have bloodily fallen in the name of his people, drunk on his own home-brew.

This is certainly a beer in the mould of its master. Strong and belligerent in appearance and thick and dangerous on the palate. It looks like a proper tripel and with the addition of a sweet back-kick you wouldn’t be disappointed if you inherited a crate of this. It did fade a little near the end, a little bit like the Champions League game I was watching at the time, but definitely a worthy contender for something to knock out your mates with.

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Filed under 8, Alken-Maes, Belgian Strong Ale