Tag Archives: De Hoorn

#170 – Palm Speciale

#170 - Palm Speciale

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 5.4 %

In 1984, the legendary beer guru Michael Jackson was reported as saying “If I could have a beer for breakfast, I would have a Palm.” I can only assume he was severely hungover when he said this, or maybe I am doing the brewery a disservice. One thing is certain though – there is certainly some history!

Palm, or De Hoorn as it was previously known, is so old it’s frightening. They are a Belgian institution and for that certainly deserve some respect. There is evidence that from 1597 on the site opposite the church in the town of Steenhuffel, there was a farmstead named “De Hoorn” (the Horn), which by 1686 was an inn with its own brewery and the same name. In the 1747 census of Steenhuffel there is categoric evidence of the De Hoorn brewery in direct competition with another brewery named “De Valk” (the Falcon).

In 1801 the brewery, which by now contained a malt factory, farm, brandy distillery, and inn with stables, was bought out by Jan Baptist de Mesmaecker. His great-granddaughter Henriette would eventually marry Arthur van Roy who took the production of beer at the brewery in more ways than one into the 20th Century. While the brewing world was beginning to move away from classical hop-fermented beer and choose cheaper pilsner style lagers, Van Roy stuck true to his principles. That was until World War I when the brewery was completely annihilated. Arthur van Roy now had grand ideas for a rebuild far beyond the village environs; but that’s a story for another beer I am afraid.

The Palm Speciale had been sitting in my cellar for quite some time. I had picked it up in a small rural store in Purnode for just 76 cents. It is made with a mixture of English hops, French barley and Belgian yeast – a truly cosmopolitan concoction. I wasn’t expecting great things despite the proclamations from Mr Jackson, and indeed from the website, which goes so far as to suggest that Palm Speciale is “one of the better beers of the 20th Century”, and the “Absolute number one Belgian amber beer”. I would say that for a 5.4 % ‘sensible alcohol content’ beer, that it is reasonable but some of these assertions are just ridiculous. The website also calls it ‘the sociable beer for every day, for everyone’. If you consider that the vast majority of Belgians themselves still choose to drink Jupiler above their craft beers, they may still have a point I suppose!


Filed under 5, Belgian Ale, Horse, Palm

#10 – Kwak


#10 - Kwak

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

Talk about Kwak, and almost certainly conversation will revolve more around the glass, than the actual beer itself. Served in a round-bottomed hourglass that is unable to stand freely unless attached to a laboratory style piece of wooden apparatus, the beer is certainly one of the more attractive specimens on offer in cafes.

There is however a story behind the gimmick which the brewers at Bosteels are only happy to tell. Pauwel Kwak was an 18th Century innkeeper and brewer whose De Hoorn Inn in Dendermonde was frequently visited by horse-drawn mail coaches and their thirsty drivers travelling between Mechelen and Ghent. During these Napoleonic times, the mail coach drivers were prohibited from leaving the vehicles and were not allowed to be seen drinking alongside their passengers. Our man Pauwel then invented this glass which could be hung on the side of the coach enabling the drivers to continue to imbibe as they drove away, without spilling any of the precious brew. It was with this in mind in the 1980s that Bosteels launched this famous amber, and its test-tube styled accessories.

There are also stories in recent times that Pauwel was only named Kwak because of his heavy stature, and that in fact the beer is so named because of the ‘quack’ sound which is made when quickly drinking the beer from the special glass. These are crap stories but when you take into account the actual quality of the beer it does make you begin to wonder. I have always probably been more disappointed with Kwak because of the reputation it affords. The pour is a mix between amber and brown yet remains coppery clear. Its fair strength is barely unnoticeable but I’m not always convinced that is always a good thing. Kwak is a palatable but really rather unremarkable beer which almost stands in stark contrast to the vessel which so often accompanies and accentuates its sales !

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Bosteels