Tag Archives: Leuven

#125 – Campus

#125 - Campus

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

Campus is an orphan beer. This is a term I tend to use for those beers who have survived on in the new world despite losing their parental home. The foster parents in this case are Huyghe who rescued a number of small local breweries through acquisition in the 1990’s.  Biertoren from the town of Kampenhout, were the unfortunate original mother and father.

Biertoren translates fairly easily into English as the Beer Tower, and was a title used when the Smedts family first began brewing in a property previously owned by the Duke of Arenburg around Rotselaar. The place was already loosely titled ‘the tower’ after the local castles main keep, and so it didn’t take much imagination to finally agree on ‘beer tower’. The Smedts at the time were very much leading a collective of locals in producing the beer, and eventually common ground was lost, with a number of other partners choosing to set up other breweries.

In the 1930’s the Smedts family were forced to move due to the high rents placed upon them, and they found the empty brewery buildings in Kampenhout which in 1939 would begin to serve as the home of Biertoren. These buildings already had a rich brewing history since around 1840, and a range of Campus beers were added to the menu. The beer gets its name from the town of Kampenhout, and the label bedecked with the university mortar board is an apt one, in that it reflects the student spirit which is centred around Leuven.

If I ever get the dubious honour of drinking another beer from this orphan stable then I will detail a little more of the recent history at Kampenhout, although to be fair it’s fairly uninteresting, just as was the Campus beer itself. It’s important to discern this amber brew from the Campus Premium (lager), and the Campus Gold (blonde) which by all accounts are even worse. This beer should have come with a sheet of muslin, to enable the pour – never have I seen so much crap in a beer! After three attempts at some strategic decanting, in which I lost about a quarter of the volume I was able to start drinking. Amber, fizzy and decidedly herbal were the best descriptors I could use. It did improve as I neared the canal sediment, but by that stage I had definitely decided to give this one up for adoption.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Huyghe

#116 – Stella Artois

#116 - Stella Artois

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 5.2 %

Despite Belgium’s reputation for craft beer, bottom-fermented lagers like Stella Artois still make up about 75% of Belgian beer production, although Stella Artois is only the second most popular beer – Jupiler still tops the list. It is in the International market however that Stella Artois has excelled, and if you ask your average Englishmen to name a Belgian beer, then sadly most will probably say Stella Artois. It is actually so popular abroad that AB/InBev have launched a 4% version in the UK and Canada, but not in Belgium. This trend has become fairly common in recent years, particularly in the UK, where there seems a definite goal to lower the alcohol content in beer. Stella Artois is not known as Wife-beater for nothing you know!

A short history of Stella Artois can be easily gleaned from all the information on the label. Brewing started in the city of Leuven in 1366 (Anno 1366), in a local brewpub called Den Hoorn (look for the horn on the logo). The heritage of the beer is very Flemish, with the traditional architecture of the region incorporated into the cartouche on the label. The name may sound very French, but that’s largely because of the change in brewmaster in 1708, when Sebastian Artois joined the ranks. His name was added to the brewery in 1717.

The brewery may have existed for a long long time, but Stella Artois in its current style was only first introduced in 1926, and only in Canada. It was launched as a Christmas beer and the name Stella was chosen to represent the latin term for ‘star’, which of course also prevalently adorns the label. By 1930, the beer was introduced successfully into the UK market, and by the 1960s a million hectolitres were being annually produced. The beer has won numerous awards over the years (again look for the medals of excellence on the label), and grown in its reputation, so much so that in 2006 the brewery were churning out well over ten million hectolitres per year.

The success of Stella Artois clearly isn’t based on its flavour, but moreover clever marketing from a succession of global beer giants. I was pleasantly surprised however on drinking a bottle that I picked up very cheaply in a Belgian drankencentrale. It was smooth, honeyed and much better than the draught guff we get in the UK. That said I have a cellar full of interesting and delicious craft beers so not sure why I would want to drink this again?

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Filed under 6, InBev (Belgium), Pale Lager

#101 – Urthel Samaranth

#101 - Urthel Samaranth

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 11.5 %

Two very special people are behind the range of Urthel beers – Hildegard and Bas van Ostaden. Hildegard is the brewmaster and Bas manages the affairs and illustrates the beers, including the impressive website. Proving that even I can be a sexist male at times, I was surprised to find that Hildegard was the lady of the house.

I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Hildegard actually began studying industrial engineering in Leuven, specialising in all things ‘brewery’. After about four years teaching young engineers and leading them around various breweries, she let her entrepreneurial nature lead her to create a range of high quality Flemish beers with her partner Bas. Since the spring of 2000 the Urthel beers have been going strong, surprising people with their quality, and introducing the world to a myriad of strange stories and characters. These are predominantly the domain of artist, illustrator and storyteller Bas, who still romanticizes over a world of miniature gnomes.

The Urthel beers were originally brewed for Hildegard and Bas by the Van Steenberge brewery, however they have since moved these north of the border into the Netherlands at the Trappist Abbey of Koningshoeven, where our intrepid couple both worked and met. The spiritual home of the beers though is in Ruiselede in Belgium under the company name de Leyerth. Certainly by the time I had started my adventure these beers were brewed in Belgium, and if anyone cares to argue I will just drink extra at the end!

Hildegard and Bas, though based in Ruiselede, can often be found showcasing their beers in North America where the Urthel range is extremely popular. There are also plenty more Urthel beers to come and thus I will eventually get round to detailing the adventures of the Erthels from the Valley of the Ley, behind the mountains of Rooverth.

As for the Urthel Samaranth, this was actually a beer created and brewed specifically to celebrate the wedding of Hildegard and Bas in September 2002, and is because of its strength known as a Quadrium in the folklore of the Erthels. Whatever possesses anyone to drink beer this strong at a wedding certainly defies belief as my tasting will testify one quiet night indoors, miles away from the land of the Erthels.

Samaranth clearly is an Erthel with a reputation; an elder, just like the mate of your dad who can stand at the bar and drink eight pints in the last two hours like its water. He is most definitely somebody to look up to. I had already supped the St. Bernardus Wit (#100), and uncapped the Samaranth as I reclined on the sofa, eyes fixated on a Frank Capra movie. It was to be a critical error of judgment as twenty minutes later I was still on my hands and knees scrubbing Vanish into the sofa and carpet. This truly was a badboy!

Once I finally got down to drinking it, I can honestly say it blew me away. In no word of an exaggeration for every mouthful (or should I say sipful) a plume of fumes would emanate from my nose. I am not a big fan of brandy which this reminded me of, and while tasting a little medicinal and lacking the finer qualities of say the St. Bernardus Abt (#46), it certainly outshone the similar strength Bush Ambree (#3). I would definitely get this again, as any beer that has the temerity to bully me in my own house is something to be treasured.

(Post-Script) – the fumes that emanated from my nose was an interesting was of semi-interest, as I later discovered that the character Samaranth was a dragon in a fantasy novel by James A Owen.

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Filed under 8, Abt/Quadrupel, Brewers, de Koningshoeven

#97 – Triverius

#97 - Triverius

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.8 %

Believe it or not but Triverius was a beer first made in 2004 in homage to a famous man of medicine from the village of Nederbrakel. The occasion was to mark the 500th anniversary of his birth and to celebrate the impact he made on the emerging world of medicine.

Born Jeremie de Drijvere, he studied medicine at the University of Leuven where he eventually went on to become a renowned professor. He took it upon himself, somewhat like Brazilian footballers do, to assign himself a title, and was thenceforth to be known as Triverius. He was most famous for applying a scientific outlook to the study of medicine as opposed to basing it on customs, herbs and old wives tales, and continued to lead on medical practice until his premature death in 1554. He is particularly revered in the municipality of Brakel, and the de Graal brewery which is based in the area sponsored this homage to the great man. Not only does he have a beer named after him but also a complete fellowship; the logo of which can be seen adorning the label.

The beer itself is actually a double wheat beer; in that it is brewed in the style of a wheat beer, and then bottle-conditioned again to buck it up to a nice tidy premium strength. It didn’t look like a traditional white beer though, as it presented itself as a rich golden blonde, with perhaps the only clue of its wheat content being the cloudy nature of the liquid. It was beautifully refreshing as wheat beers often tend to be, but similarly it faded emphatically at the business end. Maybe a few more herbs and a little less science wouldnt have gone a miss !

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Filed under 7, Belgian White (Witbier), Brewers, de Graal

#39 – Keizer Karel Blonde

#39 - Keizer Karel Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

If you studied 16th century history you may know Keizer Karel or Charles Quint by a different name – Emperor Charles V. His realm was so large at one point that it was popularly described as one in which the sun never sets – in actual fact it spanned almost four million square kilometres. He was notably the most powerful man in the world during the mid 1600s as both the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, and all her foreign lands. Why then was this leading figure of world history so associated with Belgian beer?

The answer lies in his heritage. He was born in 1500 in Ghent and was brought up in Mechelen, Brussels and Leuven – all fiercely proud Flemish cities, and at the age of just six, he inherited his father’s territories of the lowlands and Franche-Comte. His Aunt Margaret acted as regent until he was 15 years old, and Charles then took over in full force, adding a number of new territories to a new unified lowlands of which he was the ruler – this included his birthplace of Flanders, levered away from the French. Although he spent the majority of his time in Spain and her outlying lands, his heart was always in the place of his birth, and he ensured a unified nation for his heirs when he eventually abdicated in 1556 and then passed away in 1558.

The brewers Haacht have celebrated the reign of Charles Quint through two beers which symbolise the power of his Empire. This Keizer Karel Blonde symbolises the pure morning light of the rising of the sun on one side of his realm, while the Keizer Karel Rouge (#134) represents the ruby red of the warm evening shimmer as the sun sets on the other. There are other stories about good old Charles Quint, and I will save them for later as it isn’t just Haacht who celebrate this man on a beer label – some go much much further.

Good little beer this. Actually drunk a couple of months after the best before date but still tasted remarkably fresh. A great strong fruity aroma on opening, and a very clear pale golden pour with barely any head. What looked slightly insipid initially was eventually very pleasant on the tastebuds with the 8.5% clearly evident. Fruity and sweet with undertones of vanilla ice-cream, this went down far too well. I Just wish I’d had another waiting in the fridge.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Brewers, Haacht