Tag Archives: Riva

#169 – Lucifer (pre 2008)

#169 - Lucifer

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

There is almost a frightening symbolism to the fate of the beer Lucifer. Here was a strong golden ale which stood proud and strong in the pantheon of beers, and yet following the bankruptcy of the Riva brewery it found itself cast down into Purgatory.

Lucifer, as the beer label of the pre-2008 beer will attest, is a name nowadays widely used to describe the devil himself. Interestingly however this particular reference is never used in the Bible. In fact according to the Old Testament, Lucifer refers to the latin term lucern ferre meaning ‘light bearer’, referring to the rising of the Morning Star (the planet Venus).Throughout religious antiquities, stars have often been commonly regarded as living celestial beings, and it has commonly been believed that shooting stars are in fact fallen angels. One such famous fallen angel from Apocalyptic literature is Lucifer.

Lucifer was though not just any old angel – he was the favourite archangel of God, only second in command after his own son Jesus Christ. His light which shone more brightly than all the others reflected his perfect form and powerful intellect. So the story goes that he began to seriously believe in his own hype and became intensely jealous of God’s son, believing that it should be he, and only he, at God’s side. He began to appeal to the other Angels who he promised he could offer a better life, not only as replacement as God’s deputy, but inevitably as God himself. The Angels of Heaven watched on in horror as Lucifer managed to stir up a rebellion against God, who sat passively with his security blanket of omnipotence watching the malevolence play out.

Thus it was that Lucifer, the light-bearer and sharer of God’s glory became Satan, God’s adversary. The battle of good and evil began to play out, and once satisfied that Lucifer could not be saved, God inevitably expelled him and his rioting angels from Heaven. Lucifer had been cast off and forced to seek his revenge on mankind. The same of course was true for the beer. When Riva could no longer afford to pay the bills, Duvel Moortgat came in to offer a lifeline, although inevitably opted to give more attention to the fruit beers inherited from Riva. The beer deserved better, and eventually an agreement was made with het Anker to re-launch and re-brand the beer. Lucifer, the fallen Angel was given another chance at redemption. God’s work is seemingly playing out in the kettles and tuns of East Flanders.

I managed to get my hands on a 750 ml bottle of the original pre-2008 Lucifer. It was a strong golden ale, very much of course in the image of Duvel (#34) and Judas (#5), particularly fruity, but somehow lacking in the depth of the former and ending up more in similarity with the less impressive latter. It was not quite as good as I remember it had been in older days, but I had taken my Belgian beer drinking much more seriously since then. I will be keen to try the new reformed Lucifer just to see if the light truly has returned to this famous beer.

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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, Riva (defunct)

#151 – Straffe Hendrik

#151 - Straffe Hendrik

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The Straffe Hendrik hasn’t always had things it’s own way. Life certainly hasn’t always been kind, and the fact that the beer is still alive and tastes so damn good is one of the great miracles of Belgian beer.

The original Straffe Hendrik beer was only launched in 1981, by the Brouwerij de Halve Maan. It weighed in at about 7.5% – 8%, and was only available in small kegs. It was named after the original brewer of the Die Maene (The Moon) brewery, as it was back then. His name was Leon Maes, but was affectionately known as Henri I. The beer was particularly potent, and thus it became known in Flemish as Heavy Henry (Straffe Hendrik). The beer is thus greatly symbolic of the brewery, as a succession of head brewers were all sequentially named Henri.

The symbolism of the beer was such, that in 1988, the Riva brewery took over the brand name. It continued to be brewed in Bruges though, until 2002 when the whole package moved to Riva in Dentergem. This was where things seriously began to go amiss for Hendrik. The quality of the beer began to mysteriously subside, and the ABV soon dropped as low as 6%. Hendrik was losing his weight fast, and like an aging prize fighter, he was hanging on to the ropes to retain what reputation he had left. The poor quality though soon had a devastating effect on the Liefmans Breweries (of which Riva was one), who went backrupt in 2007. Duvel Moortgat took them over, and immediately closed the plant. Heavy Henry was dead on his feet waiting for the count.

It was never to come though. In 2008, the nostalgic hands at De Halve Maan made an agreement with Duvel Moortgat to buy back the brand of Straffe Hendrik, and within months, Henry was back, this time as an utterly delicious 9% Tripel. I had spent the morning with the folks wandering the sights of the old town of Bruges, and while everyone else was happy to stop for a croque monsieur and a coffee, I was gagging for a beer. I had recently read about the revival of Henry, and where better to try it out than its’ spiritual home. It was absolutely perfect – creamy, sweet, bitter and potent and the perfect accompaniment to some local cuisine. An hour later, like a dazed boxer, I stumbled back into the afternoon sun, knowing full well I would be back for plenty more Henry this weekend.

(Post-Script) – In late 2010, Henry was re-united with his old brother. For a time while at Riva, a dark Straffe Hendrik beer was introduced, although of course it really wasn’t working for them at the time. The Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is a dark complex beer weighing at 11% and is definitely on my hit-list for my next trip to Bruges.

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Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, de Halve Maan