Next up was our 11 am tour of Oud Beersel, located in the town of Beersel. Oud Beersel is now the site of an old brewing museum and a working lambic blendery. The site is owned and managed by blender Gert Christiaens and his father, Jos. Oud Beersel contracts with Brouwerij Boon to buy wort, brewed to the original Oude Beersel recipe, and puts it in its own barrels and foeders for aging. Gert is the blender and main man behind the excellent lambiek, kriekenlambiek, Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek, and other beers. That’s a lot of work, even for one highly motivated guy who is passionate about his work in promoting and preserving Oud Beersel and lambic beer. So, a group called De Geuzen van Oud Beersel was formed by local beer lovers in 2007, and they help out with tours of the brewery and more, such as an educational lambic blending day each year in February.
Werner Geeroms of De Geuzen van Oud Beersel, who also worked previously at De Lambiek, the new lambic beer visitor’s center in nearby Alsemberg, gave us a tour after we were greeted by Gert. This two hour tour and tasting included visits to each barrel and fermentation room. We savored glasses of a one year old lambic in a barrel room, as well as Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek, and Beersalis Tripel in a new tasting room. Oud Beersel even had an oak aged, brettanomyces-infused Tripel on offer in bottles, and it was good.
Here is a video of Werner Geeroms speaking about several Italian foeders at Oud Beersel
Here is a video of Werner Geeroms of De Geuzen van Oud Beersel talking about lambic beer, hops, and the resurgence of lambic beer in Belgium, and the process of making Oude Geuze.
Here is a video of Werner Geeroms of De Geuzen van Oud Beersel in a fermentation room at Oud Beersel, discussing lambic production.
Here is a video of Werner Geeroms in the old brewery at Oud Beersel with the Belgian Beer Me “Wild and Spontaneous Beer Tour of Belgium 2015” group.
Here is a video of Werner Geeroms of De Geuzen van Oud Beersel shows how lambic barrels used to be cleaned in the old days.
Oud Beersel has expanded a couple of times in the last few years, and yet another expansion will see 120 hectoliter foeders added to the attic of the brewery. These will be the largest foeders of any lambic brewery. They currently have a dozen or so foeders in the 40 to 50 hl range, as well as many smaller barrels, some of which are more than 100 years old.
After such a great visit, we needed some sustenance. Meaning: a lunch of great Belgian food, paired with equally tasty Belgian brews. Luckily, Beersel has a number of beer cafes and restaurants that will easily fulfill that need. The one that we enjoyed on this Friday, the first day of May, was the recently revamped Centrum Cafe. The smartly decorated cafe has a light-colored wood theme to it, and is filled with Belgian breweriana, and offers over 100 beers in bottles and ten on tap. I enjoyed a meal of Stoofvlees and stoemp, which is a traditional Flemish beer stew with mashed potatoes.
The next stop on our tour, Brouwerij De Glazen Toren, was not related to wild or spontaneous beers at all, but it is one of Belgium’s top tier breweries. It’s also nice to take a little break from tart, sour brews, if only for an hour and a half or so. Brewer/writer Jef van den Steen is quite a character: he was a math professor, and is perhaps Belgium’s best-known beer writer, with many books to his credit. Jef and founding partners Dirk de Pauw and Mark de Neef run the very successful “The Glass Tower” brewery in Erpe-Mere, a thousand year old village on the outskirts of Aalst. It’s been successful largely because of the high quality of their brews. As a big fan of saisons, I am especially partial to Saison d’ Erpe-Mere, which is simply one of the best saisons brewed in Flanders, the Flemish speaking northern part of Belgium. (Aalst is in East Flanders, and saison’s homeplace is in Hainaut Province, to the south in French-speaking Wallonia.)
Here is a video of Jef van den Steen, Brouwerij de Glazen Toren, talking to our group about his brewery.
Here is another video of Jef van den Steen of Brouwerij de Glazen Toren, speaking to our group about his brewery and their Saison de Erpre-Mere.
Dirk told our group the story of the brewery, which was founded in 2004, as Jef filled empty beer crates with empty bottles. Jef was soon joined in this task by Goose Island brewer Dave Tohtz and others in our group. Hence, Jef was soon free to talk about the brewery as well. We sampled the saison and Ondineke, the brewery’s tripel, on draft. Both were excellent, as always. I also recommend De Glazen Toren’s Jan De Lichte, a strong blond wheat beer, as well as their Cuvée Angélique and Canaster Scotch Ale.
After that fine fine visit, we headed back to the bus and back to the hotel in Aalst to freshen up up. Yes, there was still more beer discovery in store for the group that night. We joined Chris “Podge” Pollard of the U.K and his tour group of nearly 40 beer lovers on a double-decker coach, headed for Brouwerj Boon in Lembeek. Owner Frank Boon decided to do a lambic festival all weekend long, rather than just the traditional Sunday of Toer de Geuze, such was the popularity of that event in 2011 and 2013.
The Boon site is huge, and allows room for many hundreds of visitors. This Friday night, there was a beer tent with most of the Boon beers on offer, as well as a band playing live music and several food offerings. The beers included old and young lambic, Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek, as well Mariage Parfait Oude Geuze and Oude Kriek. The new Vat 77, a monoblend from foeder number 77, was also available, and was very tasty. Brewery tours were offered till around 10 pm that night, and visitors were able to sample a couple of different lambics in rooms full of foeders, many of which have a capacity of more than 80 hectoliters (about 68 U.S. beer barrels.) As there are more than 100 of them, that is a big stock of lambic!
Here is a video of Frank Boon’s oldest son, Jos, talking about Brouwerij Boon prior to our visit to the brewery.
Here is another video of Frank Boon’s oldest son, Jos, talking about Brouwerij Boon.
Here is a video of Frank Boon talking about his brewery in the new brewhouse at Brouwerij Boon.
Most of our group was able to personally meet Frank, as well as his two sons, Jos and Karel, who both work at the brewery. It’s nice to see this family tradition carried on. Frank personally gave a tour to half of our large group, as did his older son for the other half. It’s this kind of personal access that attendees get when on a tour with someone who has deep connections in the Belgian beer scene, as Stu does.
We could have hung out for another hour or two, but as the brewery would be open for visitors the next morning, we had to finish our beers and head for the coach just past 10 pm. But, not before having another beer or two in the dark on picnic tables in the long brewery courtyard. Might as well enjoy the visit as much as possible, right? It’s the Belgian way.
However, we were not done yet. Those of us hearty enough to enjoy a few more brews did so in the lobby of our beer-friendly hotel. In fact, we had already indulged in some breakfast brews in the coach that morning. There were a few people who had been on Stu’s tour the previous week, which went to a certain Trappist Abbey brewery’s tasting room in West Flanders. I can say that more than a few Westvleteren 12’s were enjoyed on the coach that weekend. Other U.S. beers that attendees brought with them were also shared, leading to a real camaraderie among all of us.
Continued on the next page…Saturday begins at Geuzestekerij De Cam