On June 18, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte met his final defeat at the battle of Waterloo, a small hamlet of villages located about eleven miles south of Brussels. Now, an old farm that was set up as a field hospital by The Duke of Wellington, who led the English and their allies to victory that day, is about to become a major tourist attraction, one that beer lovers and history buffs should appreciate.
Anthony Martin and his Anthony Martin Brewery Group have been busy. Not content with a very impressive renovation and artisanal lambic project at the venerable Brouwerij Timmermans, Martin, CEO of the company named after his grandfather, John, purchased an old farm not more than a mile from the famous Lion Mound, which commemorates the battle of Waterloo. The new brewery is called Brasserie de Waterloo.
Martin purchased the locale, Le Ferme de Mont-Saint-Jean, in 2014. With the 200th anniversary of the battle coming up this Thursday, June 18, he and his dedicated team have been working at a breakneck pace to get the brewery and site up and running in time for the commemoration that will take place from Thursday and on into this weekend.
I toured the new brewery and gift shop/visitor’s center as part of a press event held on Tuesday, April 28th. Brewing started last November, and a sort of saison and a Triple-Blonde have been made so far. The brewhouse is copper on the outside and stainless steel on the inside, and made by COENCO, a well-known brewery manufacturer located in Belgium. Brewhouse capacity is 10 hectoliters.
The history if the Mont-Saint-Jean farm dates back to at least the 13th century, and it was used as a field hospital by the English and their allies during the battle and afterwards. Many of the same buildings that were there on June 18, 1815, still exist, and plans are to restore these historic structures, while also adding a museum, an event space, a restaurant with “haute cuisine” featuring the brewery’s beers, and also a theme park for children. It will be a major tourist attraction for the region.
I found the Waterloo Récolte, a sort of saison-ish beer brewed with 30% wheat and with 6% abv, to be very pleasing and easily drinkable. It is only available on draft at present, so seek it out if you visit the brewery. It may also be on offer at some specialty beer bars from time to time. This spring/summer seasonal will likely give way to stronger beers as the seasons change. The brewery already has a Strong Dark with 8% abv, and the Triple Blonde with the same alcohol.
There is also Waterloo Cuvée Impériale, a new beer that is described as a dark triple. It was not available at the time of my visit. I look forward to tasting it at some point.
Anthony Martin’s son, Edward, is an assistant brewer at Brasserie de Waterloo, and was on hand to shovel out the spent grains from a batch of beer brewed the day of my visit. It’s nice to see that the John Martin Group will remain a family business.The brewmaster of Brasserie de Waterloo is Thomas Vandelanotte.
All of the journalists and photographers at the press conference were invited to dig a hole and place a hop seedling into the ground just outside the brewery, and each was then named after said journalists.
An informative talk about the history of the farm and plans for the future was given by Anthony Martin, as well as others involved in the project. Brasserie de Waterloo will offer horse-drawn carriage rides around the battlefield, beginning in the brewery courtyard.