Gebrande Winning’s ‘Circus’ Edition Beer Festival: Lambic (and more) Beer Heaven

Published on February 12, 2020.

De Gebrande Winning, a beer bar and restaurant in Sint-Truiden, Limburg Province, is rapidly becoming one of Belgium’s premier beer destinations. While located a bit off the beaten path, 64 kilometers (40 miles) east of Brussels, the fantastic beer selection, gourmet food, and warm atmosphere of De Gebrande Winning are a big draw for beer lovers from all over Belgium, and the rest of the world.

The name “De Gebrande Winning” translates as “The Burned Farm” and refers to an incident where a couple a brigands who had tried to burn a local farm were captured by local authorities and executed by being burned to death near where the cafe/restaurant stands now.

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While I had visited Sint-Truiden a couple of times over the years to visit Brouwerij Kerkom, and also the nearby Brouwerij & Alcoholstokerij Wilderen, I had never visited De Gebrande Winning. When chef/owner Raf Stimorol Sainte announced a beer festival to be held on December 7-8, 2019, I made plans to visit.

Raf Souvereyns, aka Raf Soef, in his Bokke lambic blendery in Hasselt.

Raf Souvereyns, aka Raf Soef, in his Bokke lambic blendery in Hasselt.

De Gebrande Winning is one of the few beer bars in the world where you can find the fantastic lambic creations of Raf Souvereyns, aka Raf Soef, and his Bokke (formerly Bokkereyder) lambic blendery. Gebrande’s ‘Circus’ Edition Beer Festival promised brews from Bokke, as well as the new and highly respected Antidoot-Wild Fermenten, and another relatively new lambic blender, Bofkont.

Some of the awards De Gebrande Winning has received, on a wall near the bar.

Some of the awards De Gebrande Winning has received, on a wall near the bar.

Gaetan Claes of Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, pouring a Tuverbol 2019.

Gaetan Claes of Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, pouring a Tuverbol 2019.

Also on hand was Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, one of Belgium’s beloved lambic breweries. The two day fest featured some breweries in attendance both days, while others were only present on the Saturday or Sunday.

The fest was organized by chef/owner Raf Stimorol Sainte and his staff.

The 3 Fonteinen booth at Gebrande Wiinning on December 7, 2019.

The 3 Fonteinen booth at Gebrande Wiinning on December 7, 2019.

Marc Beirens of Brouwerij Loterbol, holding a Tuverbol beer at the 3 Fonteinen booth. Tuverbol is a blend of Loterbol Blonde with 3 Fonteinen lambic.

Marc Beirens of Brouwerij Loterbol, holding a Tuverbol beer at the 3 Fonteinen booth. Tuverbol is a blend of Loterbol Blonde with 3 Fonteinen lambic.

Tuverbol 2019, a blend of Loterbol Blonde and 3 Fonteinen lambic.

Tuverbol 2019, a blend of Loterbol Blonde and 3 Fonteinen lambic.

The fest featured well-established breweries, such as the superb trio of Brouwerij De Ranke, Brouwerij Loterbol, and De Struise Brouwers, as well as some that have been around for only a few years, including DOK Brewing of Ghent, Malterfakker-Het Brouwateljee of Lubeek, and Siphon Brewing of Damme. The common denominator was the high quality of the beers produced by all the breweries and blenderies present.

Steven Bollion of Malterfakker and Het Brouwateljee in Lubeek, a cafe where you can drink and eat, with a brewery. He holds Vesalius, a delicious fruit beer made with Schaarbeekse Krieken.

Steven Bollion of Malterfakker and Het Brouwateljee in Lubeek, a cafe where you can drink and eat, with a brewery. He holds Vesalius, a delicious fruit beer made with Schaarbeekse Krieken.

This ‘Circus’ Edition Beer Festival was billed as a beer and gastronomy event, and did not disappoint. With one of the ticket packages, included was:
– A tasting glass (10cl)
– 8 beers chosen from the breweries present, selected by the chef (with a different selection on Saturday and Sunday).
– 6 food pairings to go with these beers

The food pairings were gourmet tapas-like dishes.

Brouwerij De Ranke Franc Belge Spéciale Ambrée paired very well with this dish of shrimp.

Brouwerij De Ranke Franc Belge Spéciale Ambrée paired very well with this dish of shrimp.

This is a dish of rich shrimp on a bed of white cabbage and chicken gravy, topped with an egg yolk. It was delicious!

This is a dish of rich shrimp on a bed of white cabbage and chicken gravy, topped with an egg yolk. It was delicious!

The festival had a great variety of Belgian brews, and there were some breweries from The Netherlands in attendance as well. For me, the big draws were the food and the number of lambic and wild beer makers on hand. So, let’s have a look at those in more detail.

This is "Chocolade Beignet" with Abrikoos, meaning deep friend chocolate with pureed apricots. A great dessert dish!

This is “Chocolade Beignet” with Abrikoos, meaning deep friend chocolate with pureed apricots. A great dessert dish!

Dishes of pureed apricots ready to be paired with deep fried chocolate and served to hungry fest attendees.

Dishes of pureed apricots ready to be paired with deep fried chocolate and served to hungry fest attendees.

Another one of the tapas served at the "Circus Edition" beer fest at De Gebrande Winning.

Another one of the tapas served at the “Circus Edition” beer fest at De Gebrande Winning.

The Bokke lambic blendery was present on both days, and their booth was a very popular one. De Gebrande Winning is the closest place to the Bokke blendery location outside Hasselt that has some Bokke brews pretty regularly on offer, so it is essentially the “local” for blender Raf Soef. Bokke has such a low production (only about 100 hectoliters a year, which is about 85 U.S. barrels) that most of its beers are sold directly to a number of cafes in Europe for consuming on site. So, any time you have the opportunity to attend a fest with Bokke brews on offer or visit a cafe that has the beers in stock, do so! Assuming you like superb, incredibly refined and flavorful lambics, that is.

I asked Raf why he likes De Gebrande Winning as both a place where people can savor his brews, as well as an event location, and he had this to say: “Raf Sainte once visited me in the blendery, and immediately there was a link between us, due to how we approach base ingredients, and turn them into beer or food. We pretty much have a similar philosophy, so we started planning on working together.”

Raf Soef preparing to pull a container of fruit slush off a trailer at Stokerij Vanderlinden.

Raf Soef preparing to pull a container of fruit slush off a trailer at Stokerij Vanderlinden.

Raf continued: “I was thinking of doing an event at the blendery, but there were so many practical issues with it (catering, parking, approval from the town hall, approval from my neighbors, etc) so I got in touch with Raf and he said we’re most welcome to host a release event at his place. After all, it was a much better choice, as their location is fully equipped for doing such events. On top of that, it’s a super cozy old farm building, which is a perfect setting, in my opinion.”

Raf added: “The nice thing is, we limit the capacity of the events, so there’s no waiting in lines, there’s plenty of beer and food for everyone, and a relaxed atmosphere to hang out with supporters of the Bokke project. Since the blendery is never open for visitors, doing the events at Gebrande kind of feels like I’m opening the blendery to visitors.”

I wrote about my first two visits to Bokke, in 2018 and 2019, in this previous article. I also covered a day distilling a Bokke fruit slush at nearby Stokerij Vanderlinden in this article here

Additionally, I attended the Night of the Great Thirst at Ebenezers Pub in Lovell, Maine, in August 2019, in which Raf and Bokke were one of the guests of honor. There were over 20 Bokke beers on offer during the fest, which I covered in this previous article.

From left to right, Raf Soef of Bokke; Raf Stimorol Sainte, chef and owner of De Gebrande Winning; and Sam Hellemans of the great new Bofkont lambic blendery.

From left to right, Raf Soef of Bokke; Raf Stimorol Sainte, chef and owner of De Gebrande Winning; and Sam Hellemans of the great new Bofkont lambic blendery.

The Bokke brews on offer during the "Circus" Edition beer festival at De Gebrande Winning on December 7-8, 2019.

The Bokke brews on offer during the “Circus” Edition beer festival at De Gebrande Winning on December 7-8, 2019.

For the Circus Edition beer event, Bokke had on offer: Abrikoos 2018; Grasshopper 2017; Pjassel 2018; Kriek-Pjassel 2017; and Steengaard 2018. Tokens at the festival cost 1.5 euros each, and each roughly 4 ounce pour of Bokke cost 3 tokens, so it was 4.5 euros (about $5) for a solid sampling of these excellent brews.

Raf Soef of Bokke pouring a taster full of Abrikoos 2018 for an eager festival attendee.

Raf Soef of Bokke pouring a taster full of Abrikoos 2018 for an eager festival attendee.

A shot of the Bokke booth at the Circus edition beer fest. Simon of Bokke is working the booth.

A shot of the Bokke booth at the Circus edition beer fest. Simon of Bokke is working the booth.

Bokke presents and pours their brews from beautiful, Bokke-branded wicker lambic baskets.

Bokke presents and pours their brews from beautiful, Bokke-branded wicker lambic baskets.

Situated beside the Bokke booth (and I’m sure this was not a coincidence) was Bofkont, a new lambic blendery that was opened by Sam Hellemans in 2018 in Kontich, south of Antwerp. Hellemans, who will turn 28 in February, started experimenting with brewing and blending in 2016. He is, of course, a a big fan of lambic brews. I found his beers to be the biggest new discovery for me at the festival. “My production is only about 20 hectoliters (about 17 U.S. barrels) of beer per year to date. So far, all is sold at beer festivals. Also, I don’t have a tasting cafe at the blendery.”

Sam Hellemans of the Bofkont lambic blendery at the Circus edition beer festival.

Sam Hellemans of the Bofkont lambic blendery at the Circus edition beer festival.

The Bofkont brews, like Bokke, are very flavorful. Sam is a big fan of Brouwerij Girardin’s lambic, as well as their Black Label Gueuze Girardin 1882. He uses lambics from Girardin and Brouwerij De Troch in his Bofkont blends.

As to the name of the blendery, Hellemans writes on his website: “Why the name ‘Bofkont’ (lucky dog in English)? After a while the project needed a name. Easier said than done. Had I not cleaned up the attic in that period…In short in that period I come across my stuffed animal from my childhood, a dog named BOFKONT! And I also consider myself a lucky person that I can work with such a beautiful beer like lambic!”

The Bofkont beers on offer at the De Gebrande Winning festival.

The Bofkont beers on offer at the De Gebrande Winning festival.

As you can see from the image above, Bofkont had five lambics on offer during the festival: Moonwalk 2017, an apricot lambic with 300 grams of apricots per liter of beer; Summermoon 2017, a fresh summer beer with apricots, and with a higher citrus content than the Moonwalk; Honeymoon 2017, with elderflowers macerated in a citrusy lambic; and Autumnmoon 2018, with a lower intensity of apricots, but with a longer maceration of the fruit in the lambic. This Apricot lambic has less fruit intensity and more lambic character. Hellemans also had a few extras not on the list, such as Abrikoos-Kaneel 2019, another very delicious apricot lambic.

All these brews were very interesting and very satisfying, with excellent lambic and fruit character, and mild to medium tartness and funkiness. Raf Soef told me during the fest: “Bofkont is the next Bokke.” I happen to agree! See more photos below.

The Bofkont booth at De Gebrande Winning.

The Bofkont booth at De Gebrande Winning.

Bokfont's Honeymoon, a spontaneously fermented lambic beer made with elderflower.

Bokfont’s Honeymoon, a spontaneously fermented lambic beer made with elderflower.

Sam Hellemans of the Bofkont lambic blendery opening one of his excellent blends.

Sam Hellemans of the Bofkont lambic blendery opening one of his excellent blends.

Sam Hellemans of the Bofkont lambic blendery pouring an Autumn Moon 2018.

Sam Hellemans of the Bofkont lambic blendery pouring an Autumn Moon 2018.

Some of the Bofkont beers available at the Gebrande Winning festival.

Some of the Bofkont beers available at the Gebrande Winning festival.

Another star of the show for the weekend was my favorite “new” brewery of 2019: Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten. I visited the brewery and farm, at Diestsestraat 41
in Kortenaken, on April 27, 2019. There was a bottle release that day, scheduled for 1 pm, and there were already 100 people in line at 1 pm. The one hour or so wait to obtain a few bottles to take home and taste several beers was well worth it, as Antidoot makes interesting, flavorful, superb brews.

The Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten beers on offer at the Gebrande Winning beer fest. All were superb.

The Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten beers on offer at the Gebrande Winning beer fest. All were superb.

Antidoot was created and is run by brothers Tom and Wim Jacobs, on site in a brewery right next to Tom’s home. Tom and Wim make beer, cider and wine, using 100% indigenous yeasts and bacteria. The brothers utilize both spontaneous fermentation, as well as other wild fermentation. All of their beers are barrel-aged. Per their website, here is their mission: “An artisanal microbrewery and cider/winemaking facility dedicated to crafting surprising, culinary ferments, using as much as possible local and organic ingredients, always fermented with 100% local microorganisms.”

The brewhouse at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten in Kortenaken. Note the coolship.

The brewhouse at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten in Kortenaken. Note the coolship.

Tom Jacobs of Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten pouring a "Nacht van de Geit" at Gebrande Winning. This beer is described as an "International Gruit Ale" and was a collab with several other breweries.

Tom Jacobs of Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten pouring a “Nacht van de Geit” at Gebrande Winning. This beer is described as an “International Gruit Ale” and was a collab with several other breweries.

Kortenaken is located about halfway between the university city of Leuven and Hasselt, about 30 minutes drive from each. The small village of Kortenaken is situated in the very eastern part of the Province of Flemish Brabant. This rural area features farms, vineyards, pastures, and small towns. The perfect place for a brewery/cidery/winery. During my visit last April, there must have been 200 or more visitors over the course of a few hours. The weather switched from periods of a cold rain to a sunny spring day in a matter of moments, and then back again.

The land behind the Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten brewery and barrel space is rural and undeveloped.

The land behind the Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten brewery and barrel space is rural and undeveloped.

Another shot out back at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten, looking back towards the brewery.

Another shot out back at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten, looking back towards the brewery.

The demand for the Antidoot-Wilde Fermentation brews is so much higher then the supply, that the Tom and Wim decided to set up a membership program, whereby only members can buy beer to take away. All of the membership slots were filled in less than a few hours. For now, your best chance at being able to taste some of their brews is to attend a beer festival where they are present, which does happen a few times a year.

The 2nd floor of the Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten barrel room and brewery. The brewery is in the other half of the room, not shown.

The 2nd floor of the Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten barrel room and brewery. The brewery is in the other half of the room, not shown.

Some of the barrels at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten in Kortenaken, Belgium.

Some of the barrels at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten in Kortenaken, Belgium.

The first floor of the brewery and barrel room at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten doubles as a barrel aging space and bar.

The first floor of the brewery and barrel room at Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten doubles as a barrel aging space and bar.

"Nacht van de Geit" from Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

“Nacht van de Geit” from Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

L' Obscur from Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten. This beer features organically grown apricots macerated in a sort of dry Flanders Red-Brown brew base, and was aged in Pinot Noir barrels for 16 months. It was mild to medium tart, and delicious!

L’ Obscur from Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten. This beer features organically grown apricots macerated in a sort of dry Flanders Red-Brown brew base, and was aged in Pinot Noir barrels for 16 months. It was mild to medium tart, and delicious!

The Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten booth at Gebrande Wiining, December 2019.

The Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten booth at Gebrande Wiining, December 2019.

L'Illuminé (Kriek, Framboos) from Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

L’Illuminé (Kriek, Framboos) from Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

The L’Illuminé (Kriek, Framboos) was excellent, with a medium tartness and pleasing fruit. Tom Jacobs had this to say: “It’s a blend of spontaneously fermented ale and a brew for which we used a starter (our own houseculture which comes from wild captures.)”

Good times at the "Circus" edition beer festival at De Gebrande Winning, December 8, 2019. From left, Raf Soef of Bokke; Sam Hellemans of Bofkont; and right, Tom Jacobs of Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

Good times at the “Circus” edition beer festival at De Gebrande Winning, December 8, 2019. From left, Raf Soef of Bokke; middle: Sam Hellemans of Bofkont; and right, with beer, Tom Jacobs of Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

Tom Jacobs of Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

Tom Jacobs of Antidoot-Wilde Fermenten.

This tapas dish is a "Roast Beef" made from deer.

This tapas dish is a “Roast Beef” made from deer.

The beers on offer at the Malterfakker booth at De Gebrande Winning.

The beers on offer at the Malterfakker booth at De Gebrande Winning.

Malterfakker "I Want More" an interesting Cherry Vanilla Stout, with 7% abv.

Malterfakker “I Want More” an interesting Cherry Vanilla Stout, with 7% abv.

Towards the end of the festival, Peter Kim of Bokke demonstrated that, yes, you can use a Porron wine pitcher to taste Bokke beers.

Towards the end of the festival, Peter Kim of Bokke demonstrated that, yes, you can use a Porron wine pitcher to taste Bokke beers.

There will likely be future beer festivals organized at De Gebrande Winning. Keep an eye on their Facebook page here to stay up to date. In the meantime, you can visit and drink from their extensive list of 150+ Belgian and other brews, including a number of cellar-aged beers. The cafe is also an Orval Ambassador, and has a big selection of Trappist brews, lambic beers, and regional beers. And, as you have seen above, fantastic food.

De Gebrande Winning is located at Zepperenweg 7, Sint-Truiden, Belgium. You can walk from the Sint-Truiden train station to the bar/restaurant in about 15 minutes. Their opening days are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:30 am until 2 pm, and from 5:30 pm until “closing time” (that means they can stay open late if they want to.) Closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.

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