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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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!”
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.
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.
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.”
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 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 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.)”
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.