Monday, October 15, 2012

Best Day in Belgium - Ever

Now that's a pretty strong statement, but please read on and decide. At the end of the work day [2012/10/09] - before heading to Brussels and home - first it was important to stop in at the Norbertine Postel Abbey.


 


The Abbey is in the town of Mol. Yes, named for moles.

 
This was to pick up some bread and cheese (not to bring to the US of course), as well as try the Abbey beer. Note in the past Molse Triple (tripel from Mol) has been sampled, but that is from Scheldebrouwerij, not here. There were deer at the Abbey, but no venison nor Bavarian-style deer cheese.


The Abbey is famous for its herb garden, as well as the "neutraceuticals" they sell, such as ginseng extract and others. 


There was even a pharma-like blending and bottling area where you could watch the formulations.

 
We did stop in and try a Postel beer [#3,273] at Gasthof de Belaard, however it was with a sad note that we discovered the Abbey has "outsourced" their brewing. 

 
 
Also picked up were some mole-shaped chocolates (remember, we're in Mol).

 
The Abbey was not the ultimate destination; we had received confirmation from the brewer that we could visit the new pico-brewery DijkWaert. We had also received a rather cryptic reply - relating to their whisky-barrel aged Mc Thals - "...don't use any barrels nor have I added any Whisky or essences..." I love a mystery!

photo by Danny Van Tricht

 Arriving at the brewery we were welcomed by the brewer/owner Hans as well as his family. They began brewing about 1-1/2 years ago, and have a very nice tidy operation. The first order of business - after everyone introduced themselves - was what's this with the Mc Thals? You do not use old whisky or scotch barrels to age it?

 
Hans replied wryly that is it was all a brewing formulation secret, and that the natural herbs and spices used in the brewing gave the beer it's near-perfect taste. I mean really, a peaty phenol smoky taste with a hint of salt; barrels from Speyside distillery? Nope!

Has said we would try all the beers currently on hand, and brought out an impressive spread of 8 different beers. And these were all different styles, from a gruit to lambic to Wheat beet. The first one sampled was Thals 1886 [#3,274].

 
We also had a tour of the brewery; scrupulously clean with different bottles stored and aging. An older son was currently labeling bottles. He may be attending school to be a brewer, and we all wish him well.


 

After the tour, we continued sampling the beers. Each beer was very different, and each seemed to be better than the last. Han's wife Carine brought over an appetizer plate of cheese and other snacks; the proper way to taste beer. We learned that the brewery's history came about as some hobby "kooks" (their words!) came together in early 2010 to start the brewery, and get married! The brewery name is a combination of Hans and Carine's last names (Dyck, a Dutch twist and you get "Dijk") and Hans' (Wierts, with a German root of "innkeeper", Belgianize it and you have Waert) - Dijk Waert.
 
The brewery prides itself on 100% natural ingredients, no added chemicals, flavorants, adulterants, etc. They only use all-natural ingredients. For example, if the beer (e.g. Fruity Bierreke) says it contains sour cherries, it is real, honest-to-goodness mashed sour cherries, not syrup. 


The beers tried in order were
Vurig Bierreke (fiery beer) [#3,275]
Goud Vuur (golden fire) [#3,276]
unnamed Wedding Beer [#3,277]
Fruity Bierreke (fruity beer) [#3,278]
Eeuwige Liefde (eternal love) [#3,279]
Mc Thals [#3,280]

We learned about the brewery's other fine points. There is the ability to accommodate up to 20 people on a pre-arranged tour, with a full dinner if necessary. And that the brewing plans include the ability to make custom beer. As with the wedding beer - brewed for a wedding for 2012/10/13 - Dijk Waert can make a small batch of beer for whatever event/taste you want. Note the wedding beer was actually named trouw brouw (wedding beer) for Karen and Steven - we wish you well.

 
At this point we also learned a dark secret behind some of the other nano-breweries we have visited in the past. Although they do brew beer, to accommodate their market demand, they have larger batches contract-brewed at several larger Belgian breweries who do this. That sort of explained a conundrum from the past, one nano- (pico- really) visited in 2011 couldn't possibly supply the US market to the extent it has, based on the size of said pico-brewery.

A further surprise hit us when it was announced we would be having dinner at the brewery. We broke bread (actually fish, vegetables, stofles and chicken) with the family, including their adopted son from the Philippines, and Hans' spry octogenarian father.

During dinner, it was explained how some of the beer flavours and brewing recipes were arrived at. Some by trial and error, some by the knowledge of what the final product would taste like. An example was also given was how to "age" something like a whisky or cognac. By age I mean artificially take a younger, more "raw" spirit and improve it. The "secret recipe" would be to take a bottle of new cognac, and heat it slowly in the open bottle, in a double boiler, until the water bath reached 60 C (that's 140 F in the 'real' scale).

 
At this temperature the impurities (such as allyl alcohol, miscellaneous aldehydes and others) are driven off; one blows away the vapor that collects near the top of the bottle, lets the bottle cool to room temperature, caps it and puts it away. It has not been attempted yet, but Hans swears it can turn something like a Johnnie Walker Red into something resembling a Green.

 
After dessert, we purchased a little over a case of beer, and promised to look into how beer could be shipped to the US for personal consumption. I did leave a copy of one of my book for the family to enjoy. All in all, an absolutely grand day out.

I bet if Dijk Waert ever makes Cognac, it would be spectacular.

2 comments:

  1. great article Club Belgique!

    Cheers aka SLÁINTE!

    Thom Snoeren

    PS: as a friend of DijkWaert this might be a tad subjective..: "IMHO it's the best brewery in Western Europe!" ;-|

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