In Spring 2020, I – Liselot Caura, founder & guide – organise(d) FREE virtual tastings (Because of Corona). Together with my fans, we taste different beers while I share my knowledge about traditional and craft Belgian beers. An opportunity for you to even discover your new favourite beer!
Watch our 2 min long intro video for more details to hear why we started these virtual tastings…
Watch the tasting replay on our Facebook page here.
Lots of people would put their hands in the fire for Trappist, Lambic and Triple beers, and Belgium is the only place where you can enjoy them at a reasonable price. But the historical background of abbey beers create beautiful beer stories, making them as worthy of our attention.
In our 6th online tasting, we featured Maredsous Triple and its sibling Liefmans Goudenband. Two well-known quality beers owned by Duvel Moortgat, one of the most modern Belgian breweries. In May 2019, Olav- one of the pillars of the brewery- guided me in the brewery which motivated me to put Liefmans more in the picture.
At the beginning of the tasting, I asked my fans which beer they would like to taste first. Some beer geeks advised me to start with Maredsous because they wanted to keep “the best” for the end. Liefmans is a very special beer, which explains why it’s so popular.
But Liefmans being a rather sour beer, I offered to make it the appetiser and the sweeter Maredsous Triple the dessert.
5 out of 50 participants managed to get the beers ahead of the tasting. I’m always amazed at how committed my fans can be!
Beer tasting 1: Liefmans Goudenband
A beer with a secret fermentation
Its beige foam and its natural dark colour (without colour additives) testify of its high quality.
Most of the watchers might expect a dominant fruity smell like in other brown-reddish beers, such as the Keizer Karel featured in our previous tasting. However Liefmans offers a blend of vanilla, wood, mocha, dried plums, apple and caramel.
It only gets better: similar flavours complement this impressive aroma blend. Caramel and apple flavours predominate, followed by a sour touch.
Four steps must be followed to get that special sour taste.
First, the brewer mixes water with malt, preparing the wort.
Then comes fermentation (= the last step of brewing where sugars convert into alcohol & Co2). For this purpose the wort goes in an open tank where it receives all the bacteria and yeasts through direct contact with air. This is quite uncommon as most lagers and ales go through fermentation in a closed tank. To speed up the process, used yeast from a previous batch is added to the wort. The first fermentation lasts for 6 days.
Then the beer is ready for a second fermentation of minimum 6 months to mature the sour taste.
Finally, this matured beer is mixed with a younger version coming straight from the open tank. The blend is aged in the bottle for a few more months.
This unique fermentation style dates back to the Middle Age and is called “Oud Bruin”, an unique style established and represented in Flanders. Another example of “Oud Bruin” beer is Petrus Oud Bruin.
These two ways of fermentation makes Liefmans a “Craft beer” in some way, although we do know that the beer is not completely hand-made brewed.
The beer has a wrapped-up paper package which is another criteria to be recognised as a Craft beer. I had the honour to receive some wrapped-up exemplars when visiting the brewery in 2019.
Liefmans Goudenband received a gold medal at the Meininger International Craft Beer Awards for the best sour beer.
A beer that traveled and travels a lot
Established in 1679, the Liefmans brewery changed hands many times. The Liefmans family owned it from 1770 to 1880 when they sold it to the Van Geluwe who ran it over several generations. When they hired Rosa Mercxk as a secretary in 1946, no one predicted she would become the first brewmaster in Belgium, thus making a unique contribution to the brewery world.
Let me tell you her story. Rosa Mercxk started to assist the brewmaster.. When the owner, Paul van Geluwe, unexpectedly died in 1972, she was the only one able to take over the brewing activities.
Neither the Van Geluwe daughter nor the son had interest or knowledge to run the brewery. They sold Liefmans to an English brewery, who then sold it again to Riva from Dentergem as they struggled to deal with the high competition in the beer world at the beginning of the 90s. Unfortunately they didn’t see the point of keeping Rosa, despite her seniority and extensive knowledge. .They went through a lot of ups and downs until their bankruptcy in 2007, and Duvel Moortgat finally took over the brewery.
Liefmans not only changes owners many times, but production sites as well. Until Riva’s take over, Liefmans was produced in very small quantities with mid-18th century brew kettles. Average-sized breweries produced 5 to 6 batches a day, while Liefmans produced one batch every 3 days.
When Duvel Mortgat took over, they tried to brew Liefmans in their own site (where the famous Vedett and Duvel are produced), but the size of their kettles did not match the requirements for Liefmans batches. They moved the production to DeKoninck (part of the brewery since 2010). However, the fermentation style being so special, it could and still only takes place in Liefmans.
Nowadays you can visit the Liefmans brewery, where the 18th century brew kettles are exposed. We were invited there in May 2019 and they are quite impressive!
Beer tasting 2: Maredsous Triple
A blond with a surprising banana smell
Now we move to the second beer of this virtual tasting: Maredsous. As you may already know, we suggest leaning the glass at a 45 degree angle and moving the glass to an upright position while pouring to get a nice foam head.
Maredsous has a nice golden colour. One fan who was drinking a Maredsous blond noticed the beer colour was almost a duplicate of the Triple. It is true that Maredsous’ colour does not differ enormously from other blond beers.
Luckily aromas are more interesting, with banana, fruity and caramel scents, followed by grapetouches.
When tasting the beer, we enjoyed some zest & orange flavours which is a quite new experience for me. One of the watchers shared he tasted and even smelled banana flavours like in Westmalle Triple, which I had not noticed until now. Sometimes my fans are the one teaching me about beer!
“Pray and Work”
As mentioned in the previous tastings, every abbey needs to follow a religious order for its abbey community.
Maredsous, which was established in 1872, chose to follow the Benedictus order. Their motto is “Ora et Labora”, “pray and work” in English, the only two daily activities allowed in the abbey.
Unlike the initial guess of my watchers, the Benedictus order was founded in Monte Casino, close to Rome. If you want to know more about the Ora and Labora order, we recommend paying a visit to the Chimay, another Benedictus abbey. This Trappist brewery opened a beer museum in 2012 where you can take a 2-hour audio tour and visit the abbey. An educational trip and a nice promenade around a splendid abbey where you can observe a real brewery activity, since Trappist beers are brewed inside abbeys and not privately-owned breweries.
Have you ever heard of Ijzerenband, the previous name of Goudenband? Neither did my watchers. Ijzerenband refers to the “iron circle” which surrounds the wooden barrel. This material was used in the 17th century to store the beer.
20th May: last FREE online tasting
After a long 1h, I needed to announce that there will only be one more live Abbey Beer tasting on Wednesday evenings. My fans were very sad to hear that, but for the last time, they can expect a big show!
Can you guess which abbey beer if I tell you that the beer belongs to the oldest Belgian family brewery?
It’s Ename Pater, who belongs to brewery Roman. Adriaen Brouwer Oak Aged is choosen as the second beer to taste.
Our next FREE online tasting: 20th May.
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Read another episode about our online beer tastings.