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European News (Issue 25)

by Carolyn Smagalski 


Scotland’s First Saké

The UK is no stranger to imported saké, but having a domestic one of her own is a relatively new experience. In 2015, Dojima of Osaka, Japan, opened the UK’s first sake brewery at Fordham Abbey Estates in Cambridgeshire, 65 miles north of London. And now, Gerald Michaluk of Arran Brewery, Isle of Arran, Scotland is about to add sake to the northern landscape through a Crowdfunding Phase II venture. By establishing Scotland’s first sake brewery, Arran Brewery will create a unique presence in markets throughout the UK, Europe, and the USA. Their plans also include a craft brewery focused on lager beers.

Sour + Power

Brouwerij de Brabandere of Belgium has introduced an elite six-pack of blend-your-own beers to the UK market through importer James Clay. The Petrus Sour Power Pack comprises four beers: Petrus 50/50 - a blend of foeder-aged Pale and Red Sours - plus one each of Oud Bruin and Aged Red, and three bottles of Aged Pale Sours. UK beer enthusiasts are embracing the opportunity to try their hand at “personal blending” like the pros.

Brits’ Annual Hunt for Beer Writers   

The British Guild of Beer Writers has initiated their yearly search for the most passionate beer writers and broadcasters in the world, with prizes reaching upwards of £1000 apiece in 8 categories, and a trophy for the winner of the Corporate Communications award. Entries are due Friday, September 9, 2016, for pieces produced between Sept 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016. Awards will be presented at the BGBW Annual Dinner in December. The Overall Beer Writer of the Year receives the Michael Jackson Gold Tankard Award. Want details? Go to: http://beerguild.co.uk/bgbw-awards-2016/

by Carl Kins

Brugse Zot keeps working on its international expansion. They opened the third Brugse Zot themed café in the British city of Nottingham, following in the footsteps of China and Japan. Next to that, the big news is that their underground pipeline between brewery and bottling facility is now operational. 

There are already a load of beer competitions in the world, but Wallonia wanted to add one, in which it also shows the never ending struggle between region (Wallonia) and nation (Belgium). The competition is called “Best Belgian Beer of Wallonia” and was launched this year for the third time (after 2012 and 2014). The strap line is “C'est bon, c'est Wallon!” (it is good, it is Wallonian). 29 Wallonian breweries participated with 95 artisanal beers in six styles: wheat, blond, amber, brown, stout, and fruited. A total of 14 medals were awarded. 

More and more breweries are opening up. According to beer consumers club Zythos, there are now officially 201 breweries in Belgium. That includes the recently opened Brouwers Verzet in Anzegem, Siphon brewery in Damme, Witches Brewery, which began in the Pays des Collines region of Hainaut province with an African brewer. The first release is a sugar free beer called Freemoon, and they are working on a banana beer, Banaqueen.

Moreover, quite a few breweries keep expanding, including the breweries of Armand Debelder, who will bring all his ventures under one roof, in Lot, along with a revamped LambikoDroom.

Eutropius has moved from Heule to Menen, where the first beers will be brewed in June. Clearly, the major focus will be contract brewing. They currently brew 51 beers for others and they want to quadruple this by end of next year. As long as they put on the label the provenance of the beer and whether it is an original brew or a clone of something else, I do not mind too much.

De Graal moved to much larger premises, allowing to double the production. De Graal is also known for contract brewing, including a special Japanese beer to accompany sushi, for which they receive a secret spice mix direct from Japan.

‘t Gaverhopke moved from Stasegem to a farm, belonging to a castle, called Goed te Nieuwenhove in Waregem. ‘t Gaverhopke’s old location will continue to be a brewery with a young guy jumping in in coming months.

There are also some noteworthy new alcoholic products on the market.

’t Smiske has a novel idea. Instead of always producing the same beer over and over again, brewer Johan Brandt will each time brew something new under the same name. The beer will be called Smiske Vario and will thus differ batch from batch, and this can be in all aspects, from color to taste to alcohol strength … The first Smiske Vario is now on the market, and is typically Oudenaarde region, i.e. a strong dark beer at 9% ABV.

Het Anker announced the second beer in the Indulgence-series, i.e. the Cuvée Sauvage. It is a blond beer at 9.8 % ABV, based on Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer Red, to which was added 2 and 3 year-old lambiek of Brouwerij Boon. The launch date is September 2016.
Omer Vander Ghinste, ex Bockor recently launched Tripel Le Fort, at 8.8 % ABV, with a touch, reminiscent of Westmalle Tripel, especially because of the yeast.

At the end of last year, Lindemans made a special release for the birth of the daughter Goedele of one of the De Heeren van Liedekercke owners, aptly called Goedele’s  Bloesem, a blend of 1 and 2 year old lambic with freshly picked fresh elderflowers. It is similar but not the same as Blossom gueuze where other lambic ages and a different source of elderflower have been used.

Stassen, part of Heineken, created an abbey cider, called Cidre d’Abbaye du Val-Dieu. 

Brouwerij De Plukker uit Poperinge has delivered one of their beers "All inclusive IPA" to the Dutch distillery De Pronckheer of Cothen, who turned it into jenever. Noteworthy is that the IPA is a fresh hop IPA, with the hops all grown by brewer Joris Cambie on his hop farm.

And actually, there are more new products, related to Belgian beer:

Lindemans launched Lampas, beer tapas that marry well with Lindemans lambiek based beers.

Apple and Android only offer a stereotypical beer glass in their emoji collection. The Belgian Brewers and VLAM have now launched 60 brand-new beer-mojis. The emoji are available for free download on Apple and Android. Didn’t find your favorite beer? No worries. The amount of beer-mojis will be expanded soon.

Not all is well in the Belgian brewing world though.

Palm Belgian Craft Brewers recently announced they were to cooperate with Dutch company Bavaria N.V. At first Bavaria buys 60%  of the shares, clearly a majority stake in Palm Belgian Craft Brewers. Bavaria will gradually increase their holdings to achieve 100 % in 2021. It is mentioned there is a lot of synergy, but clearly all benefits will go to Bavaria, who gets a real strong foothold in the Belgian market, where they can sell their products, which include La Trappe. By the way, Bavaria also has a minority stake in De Molen. Finally, to avoid confusion, Brouwerij Boon is not involved in this transaction. On 30 June 2014 Palm sold the shares they had in Brouwerij Boon (50%) to the Diepensteyn Holding, the holding company that also owned Palm. The other 50% of the Boon shares rests with the Boon family.

Renovation works have started at the De Troch maltings in Schepdaal. The owners want to create apartment lofts in the building. This is applauded by the city council, who like the fact that after years of deterioration, finally the building s will be put to good use again. Clearly, the fact that brewery history is destroyed is not important to them. The old iconic brewery buildings of Brouwerij Eylenbosch along the same street as De Troch keep deteriorating, to such an extent that there is a spooky feel to it, attracting more and more ghost chasers.


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