Jim Dykstra's picture

The Sours of Brewery Omer Vander Ghinste

Of Brewery Omer Vander Ghinste's near 20-beer strong portfolio, three are readily available in the US.

Golden Years, Golden Beers
Brewery Omer Vander Ghinste, as it is known today, produces some of Belgium’s most renowned elixirs – specifically its spontaneously fermented ales like Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge, but its lagers are finely crafted as well. In fact, from around 1976 to 2014, the brewery took the name of Bockor, one of its flagship brews, which translates roughly to “golden pint.”

Omer Vander Ghinste’s ability to bring the past into the present has kept it modern without losing its significant brewing heritage, reflected in every time-tested pint. 2017 marks its 125th anniversary. If that's not a reason to celebrate, what is?

How It Be-Ghinste
The Vander Ghinste legacy began in 1892 when enterprising father Remi Vander Ghinste purchased a brewhouse and storage facilities for his 23 year-old son, Omer. Determined to succeed, Omer produced his first beer at Bockor Brewery, Ouden Tripel (now Vander Ghinste Roodbruin). Within months he would be delivering it by horse-drawn cart all over the region of Kortijk.

Marketing choices played a key role in the brewery’s early success. Omer named the product after himself and began promoting “Bieren Omer Vander Ghinste” around town with handmade stained-glass windows in pubs. Fortuitously, he married Marguerite Vandamme, the granddaughter of Felix Verscheure, who owned the successful local Brasserie LeFort. When Verscheure passed in 1911, he left the brewery to Marguerite, allowing Vander Ghinste to greatly expand his operations.

The couple would name their son Omer, marking the beginning of a lasting tradition – every first born Vander Ghinste since has been named Omer. Today’s fourth-generation owner/manager Omer-Jean carries the torch, but it’s not just tradition for tradition’s sake – the decision helped save on the stained glass windows, which were quite expensive and time consuming, but also central to the brand. Local pubs still proudly display their vintage signs today, and a visit to the brewery will find many originals casting luminous hues over reverent patrons.

Vander Ghinste brews with great historical precedent, with a history that dates back to the Middle Ages. 

An “Omerun” In Every Batch
Spontaneous fermentation is part art and part science, and Vander Ghinste calls on both to ensure its brews come out to exacting specifications. To brew this delicate kind of beer, the wort is cooled in a coolship on top of the brewery tower. During the cooling process, wild yeast like Brettanomyces works its magic.

At about 68°F, the grafted wort is pumped into foeders where it ferments and ripens for 18 months before being blended into beers. The base wort is used for offerings including VanderGhinste Roodbruin, Gueuze Jacobins, Kriek des Jacobins, Kriek Max Rosé Max and Cuvée des Jacobins, a 100% spontaneous fermentation beer.

Vander Ghinste brews with great historical precedent, with a history that dates back to the Middle Ages. The brewery lay situated on the French border in an area where hop-use was prohibited, leading to a need for other preservative methods, namely the use of gruit and oak barrels for acidification. Such strictures paved the way for the rise of sour beers, and Vander Ghinste, located in the rural West Flanders province of Bellegem, has been at the epicenter of the movement since its inception. Of its near 20-beer strong portfolio, three are readily available in the U.S.

VanderGhinste Oud Bruin
The original "Ouden Tripel" is now reflected in this ancient West Flanders Brown style -- "VanderGhinste Oud Bruin". This mainstay offering takes malted barley, wheat, hops, water and caramelized malts and whips them into a delicious blend of lambic beer aged in oak for 18 months, resulting in a three count of pleasant sourness followed by slight bitterness and ending with a soothing sweetness.

5.5% ABV
Available in 11.2oz bottle; 20L keg.

Brewed to keep up with the times and pay homage to its legacy, “this pale strong ale from Flanders has splashed upon the world of beer scene with great fanfare. Winner of the 2010 Gold Medal in the World Beer Cup, Omer bested many of the world's finest beers in a hotly contested category.”

Refined yet unpretentious, this “pale golden and extraordinary” ale combines a firm malt character with pleasant hop bitterness and warm, bready aroma. Best sampled in its signature glass, Omer is as much a treat for the eye as it is for the palate.

8.0% ABV
Available in 330ml bottle; 750ml bottle.

Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge
This iconic beer offering is “unblended old lambic, aged for 18 months or more.” It boasts assertive flavor character but is beautiful and sophisticated with a full body and overtones of vanilla, dried cherry, stone fruit and cocoa. It is a complex, beautiful sour beer that embodies the Vander Ghinste tenets of refined and robust taste.

Where’s the name come from? According to Artisanal Imports, which brings the brews stateside:

“During World War II the brewer at that time was Omer-Remi. Having spent some time in the St. James Hospice in Paris as a refugee, he was inspired to create a line of beers called "Jacobins" in honor of the Dominican Friars that answer to that name in France and who had given him shelter in his time of need.”

5.5% ABV
Available in 11.2oz bottle; 20L keg.

(Photos Courtesy Brewery Omer Vander Ghinste)