Zigzagging our way through the Flemish countryside, a lunchtime stop was at the Brouwerij de Kroon, where we were welcomed by Freddy Delvaux, head of the family that owns and runs the brewery.
But this is more than a brewery. A bar/restaurant, a museum and a laboratory. They call it a multifunctional centre of brewing and taste, no less.
Let’s start with the lab part, which is where Freddy has his background. He was appointed head of the laboratory at the Artois brewery in 1973, and continued in this position for many years as the brewery merged many times over. He also established a lab at Leuven University, which he ran for decades.
When the university told him he was approaching retirement age, he decided to set up on his own together with his sons, and they have established a lab doing services for 25 Belgian breweries. They also have a yeast bank, and they develop new beers for a number of breweries.
The facilities they use today was opened only last year, but in the same building as the historical de Kroon brewery, which closed down in the nineteen eighties but is remarkably well-preserved – showing brewing methods going back many decades. The equipment and the recipe books show that the beers used to be brewed with mixed fermentation, among the beers they made was the lost style of Leuven beers. A modern beer inspired by this is brewed today, the Super Kroon. The highest volume was lambic-like table beers with alcohol content between one and three per cent.
The modern brewery is next door to the old one, and this is where they make their own beers as well as developing and testing new ones for other breweries.
The brewery tap also reflects the activities in the lab. There is one beer here from each of the 25 breweries that de Kroon does the lab work for, in addition to the three house beers.
There is an enclosed courtyard in the center of it all, a sun trap even on a slightly chilly spring day. I did not really study the menu, but they have some really nice salads if you want to tend to your lunchtime hunger.
Of their beers, the mentioned Super Kroon was the most interesting. The tap line goes directly from the unfiltered tank in the brewhouse, the beer is a hazy amber. It is bittersweet and fruity, with an elegant lemon-like sourness.
De Kroon is reachable by bus from Leuven station, it takes about 25 minutes. You could do worse on a sunny day.