– My wife sent me off to the United States with the message: Don’t come back until you have a smile on your face.
There is a flicker of the smile before he continues:
– I found something to work with. I found a brewery. In a burned out building. I had it dismantled and sent to Belgium.
Our host is Andre Janssens at Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal, another scenic spot in the Flemish countryside, yet not many minutes’ drive from Leuven. He had a stroke a few years ago, was feeling depressed and did not want to continue his office work. That was when his wife insisted he should travel.
We are seated around an old, worn oak table in Andre’s living room.
– My father told me three men were made on this table. And five were killed.
This is not only a brewery, but also a working family farm focusing on sustainable production, with hops and barley grown on the farm, even the malting is done just up the road. Much of the energy used in the brewing process comes from rapeseed oil also produced on the farm.
The brewery was started five years ago, and they now brew 1500 liters twice a week.
The beers started off as rather traditional Belgian styles, but things have really taken off with a series of barrel aged beers, using oak barrels previously used for various European wines and spirits. Before they started barrel aging, they cultivated wild yeast. 10 buckets of beer were placed on various spots around the farm. They all went sour, two of them were usable for use when they barrel age the beers.
There is the most charming setting you could imagine – a small brewery tap offering beers to drink on the spot or take away. A lovely garden. A pond with ducks and frogs. And even horses of old Brabant stock being used in the hop cultivation.
There is a lot of experimentation taking place. We get to try the Brand von Leuven, a beer in their Taste Lab series. This is to commemorate the firebombing of Leuven. The beer has smoky flavor and aroma, elegant balance of sweet and sour. The soot and destruction is there in the finish.
A most unusual brewery to visit, check their web site for details. I think you will find their beers quite hard to find in Europe, the distribution seems to be better in parts of the US.
The visit was sponsored by Visit Flanders, who kindly invited a number of Scandinavian beer bloggers last month. They have no influence on the editorial content of this blog.