Tuesday has always felt like a bit of a black sheep amongst the days of the week. As a homage to Tuesdays, I’ve decided to do a slightly different kind of post today.
Heverlee is a Belgian pilsner style lager which has taken Scotland and Ireland by storm. It’s the baby of Joris Brams, a Belgian man who’s been living in Scotland since 2000. I was lucky to have a chat with Joris to find out more about Heverlee and why it’s become so popular over here. Even more luckily, I’m going out to visit the brewery at the beginning of next month. I can’t wait!!
Heverlee is brewed at the Abbey of the Order of the Premontre which has gone through some massive developments in recent years. It’s had around €14 million in investment to restore it to its former glory, including a fully working mill. The abbey was founded in 1129 and its workers focussed on farming and fishing. They built the original brewery to cater for these workers and they brewed a really light, low alcohol beer to keep them hydrated. Belgium is famous for its dark, high alcohol beers but these are more associated with the Trappiste abbeys who had onsite breweries which were to make profit so they had time to roast the malts and make higher alcohol contents. However, it wasn’t the highest interests of abbeys like the Premontre to spend time and money roasting malts…and plying their workers with 8% beers! Unfortunately the brewery closed down in 1550…. until now that is…
Joris grew up about 2 miles away from the Premontre Abbey and used to play in the surrounding fields as a child. When he moved to Scotland, he wasn’t a huge fan of British ales and was frustrated with the lack of Belgian lagers available. This was the catalyst that fuelled him to bring his favourite drink – Belgian lager – to Scotland. He returned to Belgium and began to research the original recipe brewed at the abbey way back when it was originally open. Whilst chatting to Joris it became very clear that authenticity was very important to him. He wanted to keep the recipe as close to the original as possible, he even has plans to restore the original brewery! The current recipe uses a mixture of malt and maize and the renowned Saaz hop. Joris also wants to keep the monks heavily involved. They actually run the brewery and receive royalties from Heverlee sales to further fund the abbey. He’s also very adamant that while Heverlee isn’t widely available in Belgium, and it’s biggest markets are oversees, it will always be brewed in Belgium so it 100% lives up to its title of a Belgian lager.
Heverlee is widely available throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland but Joris is hoping to branch further into England, as well as the USA and Brazil! Let’s hope that Heverlee does as well in Brazil as Belgium did earlier in the year (Sorry USA…)!
WELL HELLO THERE.
I have had a verrrry busy week. I was in Glasgow on Thursday for the launch of Menabrea, an Italian beer, then attended the Brewdog Writer’s event on Friday and then down to Edinburgh for the last weekend of the festival. Throw in some illness and a 9 hour train journey with no seat and you have a pretty exhausting weekend indeed. I’m writing this from my bed as I still feel very ill. I didn’t get to see very many shows during the festival either because I wasn’t feeling well. Terrible timing. Anyway I’ll stop feeling sorry for myself. I’ve written about my time at Menabrea and Brewdog on my Herald blog so please be sure to check that out – http://www.heraldscotland.com/author/diary-beer-girl although I think this might get published before they do so be patient dear child. I might actually do another Brewdog one on here too as there’s just so much to write about.
Brew By Numbers. A very interesting concept which has torn family and friendships in two. Do you think it’s confusing and unnecessary or a clever and interesting way to label beers? I’m in the second camp. Let me explain what it’s about if you don’t already know. Skip a few sentences down if you do. Brew By Numbers give each style of their beers a number, so for example, Saisons are 01, Golden Ales are 02 and Porters are 03 etc etc. Each beer they brew in this style is then given another number which they call the recipe, so you get something like 03|02, with 02 being the Liberty. In the porters section, there is also the recipes 01 – Original and 03 – Traditional. Anyway, I think this is a fantastic concept for encouraging repeat purchases. We all like trying beers by different breweries, but if you’ve tried an 03|02, then you’re naturally going to want to try the 03|01 and 03|03 to compare all three. Clever, isn’t it?
Clever is all and well but it’s verging on annoying if you can’t prove your worth (also if you try a numbered beer and it’s a bit shit, you’re probably not going to rush out and buy the others since they’re likely to be a bit shit too). Well, don’t worry, Brew by Numbers can get away with it. They’re like Stephen Fry. They have the potential to be very irritating know it alls with their fancy paper labels and new way of naming their beers, but they’re really bloody good, so they earn it. And, that makes you like it.
Liberty isn’t too strong for a Porter, coming in at 5.7% ABV but it packs a punch. Mixing the, rich chocolate and coffee notes with a bitter and floral hoppiness is a fantastic combination. They use Liberty hops (who’d have guessed it?!) to mirror an American style hoppy porter. I was quite surprised by the lightness of the beer despite the flavour which I really liked. I’ll be going back to try the 03|01 and 03|03. Clever, isn’t?!
When I’m choosing beer, I don’t usually pick up whichever one has the nicest label BUT on this occasion, I went against my own rule. How could I refuse anything that has ‘Gin’ written across it in huge letters?! I don’t think it would be physically possible for me to say no to a gin and tonic. It certainly hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, once my brain had started thinking properly, rather than just saying ‘gin gin gin’, I began to wonder how that would work? I’m a big fan of beer brewed in rum and whisky casks, but I just couldn’t imagine how a gin-flavoured beer would work.
You’ll be relieved to know it isn’t actually gin flavoured. It is made using the gin botanicals from the City of London Distillery. This gives it a very floral taste along with fruity and citrussy notes. The aftertaste is quite odd and peppery, it took me a few sips before I properly began to like it so I recommend giving this one a proper shot rather than having a sip. It’s a very light ale and has an ABV of 4.1%.
Gin is brewed by Peter Haydon who has his own project at the Florence brewery called ‘Head in a Hat’. Gin is the only beer from Head in a Hat that I’ve tried but I’m really keen to taste more, especially Camembeer, which I will definitely pair with a fully stocked cheeseboard as intended. Mmmmm.