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Medieval Belgian beer recipe rises phoenix-like from the ashes of torched abbey after 220 years

Belgian monks have revived a medieval beer recipe last brewed in the 18th century.

The Order of Canons Regular of Premontre at Grimbergen Abbey in Belgium have begun brewing the ale again after rediscovering the original 12th-century recipe and methods in their archives.

But be careful if you get to try the new ancient brew - at 10.8 per cent alcohol content it's likely to blow your cassock off.

Father Karel Stautemas, subprior of Grimbergen Abbey, holds up a glass of the new beer based on a rediscovered 12th-century recipe 

Tuesday's launch of the beer was the culmination of four years of research by the monks, also known as the Premonstratensian or Norbetine order or the White Canons, and volunteer linguists. 

Grimbergen Abbey subprior Father Karel Stautemas poured the first glass in the company of Grimbergen mayor Chris Selleslagh and some 120 journalists and brewing afficionados.

The ancient brewing secrets of the white-robed friars were almost lost when French secular revolutionaries burned the abbey down in 1798.

The recipe was only saved because the monks defied the republicans and knocked a hole in the library wall to smuggle out some 300 books.

Father Karel Stautemas, subprior of Grimbergen Abbey, sips a glass of the rediscovered medieval beer in front of a stained-glass window symbolically depicting the phoenix

'We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them,' Father Stautemas said. 

'It was all in old Latin and old Dutch. So we brought in volunteers. 

'We've spent hours leafing through the books and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago.' 

Father Karel Stautemas, subprior of Grimbergen Abbey, with a barrel of the new beer based on a medieval recipe

But the new brew is not totally authentic, Father Stautemas admitted, only using selected brewing methods from the old manuscripts.

'I don't think people now would like the taste of the beer made back then,' he said.

'In those times, regular beer was a bit tasteless, it was like liquid bread,' The abbey's new master brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon explained.

But the revived beer is brewed with all-natural ingredients, in wooden barrels and using the unique local soil. 

Grimbergen Abbey subprior Father Karel Stautemas poses with a glass of the monks' new brew 

'What we really learned was that the monks then kept on innovating,' Father Stautemas said. 'They changed their recipe every 10 years.'

But the monk warned beer fans not to overdo it with his potent brew. 

'One or two is okay,' Mayor Selleslagh added. 

The dozen monks at the abbey will produce 1 million litres (1,760,000 pints) of the popskull beer every year.

Grimbergen Abbeyt subprior Father Karel Stautemas, brands a barrel of the new extra-strong brew

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