The first recorded Flemish brewers were 12th century monks, and they were expected to find their own ways to pay for the upkeep of their monasteries. To achieve this, they were given permission by the catholic church to brew beer that they could sell to local people as a way of making money. Those early beers, brewed by Trappist monks, almost certainly had low alcohol levels and highly questionable quality, BUT they were definitely more appealing than the water that they were made from!
Since 1997 Trappist beers have had to conform to strict standards for them to retain their status, and the six that maintain this designation are very different in style from each other. A further 18 producers currently have Abbey status, which means that they produce beers in the Trappist style, but their beers can be produced by non-Trappist brewers, by using the name of an abbey that no longer operates or with their agreement of an existing abbey.
Today's Belgian beers are usually defined by the style that they are produced to - Pils, Blonde, Dubbel and Tripel are among the best known and each have broadly similar general characteristics within their style, such as colour, flavour profile and alcoholic strength. Lesser known lighter beers such as saisons are slowly making their way back into production, while fruit beers such as kriek (cherry) and frambozen (raspberry) are also gaining in popularity.
We're delighted to have the opportunity to bring some innovative Belgian brewing to the UK market, but you don't just have to take our word for it because in 2016 UNESCO noted that - 'beer culture in Belgium combines know-how concerning nature, social practices and craft skills that constitute an integral part of daily and festive life. Beer culture in Belgium contributes to the economic and social viability at local level and the constitution of the social identity and continuity of its bearers and practitioners, who promote responsible production and consumption'. Belgian beers enjoy an unmatched reputation around the world for producing the ultimate expressions of the brewers art.
The team that created Belgenius have taken their passion and knowledge for creating exceptional beers and are now using these skills to develop the next generation of Belgian beers. Their future intentions are summed up in the statement:-
"We believe that there is a need for a new generation of Belgian beers. We love our Belgian tradition but we want to push beyond what exists on the market. We believe in handcrafted and small batch, artistic innovative in style, taste and design"
Belgenius Haze IPA
It isn't often that a totally new style of beer comes along, so we're really excited to be offering this hazy IPA to the UK market.
The natural haze is created by the absence of any filtering, then a secondary bottle fermentation and conditioning process - a practice that has long been part of Belgian brewing. Combining these traditional practices with late and dry hopping techniques, using contemporary hop varieties selected for their fruity characters, then brewing with a unique yeast strain, ultimately creates a truly stunning piece of craft beer making that is certain to be a major hit among the beer drinking community.
As if that wasn't enough, we also think that the label is arguably the coolest to ever grace a beer bottle, and the Belgian Shepherd looks as chilled out as the beer...
Belgenius Double IPA
For many of us it was a long time ago that we were first given the opportunity to try the first Belgian beers that reached the UK, and we quickly appreciated that there was a lot more care and attention paid to their quality than you found in the typical lagered beers that were around at the time.
Next in the current Belgenius line-up is the phenomenal Double IPA. Not to be confused with the classic Belgian 'dubbel' style of rich and often slightly heavy beers, the modern double IPA's have the hops cranked 'all the way up eleven!'
Careful brewing of the main 'body' of the beer using the finest malted barley gives the perfect launch-pad for the extraordinary flavours of no fewer than seven hop varieties, all culminating in a spectacular example of the very best that modern Belgian craft brewing has to offer.
If you want the hops in your beer to roar like a lion, but without TOO much bite you really don't need to look any further.
Citrus Strong Golden Ale
The third of the new generation beers that the Belgenius brewers have created brings together three complimentary hops to give a well-balanced ale that has a distinctly citrussy character.
Firstly they add the highly fashionable Citra hop, renowned for its wonderfully crisp flavours that are often reminiscent of grapefruit or pomelo - a huge and delicious citrus fruit that grows naturally around the world. This is balanced with Centennial hops, sometimes referred to as 'super-Cascade', because it contains all of the classic lemony Cascade character, but with everything turned all the way up to maximum. Rounding it off is Simcoe, a hop that is highly praised by craft brewers for its notes of passion fruit, pine and a berry fruitiness. The beer is then refermented in the bottle with the addition of Belgian yeast culture.
The bottle label is designed in the style of a typical Belgian church window, and features two nymphs in the garden of Hesperides keeping a watchful eye on the tree whose fruit could bestow immortality on those that consumed it. For many years the tree was supposed to carry golden apples, but the Greek word for all citrus producing trees is actually Hesperidoiede and the brewers feel that this is a fitting representation of the beer that lies within. Obviously there are no guarantees that consuming this will actually extend your life, but it goes a long way towards enriching the one that you've got!
Slow Brewed Golden Ale
Following on from the Citrus is a beer that the brewers believe is a world first - a golden beer that takes more than three months to produce.
Unlike it's citrus sibling, which uses the freshness of the hops to create a uniquely clean crisp taste, Slow Brewed concentrates on finding the ultimate balance by allowing every step of the process to take much longer than is normally used by many brewers.
At its heart lie three Belgian hops, selected for their wonderfully deep and aromatic characteristics. These combine harmoniously in a beer that takes more than 90 days to go through the process of brewing, resting and two separate fermentations (one of which takes place after bottling) using a carefully selected strain of Belgian yeast. The end result is a beer that has a depth and roundedness that is of truly astonishing quality and has already received many positive reviews since its launch last year.
To complete the drinking experience, the label was drawn by a Belgian artist and is designed to reflect that the beer has spent a very long time being created and the brewers would like to think that those who get to taste it feel that it has been well worth the wait.
We often see the letters IPA on a beer tap, bottle or can and in many cases you end up with a light, simple beer that's easy to drink but often tends to be lacking in character. This mass-produced style is a very long way from the original India pale ales, which were specifically brewed to retain their flavours, even after the long voyage to India in the 18th/19th centuries, and that durability was achieved by increasing alcohol levels and ensuring that the beers had a very hoppy flavour.
The team behind Thorberg are reviving the traditional style by bringing together Citra, Golding, Mosaic, Willamette and the extraordinary Equinox hop to create a sensational beer that combines the classical IPA flavour profile with the revolutionary essence of modern hops. It isn't just about ingredients though, even if Thorberg's brewers use five times as many hops as you would expect to find in similar Belgian Tripel beers. Many ales have the hops added quite early in the brewing process, but this can often lead to a loss of flavour and an unwelcome bitterness in the final product. To prevent this, the brewers uses a combination of late and dry hopping processes to preserve as much character as possible.
To ensure that the flavours are perfectly balanced the beer is then given a secondary fermentation which adds a depth that ultimately makes Thorberg a truly stunning example of what can be achieved with care, attention to detail and a little bit of brewing magic.