15 episodes

Breandán Kearney sits down with some of the most high profile people in the world of Belgian beer to discuss beer styles, brands and the stories behind the breweries and to find out what makes beer culture in Belgium so special.

The Belgian Smaak Podcast | Exploring the world of Belgian beer Breandán Kearney

    • Personal Journals
    • 5.0 • 16 Ratings

Breandán Kearney sits down with some of the most high profile people in the world of Belgian beer to discuss beer styles, brands and the stories behind the breweries and to find out what makes beer culture in Belgium so special.

    EP015 | Jef Janssens of Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    EP015 | Jef Janssens of Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    6 January 2015, Jef Janssens awoke on his family farm to the sound of rubble falling from the adjacent building. The fire brigade arrived soon after to put out a fire. The roof of the farmhouse brewery, the entire bottling line, the conditioning rooms and most of the stock were all burnt to the ground. For the Janssens family, it was a financial disaster.











    The family are parents André and Mol, Jef’s brother Dries and their sister, Lisa. But there’s always a lot more people than that on the Hof ten Dormaal farm. It’s a kind of open house where the many visitors always receive a warm welcome and a glass of beer.







    The immediate aftermath of the fire was a difficult time which Jef speaks here openly about, when the quality of their beers suffered because of the difficult working conditions and lack of money. Through hard work, the establishment of a new festival themed on innovation in beer and their contacts in the beer community, they managed to get themselves back on their feet and have just undergone a brewery expansion. 











    Jef, as lead brewer now, is not only obsessed with tanks. He’s obsessed with tanks, as in armoured fighting vehicles, especially their diverse engineering and their historical significance. He even has a tattoo of an armoured tank on his chest.







    In our chat, we discuss the origin story of this farmhouse brewery, a 2 week visit of his father to Bute, Montana, and Jef’s thoughts on Hof ten Dormaal’s place in the Belgian beer world. We talk about the fire and the challenges the family faced in its aftermath, both financial and emotional. And we hear Jef’s personal feelings on the future for Belgian beer.







    Sit back, listen and enjoy Jef Jannsens of Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal.























    Special thanks to Nic Crilly-Hargrave for the photography.

    • 44 min
    EP014 | Alexandre Dumont of Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    EP014 | Alexandre Dumont of Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    Dumont didn’t want to settle in the Hainaut province where he grew up, so he bought an old farmhouse in Jandrain-Jandrenouille in the province of Walloon Brabant. 







    Jandrain and Jandrenouille are actually two separate Belgian villages. So small, so close together and so culturally intertwined are they, however, that they are often referred to as a single entity. If you operate a brewery from one of the villages, your brewery is in both.











    Dumont’s traditional farmhouse, classic red-bricked and grey-stoned walls surrounding a four-sided central courtyard, was originally constructed in the 14th century, but now takes on an 18th century vibe after renovations during that period.







    The farmhouse has a large barn. In the barn, Dumont has installed a 10 HL brewhouse with more than 12 fermenters of various sizes. For several years, it was more of a hobby with his friend Stéphane Meulemans, but in 2013 Dumont became serious about brewing, bought out his friend and increased production more than ten-fold over the next five years from 180 HL a year to 2000 HL a year.











    Dumont’s beers are interesting for a number of reasons.







    Firstly, he follows a farmhouse ethos. His water is pumped from the village. The barley he uses comes from a nearby farm and is malted in small quantities by Mouterij Dingemans. 







    Secondly, Dumont was one of the first brewers in Belgium to combine indigenous old world styles such as Saisons and Belgian wheat beers with the tropical fruit and pine qualities of new world hops. This was no coincidence. Dumont has another job. He works in Belgium for the company who distribute hops from the Yakima Valley all over Europe. Many of the hops from the Pacific North West of America that come into Europe come in through Dumont’s employer, including new varieties and those which are more difficult to obtain.











    In our discussion, Dumont talks about his work with Yakima Chief Hops, the evolution of the use of hops in Belgium from World War I until recently, the resistance he encountered when he first started showcasing Yakima hops in his beers and his justification for keeping the varieties he uses as a secret.







    Sit back, listen and enjoy Alexandre Dumont of Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille.







    Special thanks to Nic Crilly-Hargrave for the photographs, to Leander Meuris for the audio recording and to Ales Tales Festival and Beer Merchants for providing the space to record.

    • 48 min
    EP013 | Glenn Castelein of Brouwerij Alvinne | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    EP013 | Glenn Castelein of Brouwerij Alvinne | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    Brouwerij Alvinne started in 2003, Glenn Castelein and Davy Spiessens were contracting traditional ales and homebrewing classic styles. They worked at beer cafés and volunteered with the Objectieve Bier Proevers (OBP), the forerunners to the Zythos beer consumers group in Belgium.







    Two things happened that would change the direction in which they would go.











    First, in 2005, a tour operator from England who brought beer enthusiasts all over Belgium asked Alvinne to brew a 10% ABV Belgian Imperial Stout. Alvinne poured samples at Zythos beer festival that year, their first experimental beer, with four versions showcasing four different yeasts. The tour operator’s group, in attendance at the festival, tasted the four versions and chose the one which still exists today. The tour operator was Chris Pollard, known affectionately as ‘Podge’, a man who, with others, wrote books about lambic and about café culture in Belgium.







    Sadly, Podge passed away just this August, but his passion for Belgian beer and for Belgium will live on through all those people he inspired on his tours. His warmth and generosity will never be forgotten by the Belgian brewers he befriended and supported. The Podge Belgian Imperial Stout was a defining moment for Alvinne, garnering attention from beer lovers and showing themselves that they could push it as brewers.















    The second thing which changed Alvinne’s trajectory was the bringing on board in 2009 of Marc De Keukeleire, the partner Glenn refers to as the “yeast whisperer”. De Keukeleire captured strains of wild yeast and bacteria from the environment around Auvergne in France and through selection and isolation, delivered what is now Alvinne’s house culture, a mixed strain of sacchromyces and lactobacillus which they have named, quite dramatically, “Morpheus”.















    Fast forward to 2018 and Alvinne are now known for their Flemish sour ales, fruit beers and barrel aged projects. 







    Glenn Castelein is now in charge of barrel management at Brouwerij Alvinne, alongside his other job at a special needs school where he has worked for 23 years, first as a teacher and now as a coordinator.







    We discuss Alvinne’s evolution, the introduction and management of the Morpheus house culture, the importance of branding and identity, and the overlapping qualities required to work in special needs education and mixed fermentation.







    Sit back, listen and enjoy Glenn Castelein of Brouwerij Alvinne.







    Special thanks to Nic Crilly-Hargrave for the photographs, to Leander Meuris for the audio recording and to Ales Tales Festival and Beer Merchants for providing the space to record.

    • 45 min
    EP012 | Kristof Vandenbussche of Brouwerij Fort Lapin | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    EP012 | Kristof Vandenbussche of Brouwerij Fort Lapin | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    Vandenbussche was a heating engineer, carrying out technical work for bigger breweries and assisting cafe owners in Bruges with the maintenance of their cooling systems. Before that, he had homebrewed with his friends, some of whom had studied chemistry at university and could offer insight into fermentation.







    Vandenbussche comes from a farming background, and in 2011, armed with engineering skills, experience in malting and homebrewing, a large network of beer sellers and cafes, and a very strong work ethic, he built his own small brewery in the north of Bruges and called it Brouwerij Fort Lapin after the architect who constructed the fortifications there.











    Fort Lapin brew classic Belgian beers. Vandenbussche’s line-up includes a Tripel, a Quadrupel, a Dubbel, a Witbier, a Rouge, a Winterbier and a Kriek. He makes beers for what he refers to as “local people”, the regulars in Bruges who enjoy the familiarity of the Belgian styles on which he focusses.







    Vandenbussche is a single-minded guy. He knows what he wants to do and he doesn’t care what people think about him. In conversation he is to-the-point and honest. His beers exhibit this no-frills character, this life experience, this balance.











    In our chat, we talk about the growth of Fort Lapin and Vandenbussche’s obsession with making beers for local people as opposed to beer geeks or international markets.







    We discuss the construction of his traditional Belgian ales and the ingredients he uses.







    And we explore the dichotomy of his championing brewers as opposed to those who contract beers, while at the same time brewing beers on contract for others in his own brewery in order to make his business work.







    Sit back, listen and enjoy Kristof Vandenbussche of Brouwerij Fort Lapin.







    Special thanks to Nic Crilly-Hargrave for the photographs, to Leander Meuris for the audio recording and to Ales Tales Festival and Beer Merchants for providing the space to record.

    • 42 min
    EP011 | Samuel Languy of Brasserie En Stoemelings | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    EP011 | Samuel Languy of Brasserie En Stoemelings | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

     phrase “En Stoemelings” is Brussels dialect for “in secret” or “under the table”.

    Denys Van Elewyck was homebrewing as an archeology student. Samuel Languy went to India to study video game production.

    In 2015 the school friends from age 12 started a tiny commercial brewery producing classic Belgian styles “with a twist” in a small glass-front space in the heart of the Marolles district of Brussels.

    They’re known by some in Belgium as the brewery with the rope, a string with a tag hanging on their otherwise non-distinct 75cl brown champagne bottles.

    The names of their beers are very Brussels, with a sense of humour both cheeky and dark: Curieuse Neus, Cuvée Houdini, Noirolles, Chike Madame. 

    At the time we recorded the podcast last year, En Stoemelings were brewing in a tiny unit in the Marolles.

    Since then, they’ve moved to another location in Brussels, increasing production from 2 hectolitres per batch to 18 hectolitres per batch.

    We talk about their scrapes with customs and excise before their launch, the administrative challenges of crowdfunding and the issues they continue to face in the pricing of their beers as a small outfit.

    They’re sometimes called “the little brother” of Cantillon and De La Senne, and in that context, we discuss the politics of brewing in the city of Brussels and their relationship with the other breweries in the city. 

    Gregarious, hard-working, lassier-faire. Like they say all the time: “Het is Ca Va.”

    Sit back, listen and enjoy Samuel Languy of Brasserie En Stoemelings.

    • 1 hr 3 min
    EP010 | Olivier de Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    EP010 | Olivier de Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project | The Belgian Smaak Podcast

    years ago, two young men—one from Belgium, the other from France—started a crowdfunded beer project in the city of Brussels which involved a community of people choosing beers and contributing to their production.

    The beers chosen were produced at a contract facility in the province of Limburg, Brouwerij Anders. The enterprise was a success. The crowdfunding continued and the two men—Olivier De Brauwere and Sebastien Morvan—decided to build a pilot brewery to enable them to continue creating beers with the growing community that helped launch them. At the same time, they maintained production of their core beers at the Anders facility.

    Brussels Beer Project is located on rue Antoine Dansaert, close to the centre of Brussels, and has become a popular stop-off for regular beer tourists and a generation of inquisitive young people living in the area.

    Morvan was born in Brittany in Northern France. De Brauwere is a Brusselaar through and through. Both have a background in commerce and marketing. Their branding is clearly defined and their tag-line, bold: “Leave the Abbey, Join the Playground.”

    In our conversation—recorded last year—we discuss how they went about building that community and where they hope it takes them in the future, as well as the projects they are currently undertaking, most notably a Brussels Beer Project in Tokyo, Japan.

    We also discuss their response to the criticism they have received for the way they do business—contract brewing—and hear their thoughts on Belgium as a place where discussions about beer are sensitive because of the historic and societal role it traditionally plays in a culture which they believe does not like risk and does not celebrate success or failure.

    And we talk about how difficult it is to define words like ‘craft’ in Belgium and find out that they see it connected more to values and a spirit of creativity than to any other criteria.

    Sit back, listen and enjoy Olivier De Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project.

    • 1 hr 5 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
16 Ratings

16 Ratings

Juego7 ,

Great Pod

Informative and thought provoking podcast that’s brings the listener closer the history of the Belgian beer culture and provides great insight into how the beer is made and the thought process the brewers go through when opening their brewery. My only complaint is I wish the recorded more often. Cheers
Remy

Waldo1000 ,

Fantastic

Just wonderful professional interviews with a ton of value to those interested in the Belgian brewing tradition both classic and new.

treelimbroot ,

Brilliant

Great interviews. Good audio quality. And beautiful Franco-Belgian accents talking about some of the best beer there is!!

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