Name: Brouwerij De Kroon
Age: Just celebrated its first birthday, but has a history dating back to 1899.
Location: Neerijse, near Leuven, Belgium.
Brewers’ details: A father and son team is behind the re-born Brouwerij De Kroon. Dad Freddy Delvaux is a renowned professor of brewing and former Stella Artois quality assurance man while son Filip has a brewing PhD – having written a dissertation on white beers – which means there’s hope for all us beer scholars to have something to show for our studies.
What’s their story?: This is a family with beer in its blood so it’s no surprise they wanted to start their own brewery. In so doing they also preserved the historic Belgian Brouwerij De Kroon which is maintained as a museum. It’s inspiring not just for offering a chance to look back at how beers were produced in the past, but also how a brewer overcame losing his equipment to German soldiers during WW1.
As a symbol of defiance he kept the lid of the copper which is now proudly displayed on the wall of the museum. Instead of renaming the brewery Freddy and Filip decided Browerij de Kroon should rise again after the original closed in 1983. The new brewery also offers product development and QC services to other beer makers.
All sampled brewery fresh, in keg.
Job (6%) is their ‘easy drinking’ unfiltered beer matured for 2 – 3 weeks. It pours an autumnal, yellow-gold with a small white head. Expect to be enticed with citrussy hops, lemon and shades of dried banana in the beer’s aroma. Once you’ve dived into the glass you’ll find a warming concerto of flavours, spicy, fruity and citrus against a bready-cakey backdrop combining to deliver a balanced and drinkable beer.
Super Kroon (6%) is an orangey-brown Belgian pale ale. It smells of bread and cakes, but as if made from wholemeal flour. Brown and caramelised sugar fragrances also waft up from the glass. A sip brings a surprise. It’s tangy, ever so slightly acidic and sour – so I’m not surprised to hear a little wild yeast purposely goes into it. The tanginess either steps in instead of hop bitterness or combines with it to create the prevailing flavour. The finish is dry and delivers the caramel flavours suggested by the aroma – albeit in a restrained and not too sweet way.
Delvaux Special Blond (8.5%) is dark gold with an aroma of pear drops. It feels fabulous in the mouth!
There’s a smooth vanilla flavour to the beer, with a little sweetness giving way to a pear-like taste as per the aroma. Back in Leuven – at the Brasserie Improvisio – I get to try this beer in one of the limited edition 750ml bottles. Paired with a dish of ‘Skrei’ (a sort of Norwegian cod) its big body and high ABV stood up well to the ‘meaty’ fish served with Savoy cabbage mash. Such a hefty meal needs a powerful beer to stand up to it. The tomato compote accompaniment to the fish wasn’t such a good pairing though, altering the flavour significantly and making the beer very herbal. Nevertheless the beer was a good palate refresher, not least because of its carbonation level.
To visit Brouwerij de Kroon and its wonderful bar gives a taste of classic Belgian brewing but with a distinctly modern edge. Filip Delvaux says he does not want to copy other beers [and] is always looking to make new beers and new styles. He turns his nose up at American hops but embraces diversity when it comes to yeast. Although it is, “the stupidest thing you can do,” he says, all the brewery’s beers are made with different yeasts – and they lend a different character to each beer.
Although there are some plans to bottle (beyond the current very limited edition bottling which takes place off site) you pretty much have to go to Belgium to try these beers – and why wouldn’t you when they taste so fresh served just a few yards from where they were made?
More info – inc opening times from the Brouwerij De Kroon website.
With special thanks to Tourism Flanders and Tourism Leuven for their hospitality. Please visit their websites for details of travelling in the region – and also take a look at Leuven’s dedicated beer website.