Belgian monks bring back centuries-old beer recipes

Connoisseurs of Belgium’s world-renowned beer will soon be able to taste a range of special brews made according to recipes that have been sitting untouched in the archives of Grimbergen Abbey for more than 200 years.

Monks at the Norbertine abbey recently delved into a collection of books that was almost destroyed by a fire during the French Revolution. They uncovered details on how Grimbergen beers were brewed in the past — the last time in 1798.

Its name is probably familiar to beer-lovers since Danish giant Carlsberg has a licensing deal to produce a beer known as Grimbergen for the international market.

But now the brothers of the abbey, which is located near Brussels, want to brew the original beer themselves. They are combining ancient traditions detailed in books — some dating back to the 12th century — with modern techniques to craft limited-edition batches.

” Beer has always been part of life in the abbey and we are proud of the beers we have today, ” the Rev. Karel Stautemas , subprior at the abbey, said in a statement.

” We’ve really enjoyed reading more about past brewing traditions in the pages of these ancient texts. We’ve spent hours leafing through the books, which are written in Latin and Old Dutch, 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. ”

Karel will undertake additional formal brewing training to help with the production himself.

The books were saved by the monks when a fire ravaged the abbey in 1798, destroying it for the third time. They knocked a hole in the library wall and secretly funneled about 300 books to safety before the blaze. The microbrewery, which will be inside the abbey and will feature an on-site bar and restaurant, will open to the public in late 2020 and is projected to produce about 10,000 hectoliters.

One of the new brews is the limited-edition Grimbergen Triple D’Abbaye , which has been aged in whisky barrels for five months, a technique similar to those used in the production of Belgian beer back in the 1500s .

” To begin with, the beer is aged in French oak barrels, which were previously used for bourbon and whisky, and yeast is added to give it a slight refermentation . During this time, the coriander, fruity and spicy phenolic flavours decrease allowing the malty, sweet, vanilla flavors from the whiskey barrel to infuse itself, ” reads an official description of the beer.

The Triple D’Abbaye has notes of malt, vanilla, and sweet flavors from the first barrel, supported by subtle, smoked notes from the second, the description says. All with an underlying note of spiciness and a high alcohol content of around 10.8% – so better not imbibe too much.