A great Belgian abbey beer, with a unique taste
Saturday 13 March 2021
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If ever a man deserved his sainthood, it’s arguably St Arnoldus. Way ahead of his time, Arnoldus is believed to have saved many lives in the grottiest depths of the middle ages, by encouraging his parishioners to drink beer, rather than disease-riddled water. This advice not only saw him canonised as the patron saint of brewing, but also – and far more impressively in our book – have a beer named in his honour.
Steenbrugge beer was first brewed in 1898, at Steenbrugge abbey in Bruges, originally founded by Arnoldus himself in 1084. In 2003, the abbey gave Palm Belgian Craft Brewers the rights to brew the Steenbrugge beers, but only if the company solemnly promised to use the original recipe and continue to donate parts of the proceeds to the abbey’s humanitarian projects. These promises continue to be kept under the stewardship of Swinkels Family Brewers, which Steenbrugge joined in May 2016.
Recognised for its quality, Steenbrugge is a great Belgian abbey beer, with a unique taste, largely thanks to its use of a unique ‘gruut’. This originally medieval spice mix, added during the brewing process, makes the beers stand out among abbey beers, in keeping with the spirit of the abbey at which they were created.
Pamela De Groote, global brand manager for Steenbrugge, believes the global craft movement has given traditional beers with excellent provenance an opportunity to shine in front of a wider audience.
“Although ‘heritage’ beers might seem less trendy, you can always count on an excellent quality and an accessible taste,” she says. “I do expect heritage beers to gain popularity in countries where the craft scene is very big, because the more people learn about beer, the 5more they become beer connoisseurs, the more they want to explore Belgian beers with a good reputation in terms of quality.”
Each bottle of Steenbrugge bears the coveted “Certified Belgian Abbey Beer” (Erkend Belgisch Abdijbier) logo, which indicates it is brewed under license to an existing or abandoned abbey. The requirements for registration under the logo include the monastery having control over certain aspects of the commercial operation, and a proportion of profits going to the abbey or to its designated charities.
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