Brouwerij De Brabandere
Like many Belgian breweries, De Brabandere has its roots in agriculture. The brewery was founded on a farm and, despite several setbacks, this enterprising family never lost heart.
German occupiers requisitioned their copper during the First World War, but production was swiftly resumed after the armistice.
At that time many of their customers were located in the Ypres region, one of the most heavily contested areas of the Western Front. Joseph’s brother Julien was married to the daughter of a brick maker whose products were used in re-building work.
Beer was a welcome distraction, and the brick maker transported tonnes of it to Flanders Field.
On the eve of the Second World War, Albert De Brabandere ordered the brewery lorry to be dismantled. This meant that the brewer had his own delivery truck ready for use straight after the war. He also invested in expanding his café portfolio, often called ‘the brewer’s insurance’. De Brabandere beers are now available in the region around Kortrijk, up to Ghent and on the coast.
In the post-war years De Brabandere produced “spéciale belge” amber beers. The 1970s saw the launch of Bavik pils as well as the introduction of the Petrus foeder beers.
This range, that includes the Petrus Oud Bruin, belongs to the family of traditional Flemish red-brown beers (Vlaams roodbruin).
This is just one of many Belgian beer styles tied to a specific region (other examples include lambic, oude geuze, kriek, amber “spéciale belge” and saison). Brouwerij De Brabandere has joined the effort to ensure this liquid heritage is protected by European law.
Over the years the brewery has shifted its focus to producing beers with pure flavours – its motto is “never compromise on taste”. For example, all its foeder beers have spent a minimum of two years maturing on wood.
The rather bitter Bavik pils is brewed only using Saaz aroma hops, is unpasteurised and ferments for one week before resting for three.
In recent years the brewery has made its name in Belgian cycling circles.
De Brabandere is the sponsor of around ten classic cycle races including the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen).
The sturdy blonde beer, Kwaremont, introduced in 2007, is squarely aimed at cycling fanatics. Its name refers to a challenging climb on the Tour route and so do the ascending diagonal lines on the label.
Production at the brewery is on the up. In 1950, De Brabandere’s annual production was 1.25 million litres. The year 1960 saw a volume of 3.2 million litres; in 1980 it was 8 million, 10.5 million litres flowed out of the tanks in 1994 and, in 2012, production had risen to 16.5 million litres.
This increase is largely due to the brewery’s success in exports.
As a basis for his foeder beers ('barrel aged'), the brewer uses a blonde, amber or dark top-fermented beer that has matured on oak for a minimum of two years, possibly three.
Maturation in the 22,000-litre foeders produces a fresh, slightly sour taste not unlike wine.
The beer ‘breathes’ in the barrel. The amount of oxygen is just about sufficient to promote the controlled growth of six different micro-organisms on the inside of the foeder.
These microbes set to work converting residual sugars from the main fermentation into organic acids, esters and an increased alcohol percentage.
This bacterial action is the main determinant of the characteristic sourish taste and aroma of these foeder beers. De Brabandere used to brew with smaller barrels stacked horizontally, following the wine tradition, but now they use much larger foeders, standing upright.
Petrus Oud Bruin is a blend of a dark, freshly-brewed beer and another brew that has matured for a minimum of 27 months in oak barrels, giving the final blend a great balance of sweet and sour.
Petrus Aged Pale is an uncut beer, blonde to amber in colour, which has matured in oak barrels for 27 months. It is brewed with pale and pale-ale malt to give it its light colour.
As a pils brewer, De Brabandere has a wealth of experience with blonde beers and, in addition, has found that golden-blonde beers mature very well in oak barrels.
Petrus Aged Pale has an oaky aroma, with wafts of sherry and pears, revealing in a plethora of flavours before the classic, mildly sour finish. It has a low oxygen content. Despite its pale colour, this roodbruine is robust in taste and body.
It is very dry and sour, an ideal thirst-quencher, even when the weather is very hot, and makes a good balance to sweet flavours.
Petrus Aged Red blends a dark beer with an oak-matured beer, adding the taste of sour cherries. It is sweet and slightly sour at the same time.
Belgian brewing families used to intermarry, and that has given rise to family ties between the De Brabandere and Palm Belgian Craft Breweries, and with the Verhaeghe-Vichte, Van Steenberge and Van Eecke-Leroy breweries.
The current owner’s grandfather, Albert De Brabandere, suceeded in capturing his local market.
In an edition of Het Nieuwsblad newspaper from 2nd April 1994, he described how regular customers eagerly awaited his arrival, expecting a round on the house as he delivered beer to cafés..
And they knew darned well which of his cafés was next on the list: when Albert set foot inside each new bar, the usual suspects would be waiting for their next free beer.
There is not only a striking physical resemblance between Albert and his son, Ignace.
They think and feel alike too. Ignace puts great emphasis on commercial and legal affairs and, just like his father, makes product quality and respect for tradition paramount.
This decisive straight talking – “I do as I say and I say as I do!” – way of doing business is deeply ingrained. Ignace was in charge in the era when the export business really took off and, since 2012, he and his son Bert have been joint managers of the company.
As a brewing engineer, Bert knows his product through and through. He is also an experienced economist and marketeer so he knows that a good product isn’t enough; it also has to be marketed well.
- Bavik Super Pils
- Petrus Aged Pale
- Petrus Aged Red
- Petrus Blond
- Petrus Dubbel
- Petrus Rood Bruin
- Petrus Tripel
Currently Brouwerij De Brabandere, close to Kortrijk, is more geared to receiving business visitors. Plans are in place though, and from 2017 the brewery will be able to welcome all beer lovers, especially those with an interest in cycling.
The sport is hugely popular in the Leie region and the nearby Flemish Ardennes, attracting many tourists. The brewery already has strong cycling links.
The imposing roadside façade of Brouwerij De Brabandere forms a border between the real world and the beer world. Inside, as part of a tour, the brewing engineer reveals the magical process step by step.
From the choice of raw ingredients (hops, malt) to the cultivation of a particular strain of yeast. From the production of the mash in the maischkuip (mashing basin) to the filtering, fermentation and lagering.
You’ll see bottling and the filling and storing of the barrels. A striking feature of the brew hall are the contrasting vintage copper and shiny new stainless steel kettles.
The highlight of the tour must be the foederzaal, with its series of standing foeders (giant wooden casks in which beer matures) lined up against opposite walls. Between these is a unique collection of horizontal foeders.
When the late, great British beer icon Michael Jackson saw these, he instantly urged Ignace De Brabandere never to dispose of them.
There is an opportunity to taste and compare the various beers in the tasting room at the back of the foeder hall or in the small upstairs brewery café.
The barns and ‘retting’ plants, where the flax was soaked or ‘retted’, are a reminder of the rich history of flax growing in this area.
Across meadows, using grass paths or wooden walkways, the path enters more wooded areas.
It follows the course of the Leie until you arrive at Ooigem with its three-step river locks.
A second ancient meander of the river leads past Ooigem Castle and the historic homestead at Munkenhof. Rural Bellegem, close to Bavikhove, is the starting point of the Argendaal trail (13.4km), connecting the rivers Leie and Scheldt.
There are splendid views in this undulating landscape. Quiet rural roads pass tiny chapels and ancient farmhouses, built in characteristic square shapes.
The Leiestreek cycle route network offers over 900 kilometres of signposted biking pleasure, ideal for leisure cyclists.
The 45-km Goedendagfietsroute cycle trail in the Kortrijk area follows the course of the Leie downriver.
The trail will take you to Provinciedomein De Gavers, a nature and leisure park, returning via Stasegem and the Bossuit-Kortrijk canal to Kortrijk, along the banks of the River Leie.
Getting There & Around
Bavikhove is only 10 km from Kortrijk, which is 90 km from Brussels, 100 km from Antwerp and just 50km from Ghent along the E17. For Bavikhove take exit 4 from the E17 at Deerlijk on the N36 towards Bavikhove Dorp.
On public transport, take the train to Kortrijk, where various bus lines will take you to Bavikhove in about 20 minutes.
The brewery tour will leave you plenty of time to explore Kortrijk, where your first stop should be the Grote Markt. Here you can admire the 16th-century Town Hall, built in a style that veers from the late Gothic to the Renaissance.
The market square, de Grote Markt, is also home to a number of monumental houses including the 18th-century Hotel Damier, built in a rococo style, and the classical Patria.
The city bell tower has been built and rebuilt down the ages, but is once again basking in its original 16th century glory.
The Sint-Maartenskerk (Church of St. Martin) started off as a simple hall church built in the Gothic style, growing through the centuries into the complex, eclectic building it is today.
The Broeltorens, two fortified towers, are fine examples of medieval military architecture and are a proud symbol of this city on the Leie. The Broelmuseum contains a unique collection of ceramics, wrought silver, porcelain, historic furniture and paintings.
The Groeningeabdij museum, housed in a former abbey, tells the story of the city. As in many historic Flemish cities, Kortrijk is also home to a picturesque beguinage (a sort of part-secular abbey) with an intimate feel.
Gastronomy, Food & More Beer
Kortrijk is a heaven for gourmets, especially for those with a sweet tooth. A typical local treat is Kortrijkse beschuiten, slices of fluffy white bread, also called melkbrood, covered in candy sugar that permeates the bread as it is baked crisp.
Kortrijkse peperbollen are chunks of gingerbread with added aniseed and candied fruit. The cubes are dunked in melted butter and finished off in the oven.
Kortrijkse bil is a preparation of raw veal marinated in brine, oven-baked at a low temperature and often served sliced, covered in a white sauce.
Local seasonal produce can be enjoyed in numerous bistros, brasseries, taverns and restaurants. In the spring, you can gorge yourself on asparagus.
There’s also chicory just pulled up from the soil. Kleipatatten are potatoes grown in the clay soil of the area, and you’ll find freshly-picked strawberries every day.
De Brabandere’s Petrus beer range fits into the tradition of Flemish red-brown beers produced using mixed fermentation.
These refreshing, sour beers, matured in oak foeders, make an excellent aperitif and combine well with many local dishes.
Tel. +32 (0) 56 27 78 40
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