TONGEREN - After a fifty-year wait the moment has finally arrived. Once again, the city of Tongeren can boast its own brewery and city beers. The story commences with the 2009 Coronation Celebrations, a festival that is held every seven.
To mark the occasion, Davy Daniëls and Bart Durlet launched a city beer under the name of Amburon Blond. Both were exclusively involved in contract brewing with the Anders brewery. Anders has now been sold and Davy has founded the Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery.
His Tungri Blond owes much to the Amburon Blond. Davy Daniëls is very fond of his city. And with good reason: Tongeren is synonymous with history. Here you walk from the Roman era straight into the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment and the 21st century.
Parts of the Roman and medieval walls have been preserved and the Moerenpoort is the jewel in the crown. As you are ambling through the medieval beguinage, admire the imposing Basilica with its splendid cloisters before coming eye-to-eye with Ambiorix, the leader of the Eburones.
This local chief made life difficult for the Roman occupiers. The rich history of this city comes back to life in the Gallo-Roman museum, which enjoys an international reputation. And the antiques market, held every Sunday, takes you back to the not-so-distant past. Davy, swelling with pride: “Don’t forget the numerous castles dotted around the region. Follow a trail on foot or by bike and you will come across monuments everywhere.”
Tungri represents a family of traditional regional beers with a twist of idiosyncrasy. Three beers are flowing from the tanks; Tungri Blond, Bitter and Dubbel. The brewers are pondering the introduction of a Saison and/or a Witbier.
Unsurprisingly, these beer styles are in demand in the agricultural Haspengouw region. Davy: “The area around Tongeren, Sint-Truiden and Borgloon is primarily known for fruit growing. Large fruit auctions are found here. You could call us the fruit barn of Europe. Our apples, pears and strawberries in particular are highly regarded.”
This tradition has inspired the brewer to create fruit beers that can only be produced during the season, with kriek, raspberry or blackberry for example. However, Davy has no desire to be the umpteenth brewer to join the queue. This is why he wants to introduce fruit beers that have been cold stored on wood.
And the circle is complete when you use wooden barrels from a nearby vineyard (Genoels-Elderen) and whisky distillers (The Belgian Owl Distillery). Davy: “We also believe in a great future for light beers (2.5% to 3% ABV) with plenty of taste all the same. You can expect that type of ‘session beers’ from us.” Low in alcohol… but full of taste? Bert Housen, the master brewer, is looking forward to the challenge.
Davy Daniëls is the son of a beer trader and so, as they say, he was born ‘in the beer’. He knows perfectly well what Belgian beer lovers like to see in their glass. Has this wish list changed throughout the years? Davy: “Yes, it has. Today’s beer world is exceptionally dynamic. Beer is ‘hot’.
Beer lovers are no longer happy with just a few crates of their favourite beer. They want diversity and are more open towards innovation.
However, newcomers like us first have to make sure our basic beers are as good as they can be. They have to be well-known and appreciated. In our own country, we’ve managed that already.”
How about selling abroad? “The ‘Belgian beer’ label opens doors to many countries. Beer importers come to see us and add our regional beers to their range.” The secret of the brewers’ success lies in producing good beers with an equally good back story. Quality is the be-all and end-all.
One final question. Does beer deserve a place in the kitchen or else at the table? Davy: “Beer should be served at the table in a beer country like Belgium. We have invited chefs to taste our beers and to translate them into recipes. Also, we print food pairing tips on our beer labels.” To the delight of gastronomy lovers everywhere.
Facebook: Amburon Belgian Craftbrewery