If you haven't already read our last article on our beer pilgrimage in the Hainaut region, we recommend you adding it to your list along with this one!
If Belgium has become the country of beer for centuries, it is mostly because of the ingenuity of old monks living in abbeys, who decided to produce beer in times of epidemics, when water was considered too dangerous to drink. Little did the Belgian monks realise that their recipes would soon be praised throughout the country and in the world, placing Belgium on the list of the top beer countries in the world !
But tradition is everything when it comes to beer - in this article we will explore some of the best abbey beers of the region of Namur so you won't miss a single one ! (Abbey beers differ from normal beers as they follow older recipes sometimes dating back to the middle ages- a portion of the profit goes to the abbey or charities that they support).
Originally produced in : Abbey of Floreffe, circa 1121.
Where to drink it : Moulin-Brasserie de l'Abbaye de Floreffe in Namur.
How does it taste like : 5 different varieties – Deep golden color and slightly citric in taste - between 6.5% to 8%
This abbey is situated in the beautiful region of Namur. First founded as a monastery in 1121, for several centuries it was protected and sustained by rich dukes from Namur. Unfortunately it did not survive the French revolutionaries and was ultimately destroyed and looted. Many manuscripts and bibles were conserved and one of the most famous ones – the colourful bible of floreffe – is now conserved in the British Library of London.
The Lefebvre Brewery opened up in 1876 while in 1983 it received the permission to brew beer again following the original recipe; it has been doing so since, along with other famous brands, such as the Babar beer (made with honey) and several fruity beers ideally served during the summer. Unfortunately the brewery cannot be visited, but you can visit the Abbey and stop at the windmill where it was originally produced. The windmill itself is also an historical building, as it dates back to the XIII century and it still maintains a very authentic feel to it !
Originally produced in : Abbey Notre-Dame de Leffe, circa 1240.
Where to drink it : Maison de la Leffe in Dinant.
How does it taste like : 19 varieties – from 5% to 8.5% alcohol – with blonds, brown and triple distilled beers. It is very popular across Belgium because it is soft on the stomach while at the same time bitter enough to fill your taste buds.
The abbey of Leffe was erected by the Meuse River in the province of Namur. In order to provide the monks and workers with beer (which was safer than water) they started producing the first beer in the abbey (the official Leffe beer) in 1240, using ale; at the beginning it was only meant for internal consumption. However, because of its popularity, the beer was offered as a present to selected people of the church until finally it started getting commercialised.
Both human and natural disasters have destroyed the abbey of Leffe over time, which is why nowadays the beer isn’t produced there anymore. After the French revolution it had to wait until the 1950’s for the popular InBev brewery to take over its production (the same brewery that is famous for the Stella Artois). The abbey can be visited every day and the mass can be also attended. If you’re looking to have a more modern representation of the beer and its history, we recommend you going to the Maison de la Leffe in Dinant, which is a hotel/museum dedicated to the beer, offering guided tours, beer tasting and a little gift at the end. But most of all, it is a unique in its style museum, due to its mixture of modern technologies aiding the visual experience, with a general atmosphere reminiscing of a church.
Originally produced in : Abbey of Maredous in Denée, circa 1872.
Where to drink it : St.Joseph centre or Brasserie Le Maredsous in Ahnée.
How does it taste like : Floral and fruity – between 6% and 10%
The Maredsous Abbey was founded in 1872 by Benedictan monks and it is famous amongst religious folks since it still to this day holds a rich spiritual program. For the non-religious folk and fans of good food and good drinking – the name Maredsous may ring a bell for two things: beer and cheese. While the cheese is still produced to this day in the abbey, the beer however was never really produced there and instead “borrowed” the name. The actual beer is made in the brasserie Duvel in Flandres, where the famous Duvel is made.
In terms of enjoying Maredsous beer in its original setting, we propose two options. The first one, liked by those who seek to remain in the spiritual athmosphere of the abbey, is going down to the St. Josef centre right next to the abbey. Here monks of the abbey will welcome you - the cafeteria is small and modest. The second option, for those looking to really treat and immerse themselves in some modern Belgian cuisine, is heading down to the Brasserie Le Maredsous, situated a few minutes away from the abbey. The brasserie mixes dishes that can be found in any local brasserie, with regionally produced thick potato fries. My personal favourite will forever be the Maredsous Burger with a 100% Belgian beef.
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