After more than 200 years, Grimbergen, one of the most famous abbey beers, will soon be brewed again at the premises of the abbey north of Brussels, Belgium. The 15 monks of Grimbergen Abbey and the brewing groups Alken-Maes (Heineken) and Carlsberg have decided to relaunch the activity on the site itself. A microbrewery with a capacity of 10,000 hectoliters per year has recently started its production.
The abbey brewery will serve as an innovation hub, combining brewing traditions drawn from the ancient books of the abbey’s library with new and innovative techniques to craft unique limited-edition batches of exceptional premium beers.
To celebrate, Grimbergen has released three new brews – Grimbergen Astrum Pale Ale (6%ABV), Grimbergen Magnum Opus Brut (8%ABV), and Grimbergen Ignis Quadruple(10%ABV).
Different from the past, the monks will be directly involved in the production of beer. “Until now, the community was consulted when a new Grimbergen was launched, as to its design and taste. With the creation of the microbrewery, we want to go further by getting involved in brewing,” explains provisor Karel Stautemas, 57. “For my part I am having a training course at the Jacobsen Brewery in Copenhagen and a theoretical training at the Scandinavian School of Brewing", he adds.
Father Karel combines his day-to-day monastic life with the running of the abbey brewery, supporting master brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon, a 28-year-old brewing wunderkind from France. Sochon began brewing in his parents’ garage and has since gone on to study both wine making and brewing. He has also been heavily involved in bringing the new brewery to life.
The revival of the Grimbergen abbey brewery is not unique. Five Trappist breweries have opened in the last decade in the wake of the craft beer movement. (inside.beer, 25.10.2017)
However, Grimbergen falls under the Norbertine order and its beers cannot claim the Trappist designation. Nevertheless, two other Norbertine abbeys in Averbode near Diest and in Heverlee have also set up a small brewery on their site in recent years.
The abbey of Grimbergen did not have its own beer since the brewery was destroyed in the French revolution. In 1958 Brouwerij Maes contacted the monks at the abbey with the proposal to commercialize the dark beer that Maes had developed under the brand name "Grimbergen". During the following 50 years Grimbergen Dubbel and Tripel were produced in different Belgian breweries of the group until it was finally moved to the Brouwerij van Alken in 2007. The brewery and its owner Alken-Maes belonged since 2000 to the British brewing group Scottish & Newcastle (S&N). When S&N was sold in 2008 to Carlsberg and Heineken, Alken-Maes, which became a subsidiary of the Dutch group, continued to produce Grimbergen for the Belgian market while the distribution and production of abbey beer abroad moved to Carlsberg with license production in Obernai (France), Varese (Italy) and Szczecin (Poland).
The abbey brewery was built in a close partnership between the Grimbergen Abbey and Carlsberg Group. Grimbergen Abbey Brewery also features an on-site bar and restaurant giving visitors the opportunity to savour the rich brews and pair them with dishes from the restaurant Fenikshof. Later this year, Grimbergen will also open a Brewery Experience Centre that will give visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves into the rich heritage of Grimbergen and the magic behind its innovation.
Carlsberg CEO Cees' t Hart traveled to Grimbergen on Thursday to visit the new facility. "Grimbergen is an important brand for us. It is part of our 'specialty and craft beers' segment which last year, despite the coronavirus crisis, saw double-digit growth," said the manager. “The new abbey brewery is an important step for us in continuing to develop our speciality brews to meet growing worldwide demand. We believe this beautiful abbey brewery will take us, and beer drinkers around the world, on an incredible journey of flavour discovery.”
Please find below a few links to videos concerning the abbey, the new brewery and the three new beers: