Belgium has a new abbey beer

Belgium has a new abbey beer. The nuns of Maredret Abbey in Belgium have granted a license to John Martin Brewery in Genval (Walloon Brabant), Belgium, for the production and marketing of Maredret Abbey beers.

After nearly three years of collaboration, two spelt beers, Maredret Altus, a 6.8% amber beer using cloves and juniper berries, and Maredret Triplus, an 8% blond incorporating coriander and sage went on sale tgis summer. Spelt is a grain that was already mentioned in texts by Saint Hildegard, a German Benedictine abbess from the 11th century. Cloves, juniper berries, coriander and sage are ingredients that are mentioned in old monastic recipes or are said to have healing effects.

“We wanted a beer made from spelt for which we have great esteem because of its virtues as well as medicinal plants, since our aim was to make a beer that could improve the health of people,”  said Sister Gertrude Mukangango, who now lives in the monastery after serving a 15-year sentence in Belgium for genocide in her native Rwanda. "It's good for one's health. It aids digestion. All the sisters like the beer, we are in Belgium after all," she added.

Edward Martin, brand manager, member of the board of directors and great-grandson of the brewery's founder is excited about the success of the collaboration and has already plans for expansion. “We are reaching 300,000 bottles [about 1,000 hl] this year and we hope to reach 3 million bottles [about 10,000 hl] a year,” he told Reuters in an interview. The products are sold in Belgium, Spanish, Italian and French market. “We hope to get to the British market as well, and we look for other opportunities such as the United States for instance,” Martin expressed his plans for the future.

The concept of licensing the name of an abbey to market a beer is not new. Since 1963 the beers of Benedictine Maredsous Abbey which is only a stone's throw away from Maredret Abbey but is in contrast to the latter a monastery rather than a nunnery, have been brewed under license by Duvel Moortgat. In license brewing, the monks or nuns are usually not involved in the day-to-day brewing but they make strict specifications as to the recipe of the beers.

In Germany, another Benedictine abbey cooperates with a commercial brewery in the production and distribution of its beers. Since 2011, beers from Ettal Abbey in Bavaria have also been produced at the Bitburger BrewingGroup's Lich site and sold through Bitburger’s distribution network.

The history of John Martin Brewery started in 1909 when British master brewer John Martin settled in Belgium and started importing British beers. The company became the official importer of Guinness and Bass Pale Ale and started production of various soft drinks. In 1993 the company bought Timmermans Brewery, a lambic beer brewery from Itterbeek, Belgium, founded in 1702. In 2015 and 2016 John Martin opened two craft beer breweries in Belgium, Brasserie de Waterloo in Waterloo and Bourgogne des Flandres Brewery in Bruges.

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