It could be argued that either Leffe or Duvel is the archetypal Belgian blonde ale, and one of the most popular bottled beers in the country as well as being well-known internationally. Duvel, in the name means “Devil” and some other blonde beers follow the theme — Satan, Lucifer, Brigand, Piraat and so on. Abbey blonde beers like Steenbrugge and Leffe also fit the bill – the popular Val-Dieu and Brugse Zot has been ever so popular here at Beermerchants.com.
But what’s the point? why are these beers so popular? are they lagers for grown ups? are they just for people who’ve been to Belgium and want to express that point when they go to the pub…?
I am sure that there are many people out there who have discovered the delights of Belgian beer before ever venturing there. Lagers for grown ups, what a load of tosh, but it might well be possible?
I really love some of the history of the old monastic Belgian brewers – especially the not to be confused with Trappist –
According to the probably very edited script(ures) on Wikipedia – The abbey Notre Dame de Leffe was founded in 1152 on the Meuse River in the province of Namur in southern Belgium. Like many monasteries across Europe, the Premonstratensian (Norbertine) canons of the abbey brewed ale. Using knowledge like many of the monestaries at the time, they were brewing beer – although official inbev or what ever they are called now, say they brewed a “unique” beer, whether that’s true or not, I have in my youth drunk my fair share of Leffe, even when it was a bottle conditioned beer.
Interesting to read that the abbey, in Dinant a beautiful gorge on the Meuse, itself has known hard times and has been damaged by both natural and human circumstances over the years. In 1460 the abbey was destroyed by a flood, a fire swept through the settlement in 1466, in 1735 billeted troops damaged the brewery, and in 1794 the outbreak of the French Revolution resulted in the abbey being deserted and the brewery destroyed. The canons returned in 1902.
In 1952, the production of beer was continued after a partnership with the Flemish based Lootvoet brewery in Overijse. This brewery was later bought by the international beer company Interbrew (now InBev). Leffe was then brewed in Mont-Saint-Guibert until Interbrew closed that brewery. Now all Leffe brands are brewed at the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven. The 1952 agreement between the Leffe abbey and a commercial brewery is said to have been the first of its kind (royalties continue to be paid to the abbey).
So, with all this history – is that a Basic Belgian? If I was to pick a gateway belgian blond beer – perhaps, 6 or so years ago, I might have, now I would certainly suggest the double gold winner in the world beer cup – Brugse Zot.