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6 Belgian brewers who’ve gone organic
For a long time, there was some prejudice against organically brewed beer — it won’t store as long, they said. However, today more and more brewers are going to bio route. Some are striving for authenticity and tradition in their brewing processes, others are doing it out of ecological conviction, trying to lessen the amount of pesticides and other chemicals leeching into the soil and give their consumers a healthier product.
Regardless of their reasons, every year, more beers are appearing with “bio” on their labels, meaning that a high percentage, if not all, of the ingredients are organically produced. Many are brewed alongside non-organic versions, giving you an excellent opportunity to purchase and taste-test both, preferably with some cubes of gouda and a strong mustard. Here are six brewers throwing their their hat into the organic ring.
1. Silenrieux Brewery
The Silenrieux Brewery is one of brewers most committed to producing organic beers in Belgium. This small, artisanal brewer, founded in 1991 is best known for its spelt (the Joseph) and buckwheat (the Sara) beers, which are brewed both with and without the organic label.
They also offer an organic gluten-free beer, the Cuvée des Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure. This light beer is only 5.2 per cent alcohol, but is not the brewery’s highest rated brew (for tastier gluten-free beers, skip down to Brunehaut Brewery).
Perhaps the most well-known organic beers made in Belgium are Dupont’s Saison Bio and Moinette Bio. Given the fairly large beer maker’s penchant for exporting its products, these are also the two that you are most likely to find outside of Belgium.
Like many of Dupont’s beers, including both of their non-organic ounterparts, the Saison Bio and Moinette Bio are notable for their bitterness, but in a good way. However, Dupont currently brews six organic beers in total, all certified by the label Biogarantie, each with their own character and flavour to suit all kinds of palates. Besides the two already mentioned, these include Biolégère, Bière de Miel Bio, Blanche du Hainaut Bio and Triomfbier.
Brunehaut is an artisanal brewer that still uses brewing recipes that are almost two millenia old and made from barley and wheat grown on their own domain in Hainaut. This craft brewer makes four tasty beers certified as organic: a white, a blond, an amber and a triple. Not only that, but three of the four (all but the Bio Blanche white beer) are gluten-free.
I know, the term “gluten-free” can elicit many a groan from people looking for a tasty beer, but Brunehaut has got it down. What is special about their gluten-free beers is that, unlike many gluten-free beers, they still use barley in their recipe, but, once it is made, the brew undergoes a special natural process to extract the gluten. The results are three not just good gluten-free beers, but good beers, full stop.
While most will know Cantillon as Brussels’ charming homegrown maker of face-puckering-yet-ever-refreshing geuzes, krieks and lambics, some may not realise that the Anderlecht brewer has been nearly 100 per cent organic since 1999.
The family-run company explains its decision to go organic as one of tradition: it simply made sense for a business so bent on creating a product that’s authentic to its origins to use grains that were as natural as possible. So, while some of Cantillon’s fruit beers are not entirely organic (the fruits for the fruit beers can be hard to purchase organically), you can rest assured that the rest of its line is.
Belgoo beer doesn’t have a brewery of its own, but instead is custom-brewed by the Brasserie Binchoises in Binche, according to the recipe of the beer’s creator Jo Van Aert. There are six Belgoo beers over all, two of which are organic: the Belgoo Bio Amber and the Belgoo Bio Blond. While the amber gets some mixed reviews for being unbalanced, the blond, marketed as a “3-grains beer” for its barley, wheat and oats, is very drinkable and balanced.
Besides having a great name, which simply comes from the town of Silly in the Hainaut province where this beer is brewed, the Brasserie de Silly turns out some delicious beers, including the only organic pils on the list. Like its non-organic partner, Silly Pils, this light, refreshing beer is perfect for a hot day or for just when you need a break from the heavy ales.
Photo courtesy Fuj on Tap