2005 | REGIONAL | INTERNATIONAL
Touring Hainaut : Belgium's Beeriest Province
By Chuck Cook
|BRASSERIE VAPEUR lives
up to its name with a steamy mash. Photo
by Chuck Cook.
Hainaut, one of the five provinces in French-speaking Wallonia,
could rightly be described as one of the heartlands of brewing
in Belgium. Here, 21 breweries — the most of any Belgian
province (with two more scheduled to open soon) — produce
some of the country’s finest beers.
I have written in recent CBN issues about the Chimay
Trappist abbey as well as the newly renamed De Rocs brewery.
However, there is much more in Hainaut to see — and
drink. At Brasserie Blaugies, near the French
border, there is a “new” tasting room/restaurant
(built in 2000) to showcase the beers of the brewery across
the street and cooking with local cuisine. Called Les Fourquets
(“The Mashing Fork”), the place is very nicely
done both outside and in, with two floors, a large banquet/meeting
hall and even a nonsmoking room. It is open from 11:00 a.m.
to 11:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
The good news for people who enjoy the beers of Blaugies
is that they intend to increase production this year, as the
owner is retiring from his day job. The family plans to brew
about 1,000 hl in 2005, a sizable increase from the 400 hl
of 2004. La Moneuse is by far their most popular brew.
Not far away, in Petit Dour, a fine beer list with 65 choices
is offered at Taverne-Brasserie La Saline (open Thursday through
Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. on). The owner of the cafe is a beer
lover who likes promoting local brews. The cafe/restaurant
also offers “Payelles” as a regional specialty,
which is a sort of casserole with cheese, meats, potatoes,
mushrooms and other ingredients. Delicious!
In Pipaix one finds Brasserie Dubuisson,
producer of many well-known strong brews. The classic is Bush
Amber (12% abv), called Scaldis here in the U.S. thanks to
a certain very large brewing corporation. Dubuisson now offers
a Blonde brew of 10.5%, as well as the unfiltered, spiced
7% abv Cuvee de Trolls and the 12% Noel (Christmas) beer.
The 13% abv Bush Prestige, aged in oak barrels, has been a
big hit. The beer is basically a Bush Amber, refermented and
might ask you where you come from and how you like the
There is a new tasting room/restaurant located on-site with
the brewery, called Taverne Trolls and Bush. The Taverne offers
all the Dubuisson beers as well as those of the Brasse-Temps
brewpubs located in Mons and Louvain-la-Neuve, which Dubuisson
owns. The Taverne Trolls and Bush is open every day except
Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The Taverne features
very good local cuisine, including dishes cooked with beer,
as well as lighter fare. Eat here.
Just a few kilometers away in Leuze is Brasserie
Vapeur, one of the few remaining steam-powered breweries
in the world. Brewing began here as early as 1785. Jean-Louis
Dits and his wife Vinciane Corbisier are the owners now, and
they are perfect hosts. They hold an open brewing day the
last Saturday of each month, an event where people visit from
within Belgium and from much farther afield. Visitors see
the steam engine in action and sample beers like Saison de
Pipaix and Vapeur en Folie on draft or in bottles. A feast
is offered for lunch, where for 20 euros you can have your
fill of beer and food. There is a small shop where all the
bottled beers the brewery produces are for sale along with
other items. Jean-Louis has plans to construct a distillery
and tasting room at the brewery when time permits.
|Brewing at St-Feuillien/Friart.
Photo by Chuck Cook.
Another few kilometers away in the small town of Tourpes
is the world-renowned Brasserie Dupont. I
visited twice in 2004, and my guide on both occasions was
the very hospitable director and brewmaster, Olivier Dedeycker.
Using brew-kettles dating to 1844 and a mash tun constructed
before 1890, Olivier told me Dupont has been doing very well
of late, as they produced 10,000 hl in 2004, up from 8,000
in 2003. New for 2004, their great Christmas beer, Avec les
Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont, was dry-hopped for the
first time in more than 20 years. It is also offered in magnum-size
bottles in some markets for the first time.
While the brewery’s official tasting room is only accessible
after a brewery tour, there are two fine “locals”
cafes close by where most of Dupont’s beers can be sampled.
Friendly people might even ask you where you come from and
how you like the Dupont brews. Café les Caves, just
across the street from the brewery, is well worth a stop,
as is Café la Forge, where I had a fine lunch of local
meats and cheeses in December.
Brasserie Ellezelloise, located in Ellezelles
at the northwestern edge of Hainaut, produces several classic
brews, including Hercule Stout, a rich, dark, malty brew of
8.4%, and the fine Quintine Amber and Saisis. The small brewery
and tasting room are located inside the same building and
are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.,
and from 9:00 a.m. to noon and 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sundays.
Brewer/owner Philippe Gerard is a very welcoming host.
A fairly new brewery, located in a small medieval castle
near Ath, is Brasserie Geants. The brewer
and his wife are also the owners and have built a very professional
installation. Shelton Brothers is now importing their beers
into the U.S. The castle/brewery is open to the public on
weekends from June through September. Production was at 1,400
hl in 2003. These are very good beers with no spices added.
|At BRASSERIE FRIART, large
bottles of St. Feuillien are labeled by hand.
Photo by Chuck Cook.
Just off the highway from Mons to Brussels lies Brasserie
Friart, producing the St. Feuillien line of beers.
Using a mash tun from about 1910, Brewmaster Alexis Briol
cranks out some great beers, such as an Easter brew, Triple
and Noel. About 6,000 hl of beer is produced here, while some
of the bottled beers are brewed elsewhere. The brewery hand-bottles
on-site only in 1.5- to 9-liter sizes. There is a tasting
room here where the beers can be sampled after a tour, along
with some very good cheese.
Brasserie Barbiot, located in Ville-Sur-Haine
(not far from Brasserie Friart and Mons), was granted a brewing
license in December 2004, and an official opening was planned
for May 1. The first brews offered are a Blonde and Amber,
at 7% and 9% abv. More brews are planned, and a tasting room
is being built at the front of the building housing the brewery.
Brouwerij de Ranke, producing such beers
as the hoppy XX Bitter and delicious Kriek, is planning to
open a new brewery in June, which will have a small tasting
room. Group tours will be offered on request. Located in Dottignies,
just over the border from West and East Flanders, the new
De Ranke brewery takes advantage of Walloon government incentives
offered to new businesses. The beers have been brewed at DECA
Services in the past.
The medieval city of Mons is a good place to use as a base
while touring this province. There are a couple of solid cafe
choices here, located on the beautiful Grand Place. Taverne
de Cervoise boasts a beer list numbering 150+ and offers filling
dishes like pastas, steaks and even vegetarian cuisine. Cervoise
is run by young Walloon beer lovers and has a typically younger
clientele than the more upscale Exelsior, just a few doors
down. Excelsior is a fairly posh restaurant with a good beer
list of over 100. Fish, steak and pork are good menu choices.
There is much more to see and do in Hainaut Province, and
2005 is the “Year of Beer in Brussels and Wallonia”
(beer2005.be), so what a great time to visit this brewery-filled
Chuck Cook is a freelance writer living in
Richmond, Va. His passions are beer and travel, and he has
written for various beer publications. He can be reached via
e-mail at email@example.com.