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De Dochter van de Korenaar and the ‘perfect’ beer

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Video: Ronald Mengerink, brewer/owner, De Dochter van de Korenaar, Baarle-Hertog, Belgium talks about brewing the perfect beer.
 
Ronald Mengerink began as a hobby brewer at the age of 15. He started his first commercial brewery aged 21 in the north of Holland. He moved to Belgium when he was 30 and started De Dochter van de Korenaar as a “very small house operation” in 2007.

Roughly translated as  “the daughter of the ear of corn”, the name comes from a 16th century Flemish expression for beer. He features a quote on the brewery’s website, attributed to  Emperor Charles: ‘I prefer the juice of the ear of the corn, better than the blood of grapes.’

Thirteen years later after a series of moves he now has what he calls a sustainably sized operation in a segment of Baarle-Hertog, a Belgian enclave in Holland. Move one way and you are in Holland, jump another and you are in Belgium. Behind the brewery is Holland, in front it is Belgium.

“I’m a Dutchman making Belgian beer with French names,” is how Mengerink sums up his position. He should add – with a preference for experimentation with new and old favourites. The French part comes from a property the family sold in that country to fund the brewery.

Powerful beers

His standard range of beers includes Extase, a standout double IPA featuring a blend of 14 hops, and what he calls edition beers such as La Renaissance, an English IPA aged for a year in white Burgundy barrels. He recently released a version of La Renaissance, a Grand Cru, aged for 26 months and dry hopped with East Kent Golding and Nelson Sauvin hops.

He calls La Renaissance Grand Cue a very classic beer that is “almost the perfect beer” for the creaminess gained from the additional ageing in the white wine barrel. 

Today, the brewery has a capacity of about 50 hl and he could brew about twice a day if needed, but the limitation is his fermentation capacity.

“So if I want to brew 10,000 hl a year I will need more fermentation tanks, but we have the room so it is possible,” he said. He thinks his maximum capacity could eventually reach 13,000 hl a year.
 
One of his “big hobbies” is ageing beers in barrels so he built a cellar in the renovated old farmhouse, which also has a taproom and terrace for visitors. 
 
About 5% of his production is currently aged in the 360 whisky, wine, genever and rum and new oak barrels he keeps on hand.

He started ageing beers in whisky barrels about two years after he opened the brewery as a way of educating himself in the technique and has built up to ageing in new oak, which he says is more difficult, expensive and more or less experimental.

“It is not so easy but if you do it right you get amazing beers,” he said.

Video: Live vicariously with the Beer Idiots on the road to Baarle-Hertog, Belgium in January on a visit to Ronald Mengerink of De Dochter van de Korenaar. Is he in an enclave or an exclave?

Hoppy tastes

What kind of beers does he like doing? “I liking trying a lot of styles but I guess the best that I do is making quite hoppy beers,” he said.

He has the trophy cabinet to match that claim. Strong, deep tasting beers with full flavour is what you can expect, and an outspoken defender of the craft in craft beer is what you get from Mengerink.

This year in an outspoken criticism of crowdfunding he decided to start his own movement at the brewery, which he calls “funding the crowd”, a means of giving back to the fans who have supported him.  

“We refund what you gave us in the past,” is how he puts it. That’s why we start our action ‘Funding the Crowd’. Instead of crowdfunding where you have to submit a certain amount of money, he plans to give discounts and other benefits to those who join.

In return: “We want you to visit the brewery, taste the atmosphere (and the beers of course), and spread the story. We want you to learn what it means to run a small family brewery and decide together with our team what way to go in the future.”

Images: At De Dochter van de Korenaar, Baarle-Hertog, Belgium.

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