Video: Koen Van Lancker, brewer/co-owner, Brouwers ‘t Verzet, Anzegem, Belgium talks about oak leaves and not getting bored.
Koen Van Lancker talked to Beer Idiot Dieter Proost in front of barrels named after (presumably) some of the brewery’s favourite musicians – Joe Strummer from the Clash, 2Pac, Lauren Hill and Jimmy Page among them.
Brouwers ‘t Verzet, named after the Flemish slang for ‘the resistance’, has been operating from their own brewery and bar he and two friends founded in Anzegem, 36 km south-west of Ghent.
Founders Van Lancker, Alex Lippens and Joran Van Ginderachter met while earning their academic brewing qualifications from the University of Ghent. After graduating in 2008 they started brewing at different breweries to gain practical experience.
“To work for a boss is kinda boring so got together in our spare time to experiment,” Van Lancker said.
With the encouragement of friends and family they started a brewing business in 2011 and began searching for a brewery that would let them do all the work. They were not interested in just handing over a recipe and then coming back to collect the beer.
“It was really important that we do everything ourselves because we wanted to learn about the craft and all the handling of beer in the brewery” he said. “We were not interested in just giving a recipe. Then we would just be beer sellers, which we are not good at.
A place of their own
After five years using facilities at brewers such as De Ranke, they got a loan from the bank to invest in the site at Anzegem, which started operating in 2016.
“When we started, we looked at the beer market and there were no really new things going on,” he said. “It was the same beer, with the same taste. We wanted do things differently, not only only with taste, but also the style of the labels and the attitude of the brewery. There are no monks on the label.”
‘t Verzet’s Oud Bruin Oak Leaf is an example. It is based on the brewer’s Oud Bruin, a very decent traditional sour from South-West of Flanders that is a complex mix of winey aromas, red fruits, wood and green apple. It is aged in oak barrels for a year. The style is also known as a Flanders red or red-brown ale.
The idea to add oak leaves came from Lippens, who was reading a book that described home winemaking using with oak leaves added to sugar water as a way to get more oak flavour in a fermented beverage. They decided to up the stakes and add it to Oud Bruin.
Video below: a tour of Brouwers ‘t Verzet, Anzegem, Belgium.
“It gave it added push and it was a really good idea – the taste was amazing,” Van Lancker said.
Since then, every year (and we hope this year) they put out a call for beer lovers to help them harvest the oak leaves.
“So every year we collect 10 (beer) idiots to climb the trees with us and to pick leaves all day which we dry and add to Oud Bruin and leave it there for six months to age,” he said. “And it gives some tannin woody and tea-like flavors and complexity and dryness to the beer.”
Their regular beers include the Oud Bruin, Moose Blues (dark ale with maple syrup), Super Noah (a blonde using only Belgian hops), Golden Tricky (IPA with Australian Ella hops), Oaky Moaky Editie 2019 (a 7.5% stout from Scottish whiskey barrels), Space Cadet (a Belgian wheat beer with hops and a special yeast replacing the curacao and coriander), along with the Oud Bruin infusions and other experiments.
One of the most interesting is Kameradski Balsamico, a hybrid between a Russian Imperial Stout and Oud Bruin with a proper 13.5% alcohol level that has become a staple for the Beer Idiots.
Note: Co-founder Van Ginderachter left Belgium for the US to join start-up Three Taverns in Atlanta. He has since left that company to co-found Halfway Crooks Beer in Atlanta.
His history and connections are interesting in the sense of following a Flemish sour trail. Van Ginderachter interned at New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, where his uncle, Peter Bouckaert, was the brewmaster up until 2017. Prior to that Bouckaert was brewing at Rodenbach, which produces one of the iconic Flemish reds in Belgium.