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The Grimbergen abbey monks pose with glasses of their historical beer in hand, as they celebrate the discovery of the 12th century secret.
Father Karel Stautemas, abbey subprior, has been appointed to help run the microbrewery once its constructed, and will take a brewing course in preparation at Copenhagen.
Bottle of Grimbergen lay in buckets of ice at Tuesday’s launch party celebrating the 12th century discovery.
The medieval troves were thought to be lost after the monastery was ransacked and burned during the French Revolution in 1789
After a more than 200-year hiatus, marked by fires and political raids, Belgian monks at Grimbergen Abbey plan to brew beer again following newly discovered original recipes within their archives.
In a press release Wednesday, the monks announced that they have received a permit to construct a microbrewery within the abbey, in which they will brew their iconic beer from recipes dating back to the 12th century.
During a launch event on Tuesday, Father Karel Stautemas, the abbey subprior, explained that the initiative is the product of four years of research into medieval books shelved in the abbey’s library, which contain information on how the monks brewed beer in the past.
“We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them,” Stautemas told the National Post in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It was all in old Latin and old Dutch.
“So we brought in volunteers. We’ve spent hours leafing through the books and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago.”
The medieval troves were thought to be lost after the monastery near Brussels was ransacked and burned during the French Revolution in 1789.
However, a group of abbey monks are said to have saved close to 300 books from an otherwise guaranteed destruction by secretly knocking a hole in the library wall and removing them to safety.
“Beer has always been part of our life in the abbey,” said Stautemas in a release.
The abbey plans to emulate key elements of the methods laid out in the books, such as a lack of artificial additives and only using wooden barrels (not metal vats).
During the press event Tuesday, Grimbergen unveiled a limited-edition Triple D’Abbaye as an example of the types of brews it will make at the new microbrewery. The beer had been aged in whiskey barrels for five months, a technique used to brew Belgians beer in the 1500s.
According to the books, the monks constantly added innovations to the beer recipes. “They changed their recipe every 10 years,” Stautemas said.
A spokeswoman for the Grimbergen brand said the abbey microbrewery will use various elements from the beer recipes uncovered in the medieval books. “There isn’t just one recipe,” she explained.
Yet at the same time, the abbey plans on modifying the taste of the beer to suit current preferences. “I don’t think people now would like the taste of the beer back then,” said Stautemas.
Marc-Antoine Sochon, appointed master brewer for the abbey, told the Guardian that back then regular beer tasted like “liquid bread.”
Grimbergen beer is known for a fruity and spice taste, as well as for its high alcoholic content, peaking at 10.8 percent per volume. Rather than producing a commercial quantity all-year round, the abbey has opted to produce limited-edition batches annually for a, sigh, largely French and Belgian market.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019