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Belgian Beer & Beer – Meticulous Experimentation

Editor’s Note: On my recent trip to Belgium in the fall of 2017, this was my first stop and interview of two intense weeks of  travel, appointments, and interviews. Meeting Raf Souvereyns and trying his lambics as he described his meticulous approach to creating his unique lambics set the tone for a fantastic and successful trip. This article will appear in issue #14 of Belgian Beer & Food magazine.

Meticulous Experimentation

The first batch went down the drain. “It was god awful. I never understood what happened to the beer, it had the most weird off-flavour,” says Bokkereyder’s Raf Souvereyns. That was in 2013. Acquiring a wine barrel from the winery he worked at and filling it with Girardin wort, the final piece of this glorious failure came when a phone call from a friend asked if he wanted to harvest some sour cherries from a friend’s garden. Despite the poor initial results, Souvereyns was hooked and Bokkereyder was born. Today, Bokkereyder is one of the hottest beers at elite festivals and with lambic hunters around the world.

By Christopher Barnes

(c) Matt the List

After dumping his first experiment, he tried again with Girardin wort and his friend’s backyard Schaarbeekse cherries. This time, the results were much better, but instead of packaging it and selling it, he removed the spent cherries, refilled it with the following year’s harvest of cherries, put the kriek beer back in the barrel, and topped it off with some more Girardin wort. The next year, he repeated the process with a new vintage of cherries.

“So it’s Schaarbeekse harvest from 2014, 2015, and 2016. Now there are three vintages of cherries and five vintages of lambic combined into one beer. It sounds good. It sounds like a really good story. But what’s in the glass is what really counts. It’s disgustingly good! I’m going to bottle a part of it, but I’m going to keep the other part to keep it going,” explains Souvereyns.

It’s this sort of experimentation and unique thinking that is creating a special niche for Bokkereyder’s lambics. “I never really make a neutral [wood] gueuze, as much as I really love it.” Souvereyns isn’t trying to replicate the work… (Continue reading at Belgian Beer & Food)

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