I attended a Belgian themed evening at the newly opened Granny Annie’s in Belfast. This used to be Victoria’s and Rumpoles before.
It was a celebration of Belgian Heverlee beer hosted by the master brewer Joris Brams who gave a masterclass in the Heverlee story. This was followed by Belgian food (I had veggie burger, fries and mayo) and divine Belgian waffles and ice cream. Then the band took the night away.
Appreciation of this premium Belgian Lager may seem all too easy but, as guests from trade and media discovered, there’s an art to serving up Heverlee’s celebrated ‘perfected pint’ … and appreciation is deepened when you find out what lies behind this great heritage-based beer.
Heverlee is derived from a centuries-old recipe originally used by medieval monks at the Abbey of the order of Premontre, just outside Joris’s hometown of Leuven. Beer was brewed there since 1129, providing refreshment almost exclusively destined for the monks and those who laboured on the Abbey lands. Brewing stopped around 1500/1600 and the recipe was long forgotten until Joris began his research.
He was so impressed at the recipe he unearthed for a traditional yet hugely distinctive Belgian Pils, that he revived both the recipe and skills. Working with the monks and a local brewer, the ultra-smooth Heverlee of today was born, using barley, hops and a much slower, more traditional brewing process than the bigger Belgian brands to ensure a distinctive original Pils bitterness within its complex taste characteristics. Today Heverlee can proudly claim that it is once again deliciously brewed with ingredients and methods with roots dating back to Medieval times.
Heverlee is a Premium Belgian Lager with 4.8% alcohol by volume. It is what’s known as an ‘Abbey Beer’, only ever brewed in Belgium, still in association with the Abbey of Premontre in Leuven. It is made to a traditional Pils style recipe from malted barley, Noble Saaz aroma hops, yeast, maize and fresh water combine to create a light, crisp and balanced flavour.
Heverlee is served in a chalice glass designed to preserve the beer head and concentrate its flavours. In a dash of in-bar theatricality, the foam is traditionally sliced off with a knife, perhaps worryingly known as ‘beheading’, which removes the larger bubbles, protecting the liquid underneath from exposure to the air and maintaining the head’s bitter aromas.
But there’s even more to pouring what Heverlee has dubbed its ‘perfected pour’ and Joris has created a six step programme to guide bartenders through the exacting process. Delivering perfection with every pour ensures that the customer always receives the beer as it should be, but it also reminds the bartender that this is a product like no other: worthy of respectful handling.
The Heverlee logo features the Abbey’s Latin motto ‘Ne Quid Nimis’, reflecting a philosophy of ‘life in balance’ The literal English translation of the Latin phrase is ‘nothing in excess’ … which is perhaps good advice when you discover a Beer as exceptional and great-tasting as Heverlee.