De Koninck - Alle mannekes, Sante!
I made it but I am too late. It is a quarter after six and the new – beautifully renovated! – De Koninck Brewery in Antwerp, Belgium has just closed after a busy day of visitors and craft beer fans. I have been here before the brewery was acquired by the Moortgat family – proud, skilled Belgian brewers, makers of the famous Duvel – brewers who take brewing seriously and a family that has contributed tremendously to the rich beer history of Belgium.
De Koninck is actually the first brewery I ever visited while in brewing school and I have been privileged to have returned many times since. It was exciting the first time Bernard Van den Bogaert, the previous owner and brew master, gave a tour. The old direct fired kettles in the brew house, the unique propagation system, a tour was always fun and never disappointed, always ending in the lab upstairs with a few bollekes as the De Koninck beer is called here in Antwerp, where I was born.
One visit with Bernard, my brother Marnix and Jeff Lebesch, who started the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado with Kim Jordan, was very memorable. It was a Friday later afternoon and we wanted to check the open top fermenters after a few bollekes but almost got killed because the last cellar man had turned off the ventilation system of the cellars at noon for the weekend. I remember ever energetic Bernard saying, “No problem, no need to leave that on during the weekend!” Still gasping for air, we crossed the street to the Pelgrim, a famous bar across from the brewery where many years earlier I had my first De Koninck with the classic shot glass of brewery fresh yeast, a colorful tradition. There was always something new to learn from Bernard. He always sponsored our yearly parties while I was at the university with kegs of his beer – De Koninck – memorable times, always.
I found myself at Brasserie de Pelgrim again this evening – across from the brewery – for the 71st birthday of my mother, Jannemie. The whole family is present to celebrate. My family loves a good glass of beer and we sure are at the right place to celebrate. I start with a La Chouffe from the tap. La Chouffe is an unfiltered blond beer, refermented on both bottle and keg, pretty fruity, a touch spicy, a great starter. My brother Marnix, a port captain here at the harbour in Antwerp, keeps the tempo up. Second in-line is a bolleke, the De Koninck, this beer has had its ups and downs but is now better then ever before. Great work Sven!
I translate from the beer menu: “This is the taste of Antwerp. The roughness of the port, the energy of people drinking on the many terraskes, bicycles of the River Scheldt. It is Antwerp in a bottle.” This beer is really a classic and sure has inspired many brewers, rightly so, I would count myself as one of them!
Next in line is Wild Jo, a new beer inspired by the creativity of the craft brewing scene in North America. A mix of earthy and floral tones, a nose that will wake up the sloppy drinker but excite the connoisseur with a mix of sweetness, acidity and a neat hoppy aftertaste, worthy every time. Now that De Koninck is part of the Moortgat family other great beers are on the menu, classics worth every drop: Liefmans GoudenBand, Duvel (as well as the Tripel Hop 2016, La Chouffe Houblon, Vedette, Boulevard (yes, Steven’s Tank 7 is here too), De Koninck Flowering Citrus Ale, a cooperation with New Belgium, Maredsous. The beer list is long but we are in Antwerp and I certainly have time for another bolleke.
Alle mannekes, Sante!
proost: [noun] “cheers!” in Flemish; usually said when drinking.