I was very fortunate this week past to be invited to a Belgian beer tasting event in the name of Heverlee beer at Sygn Bar where I got to sample an array of beer native to Belgium and some delicious fare from Sygn.
We were introduced to Joris who told us the story of Sinterklass – the patron saint of children, who by description sounds a lot like Santa Claus but the two are not one in the same. Sinterklass is in fact St Nicholas in the Catholic faith, he rides on a white horse, bringing one gift each to girls ands boys and it is viewed as a very important day, the 7th December, in the Belgian calendar. Santa Claus in Belgium is known as ‘Kerstman’ (Christmas-man). And so in the spirit of Sinterklass, we had a lovely gift awaiting us on our table neatly gift wrapped with a Belgian chocolate tied in the ribbon – Côte D’ Or Buchée – that melted in your mouth.
Joris came from Leuven and was there to tell us all about his beer ‘Heverlee‘. But before that he told us about three other Belgian beers.
First up was Orval, 6.2% alcohol, it was a slightly darker coloured beer than Heverlee with a smooth taste, Joris said it might be difficult to locate Orval in Edinburgh and these bottles were shipped in specifically for our tasting. Joris gave us a fascinating insight into the world of brewing Belgian beer. He informed us that there are two places in Belgium where beer is brewed: Ghent or Leuven where he is from. He said that there is no rivalry between brewers, that they see themselves as all being in the same business and they look out for one another. There was some talk of the shelf life of the beer being so long (approx 5 years). Joris said the beer will taste better in a year’s time but not necessarily in 4 years time.
Next up was Tongerlo which is a named after a place in Belgium. It is one year younger than Heverlee and brewed at Haacht brewery. We got to taste their special Christmas beer, 7% alcohol. Joris told us that every Belgian beer has its own special glass that it is to be served in. It had a zingy fresh taste to it, I really rated it.
Duvel was Joris’s favourite beer, besides Heverlee. Founded in 1871 by Jan-Léonard Moortgat, at 8.5% alcohol it is a very strong beer. Duvel translates as devil and Joris told us that there is speculation that it is in fact a Scottish beer made from yeast stolen from Scotland! I really liked the shape of the bottle, and despite how strong it was made out to be, I really liked the taste.
On to the star of the show Heverlee. At 4.8% it’s a very drinkable beer. The abbey of the order of Premontre is one of the best preserved and largest abbeys in Belgium. Founded in 1129 and first brewed by the monks, it is here Heverlee has its roots.
On the back of the Heverlee glass, in English it translates as ‘Enjoy yourself in moderation.’ I don’t think there was ever a truer word spoken when it comes to drinking alcohol. The words are also engraved in the brewery.
In between guzzling all this fantastic beer, we were treated to a fantastic spread of food put on by Sygn Bar. A long board of nibbles made up of haggis ping pongs, breaded shrimp, chicken wings, halloumi and lemon bites and sesame chicken with an array of dips ranging from BBQ to garlic mayo. The food was to die for! I’ve only just started eating shrimp / prawns and these were some of the juiciest I’ve tasted so far! A perfect sharing board with the accompaniment of Heverlee to wash it all down.
Following on from that, we were treated to festive Turkey burgers, I’ve eaten at Sygn before and their burgers are phenomenally tasty! However I am not the biggest turkey fan even at Christmas so I was airing on the side of caution. No caution needed however, I gobbled up the whole thing, breaded turkey, bacon, melted emmental cheese, lettuce and cranberry sauce on a brioche bun, the burger was delicious and didn’t hang around for long!
We got a selection of French fries to try too, topped with haggis, cheesy mayo and caramelised onions. Yum!
Pudding was a boozy trifle that not many of us could manage much of, served in martini glasses, the food all round was delicious.
You won’t see Heverlee everywhere, they care about building loyal brand relationships and are somewhat of a niche. Head down to Sygn for a pint and some of their cracking food and you’ll leave as happy as I did.