No pinch of salt: the union of Belgian beers brewed by the sea
Uniqueness from Flanders
“The water is not from the sea, it would be too salted,” says smiling Jelle Schouppe, manager from St. Idesbald brewery in the Belgian village of Koksijde. "It’s a long last recipe, with natural yeast from Belgium. The water is from the region, because we have very nice water. We use normal water from the coast, filtered,” explains. For Schouppe, the best part of his work is "to bring back the history from the abbey and its early days and retake the tradition”.
In the 16th century, Pieter Pourbus painted the brewery of the Dunes Abbey (Duinenabdij) in Koksijde. Today, that memory has been recovered. The Huyghe brewery is responsible for the St. Idesbald abbey beer on the site of the coastal abbey farm. The old pigsty has been transformed into a modern house brewery with a capacity of 1,000 liters. One innovation has been added: the beer goes straight from the steel barrels into the beer tap without injecting carbon dioxide (CO2).
According to the Belgian Brewers Associations, in 2021, there were around 400 breweries in the country producing over 1500 different beers. More than 73% of the beers are destined for export. Some beers are only found in Belgium, specially the ones made near the beach. The beers of St. Idesbald, for example, can only be tasted at the terrace or the inside hall facing the old coastal abbey.
It’s the same case with other beers from the Belgian coast. Bart Mortier and Alexander Verlinde bought and renovated the old building of Lion D'Or brewery from the 19th century to create their own brewery: “Jus de Mer''. It’s a short hop from the Middelkerke beach. “Jus de mer” is still traditionally brewed with natural ingredients without adding flavour, colour or other additives. The blond one matches food ingredients from the sea, such as mussels and smoked salmon. “Our beers are linked to our beloved coast and seaside resort,” says Verlinder at the brewery website.
"All for one, and one for all"
Like Alexandre Dumas' three musketeers, three coastal breweries decided to join forces to improve their recognition and sales in the Belgian market. Wenbrew Beer Company (from De Haan/ Le Coq beach), Brewery Jus De Mer (from Middelkerke) and Sint-Idesbald (from Koksijde) have signed a deal to sell together at local supermarkets and at the website Kustbieren.be.
“I think we are one of the few that can offer a box in which beers from different breweries are together. This also proves that breweries can work together, and not just compete with each other. 1+1=3 for everyone,” highlights Verlinder.
Brewery Betsy is a microbrewery from the Belgian coast, at Bredene, managed by Jürgen Tavernier. His beers took part at the first edition of the joint project launched in July 2020.
“The first goal of 'Kustbieren.be' is to promote our Belgian coast. The majority of the coastal beer boxes are bought by the sea and given as gifts to family and friends inland. In this way, the brand awareness of our coastal beers in the interior increases and the coast is also put in the spotlight,” explains Nicolas Honorez, CEO Wenbrew Beer Company.
BELGA PHOTO (VIVIANE VAZ) "Jus de Mer" beer, one of the Belgian beer brewed by the coast, in the town of Middelkerke
This article is part of the five-part series "Uniqueness from Flandres"