Day 23: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

About the Beer:

St. Bernardus Brewery is probably most famous for its flagship beer, St. Bernardus Abt 12. St. Bernardus has a long and very interesting history! Tonight, I decided to just share their entire history.
(1900 – 1930)
In the early 1900s the Trappists fled the Mont des Cats (named after an ancient local tribe) and escaped to Watou. There they took up residence at the ‘Patershof’ farm (also known as ‘Courtewyle’), just a stone’s throw from the current brewery. They re-named their new home the ‘Réfuge de Notre Dame de St Bernard’ – and it was to prove a refuge in practice as well as in name. But why did these monks come to Belgium at all? In France they had to pay tax on their revenues and that was not (yet) the case in Belgium. Safe in their new home the monks took up cheese-making.

(1930 – 1934)
As France took on a more tolerant attitude towards religious communities the monks of Mont Des Cats decided to cross back over the border. Their vacated dairy was taken over by Evariste Deconinck. Later the Réfuge’s site would become the property of the Bruges Public Centre for Social Welfare.

(1934 – 1946)
During this period Deconinck expanded the dairy. Today the Brouwershuis where they made cheese on Trappistenweg (Trappist Road) is a guesthouse. Back in the 1930s it was producing two different branded cheeses: ‘St Bernard Watou’ and ‘Port Salut de Watou’.

(1946 – 1992)
Not long after the Second World War, Evariste Deconinck was invited by the Trappist monks at Westvleteren to brew and market their Trappist beers under licence, originally covering a 30-year period. Brewmaster Mathieu Szafranski (who was of Polish descent) brought his considerable know-how to the new site, bringing both recipes and the famed St Sixtus yeast as a new brewery was established right next to the cheese workshop. The cheese-making business was sold in 1959 with the equipment and the brand name going to the Poperinge milk dairy, St.Bertinus, which would later itself be acquired by the Elvapo group. In 1986 Belgomilk took over the business. In the early 1960s Guy Claus, the husband of Bernadette Deconinck (the daughter of Evariste) joined the brewery, opening up the opportunity for talks with Westvleteren Abbey to renew the licence agreement. In 1962 a new 30-year deal was signed to keep the beer flowing until 1992.

(1992 – 1998)
In 1992 the agreement expired for good, as the Trappist breweries had decided to award the “Authentic Trappist Beer” label exclusively to beers that had been brewed inside an abbey. From then on, the brewery’s beers were marketed under the St.Bernardus brand name. This period was marked by uncertainty as the brewery tried hard to revive its fortunes and inject new life into its brand.   

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is brewed in the style of a Belgian Quad. It is a dark, seasonal beer, brewed with all the flavors of winter. Enjoy its complexity as you drink it tonight and appreciate all the effort that went into making this brewery what it is today!

Advent Reflection:

I know that the past two nights have been videos of songs but I feel that the two songs that were shared really capture the essence of Advent. Last night’s song: “Wait For the LORD, his day is near”, captures the angst and the longing for the coming Messiah. The song tonight, “Hear Now, You House of David”, captures the hope of the prophecy foretold, Emmanuel ‘God with us’, will come and dwell among us and will teach us how to love. Here are the lyrics: (the la la la’s just resonate with my soul).

Hear now you house of David
A promise from your God
I am sending one to dwell among you
Emmanuel, The Lord

He who spoke all of creation
Is from a virgin born
He whom angels worship in glory
A child in Bethlehem.

Praise and thanks to the Father
And to the Holy Ghost
And to him who came among us
To teach us how to love

La la la …

Be blessed!

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