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Anchored in the
Belgian beer tradition
history of beer and of PALM Breweries
Abbey craftsmanship
From the 6th century
onwards, many abbeys
are established in Western
Europe, each responsible
for providing its own food
and drink. In southern and
central France, they develop
viniculture. There is no grape
cultivation in the Low Count-
ries, but they are located in
the “grain belt” of Europe.
Here, they perfect a barley-
based alcoholic beverage.
This marks the start of brew-
ing as a craft.
4000 BC
The Gauls learn how to
brew beer.
This first barley-based alco-
holic beverage arrives, via
Egypt and Greece, in Central
Europe. The foundations of
our beer culture are laid.
RODENBACH Brewery is
established in Roeselare
Pedro Rodenbach, together
with his entrepreneurial wife
Regina Wauters, founds the
brewery which will bear his
The early days of PALM
Opposite the church in
Steenhuffel, Anne Cornet
begins a small, top-fermen-
tation Brabant village brew-
ery. She dubs her brewery
DE HOORN, the Dutch
translation of her French
surname “Cornet”.
Advent of Brabant-style
top-fermentation beers
With his “Novus Modus
Fermentandi Cerevisiam”,
the German Emperor
Charles IV promulgates a
new brewing recipe which
makes the use of hops man-
datory. Hops strongly retard
the growth of bacteria,
giving the pure yeast flora
the upper hand in the beer.
Brabant, part of the German
Empire, becomes the home
of top-fermentation beers.
St Arnold teaches his
followers to drink beer.
St Arnold founds the Abbey
of Oudenburg. He instructs
his followers to drink beer
instead of unsafe drinking
water, since beer is boiled
and therefore free from
harmful bacteria. Thanks
to the many lives he saves,
he is designated the patron
saint of brewers.
The Flanders Red-Brown
Beer process is refined
In England, the young
Eugène Rodenbach gains
in-depth knowledge of
the local Porter beer style:
intentional acidification,
maturation in oak casks,
and mixing with young beer
to improve shelf-life and
thirst-quenching qualities.
He optimises this maturation
process in the large cask
halls (“foederzalen”) at
Roeselare. Many local
brewers follow his lead,
and the Flanders Red-Brown
Beer becomes a much-
loved local product.
The brewery in St Peter’s
Abbey in Steenbrugge is
The rights of the Abbey of
Oudenburg, founded by
St Arnold, are transferred to
the new St Peter’s Abbey
in Steenbrugge This abbey
owns a brew-house where
beer is brewed until the
outbreak of the Second
World War. The secret of
STEENBRUGGE abbey beer
is the Bruges “gruut” blend
of herbs and spices.
15th – 16th century
Rise of Flemish cities and
their city beers
During the Golden Age, power-
ful craft guilds are established
in every town. Brewers’ guilds
impose city-specific brewing
recipes in order to improve the
quality of the beer. The city
beers are born, each with
having its own flavour accents.
In Bruges, anyone brew-
ing beer is obliged to use a
particular blend of herbs and
spices (named “gruut”) and
bought at the city’s herbs and
spices shop (“Gruuthuse”). Jan
van Brugge and his descend-
ants, who later change their
name to Van Gruuthuse, have
a monopoly on the sale of
Bruges “gruut”, which lasts
late into the 16th century. At
the same time, taxes are levied
to the Count of Flanders.
Brewery is established in
Advent and popularity of
pilsner beers
In order to mimic the
bottom-fermentation beer
from Pilsen, many breweries
install refrigeration techno-
logy. The low temperature
combined with the use
of hops prevent bacteria
from multiplying. Due to
their purer taste and better
shelf-life, Pilsner beers gain
popularity. They gradually
replace traditional regional
and city beers.
Birth of “geuze”
On the occasion of the
Brussels World Expo, many
French visitors are expected.
In order to please these
traditional Champagne
drinkers, lambic brewers in
the region around Brussels
promote their “méthode
champenoise”, whereby
the flat lambic beer is
given more sparkle by bottle
conditioning. The Brussels
“Champagne”, dubbed
geuze lambic, achieves
international renown and
becomes a success story.
17th century
Establishment of the free
In order to evade the ever-in-
creasing duty on beer, many
breweries and distilleries
establish themselves in “free
cities” such as Lembeek,
located between the duch-
ies of Hainault and Brabant.
Lembeek gives the name
“lambic” to the beer made
there, brewed with 40%
wheat and spontaneous
fermentation in oak casks.
Birth of “Spéciale Belge”
Alarmed by the success of
pilsner beers, the Belgian
brewing colleges devise a
competition aimed at im-
proving Belgian beer. The
objective is to increase
the beer’s density, with an
alcohol content of 5% ABV,
just like pilsner. By refrig-
erating traditional Belgian
top-fermentation beers and
further saturating them with
carbon dioxide up to 5 or 6 g
of CO
/l, these beers obtain
the same effervescence and
foam as pilsner. They become
known as “Spéciale Belge”.