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Belgium - Hoegaarden

logo DK PublishingDK Publishing 02/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks


Stoopkensstraat 46, B3320, Hoegaarden, Belgium

Although this is now a brand in the portfolio of brewing giant InBev, it is the lifeblood and spirit of Pierre Celis, Belgium’s preeminent brewing revolutionary, that still haunts this brewery. Proof of this came in 2007, when InBev’s moguls wanted to close the plant: fate, however, obliged them to reverse their decision.

Hoegaarden Wit

beer style: Witbier
alcohol content: 4.9% ABV

From as early as the 18th century, the town of Hoegaarden was importing blue Curaçao oranges. The peel was mixed with coriander seeds, and, as the rich soil of the area yielded lots of wheat, a very distinct, fruity, and spicy style of beer evolved.

The Story of … Hoegaarden

A village called Hoegaarden, near Tienen in Flanders, is the modern birthplace of Belgian white beer. Records of brewing in the village date back to 1445, when the local monks were enthusiastic brewers, but the tradition died out in the 1950s.

The beer’s revival began in 1965, when milkman Pierre Celis decided to brew a beer in his hayloft that would be like the one he missed so much from his youth. With the help of a veteran brewer he founded the Cloister brewery—De Kluis in Flemish.

His brew soon gained cult status, especially among younger drinkers. In the 1980s, with demand for the beer continuing to grow, Celis bought a local soft drink factory that he rebuilt into a brewery. A fire at the brewery in 1985 led to Interbrew (now InBev) lending Celis money to rebuild. Over time, the loan became full ownership, and the relationship between the parties grew ill-tempered. Interbrew wanted a consistent, mass-market beer, while Celis continued to tinker with his recipe in the pursuit of brewing excellence. Eventually Celis left the company and set up in the US. In Europe, the Hoegaarden brand went from strength to strength and, in the last few years, the beer has been rolled out worldwide, with sales in excess of 120 million liters per annum.

Stoopkenstraat 46, 3320, Hoegaarden, Belgium

The key ingredients

Celis used the traditional ingredients for a white beer: water, yeast, raw wheat, malted barley, hops, cilantro seeds, and dried Curaçao orange peel.

Hoegaarden’s coppers

The brewing vessels at Hoegaarden are now used to brew more than the single style of witbier that Celis set out to recreate. The Speciale is a stronger version of Hoegaarden, while the Grand Cru is brewed without wheat at all, and uses only barley; as a bottle-conditioned beer, it improves over a number of years. There is also a beer brewed to an old German recipe, and a beer called Forbidden Fruit—a full-bodied, sweet, and malty brew.

Visitor center

The brewery is open to visitors and there can be few better places to enjoy a glass of Hoegaarden than in its own taproom and restaurant.

Staying put

Tradition plays a big part in the story of top-fermented beers, and InBev came in for stinging criticism worldwide when it announced plans to close the Hoegaarden plant in 2005 and move production to Jupille. This sparked protests locally and worldwide, with beer lovers demonstrating their anger at the plan. Finally, in September 2007, InBev had a change of heart and, as part of a €60 million investment in its Belgian breweries, the Hoegaarden site will stay open.

The Hoegaarden brand

While Celis wanted to continually adjust his recipe for Hoegaarden, Interbrew (now Anheuser-Busch InBev) wanted a consistent beer that they could market internationally.

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