05 July 2016

Antwerp - 2 - Seef bier

On a Saturday lunchtime visit to the excellent Aura Brasserie, Hoogstraat 34, Antwerp, we followed a suggestion to try Seef bier from Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie.
Pronounced 'safe', Seef bier (6.5% ABV) proved to be a refreshing pale ale and one that we would be lucky to find again at our next stop.
Antwerp City Hall fronting onto Grote Markt
Cathedral of Our Lady (RC)
The Beer Passion Weekend (24-26 June 2016) at Groenplaats was only a short walk from the brasserie and we would pass Antwerp City Hall and the gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and a well disguised 'human statue' on the way there.
Cathedral of our Lady viewed from Goeneplaats, Antwerp
We already had some 2 euro jetons / tokens from our visit the previous evening, to pay for a 20 cl serving of draught or bottled beer from any of the brewery stalls within the railings in the central area of the square.
Tram tracks ran around the edge of the square and a horse drawn tram for tourists, decorated with a Seef bier advertisement, passed by.
We also noticed a van bearing the Seef bier logo parked next to a beer festival marquee.
Bootjes Bier
A wagon next to the marquee was serving Seef bier and Bootjes bier so it was time to swap a jeton for a glass of Bootjes bier (7% ABV), a second beer from Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie. Bootjes bier is described as a beer tribute to the famous Antwerp Red Star Line, a 'transatlantic' amber-red ale brewed using four malts without any added sugar, generous yet balanced in Belgian and US aromatic hops, finished with ginger and coriander.
While we were all drinking our Bootjes bier we were approached by a hen party group with the fiancee collecting money for drinks by allowing an attached sweet to be bitten off her top. Simon, wearing a BeerPassie Weekend t-shirt (right), obliged and afterwards we persuaded her to pose with us. (Thanks to Mark for taking the photo.)
Johan Van Dyck at Beer Passion Weekend 2016
Later in the afternoon we spotted Johan Van Dyck, resembling the brewer in the pop-up banner. I introduced myself and gave Johan a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine. Johan talked to us about the brewery which has just started a crowdfunding campaign to finance a new brewery and taproom in Antwerp. Seef bier was first featured at the Beer Passion Weekend in 2012 and was brewed to Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie specifications at Brouwerij Roman, the oldest family brewery in Belgium. After meeting him in 2012, Roger Protz wrote about Johan Van Dyck's background as marketing director at Duvel Moortgat brewery before he left to set up Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie.
Johan told us about initial difficulties finding outlets for Seef bier as many bars are owned or supplied direct by large breweries. However by providing branded glasses initially, followed by an enamel sign and a model figure for bars with the largest sales, penetration is steadily improving.
The crowdfunding campaign, launched in June 2016, offers 'Gold' investors (150 €) a beer a month, 'Diamond' investors (250 €) as Gold plus a nameplate in the brewery and 'Platinum' investors (1000 €) as Diamond plus a private visit to the brewery for 40 people. I'm sure that Simon, Mark, Andy, Richard, Keith and John join me in hoping that the crowdfunding is successful so that we can enjoy a visit to the new Antwerp brewery and taproom on future visits to the city!
Johan Van Dyck explained that Seef bier is a recreation of an old beer style in Antwerp that was lost in the 20th century as the popularity of lager increased. It took some time for Johan to locate a recipe for the beer. With help from the University of Leuven and the Delvaux Beer Centre he was also able to obtain a yeast culture. Seef bier is brewed with Belgian hops from Poperinge and a blend of malted barley, wheat, buckwheat and oats. Seven weeks of maturation follow the primary fermentation. The unfiltered beer is then bottled. Roger Protz includes further details and tasting notes in his 2012 report. Des de Moor has also written about Seef bier after tasting it at Zythos Bierfestival in 2012.
Seef bier has received several World Beer Awards for the Pale Ale category. Adrian Tierney-Jones is the International Chairman for the expert judges from each country.
In addition to the brewery's facebook page and website www.seef.be you can follow the accounts of its founders Johan Van Dyck and Karen Follens on Twitter.

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