Monks have been brewing beer for almost nine centuries in the Belgian abbey of Grimbergen. We learned how local foamy varieties differ from German ones and how to combine them correctly. We met local holy fathers and even took a selfie with them. And We was convinced that dark beer is in perfect harmony with sweet panna cotta, and the word “monk” – not only with “selfie”, but also with “food pairing”.
On the eve of the capital Brussels met us by no means summer “plus 10” and vile drizzle. Manneken Pis stood without clothes that day and seemed to be freezing along with the tourists. A classic Belgian waffle with powdered sugar and chocolate for 4.5 euros at the Grand Place did not cheer you up for long. There was no particular desire to even look for the Pissing Girl, lost among the haunts of the “capital of Europe”. But the next morning, when we arrived in Grimbergen, which is 15 km from Brussels, the sun broke through.
Until we get to the beer, a bit of history. Today Grimbergen is a town with a population of 34 thousand people. In 1128, Norbert of Xanten founded one of the first Premonstratensian abbeys here. By that time, Norbert was 48, and in his youth he led a completely secular life. She changed, as was often the case with future saints, after miraculously avoiding death. Norbert rode, the horse was frightened of thunder, suffered. The young man miraculously did not die. He turned to spirituality, became a monk, traveled, preached. After his death, he was canonized as a saint. June 6, when Norbert died, is the day of his memory, and the monks of Grimbergen are called Norbertines. Now 11 of them live in the abbey.
On the cozy and incredibly well-groomed territory of the abbey there is a 17th-century basilica, the main building where the monks live, a vegetable garden where they grow hops for their mini-brewery. Another observatory, opened shortly after Gagarin’s flight, in 1967. Versatile monks not only communicate with the Almighty and brew beer, but also love to watch the stars. Therefore, not only beer lovers, but also schoolchildren are brought here on excursions. There is a restaurant and a children’s playground with swings and football goals – the whole family can relax on the territory.
Beer has been brewed here since the foundation of the abbey in 1128.
The brewery has always belonged to the abbey, but for the Grimbergen brand, Carlsberg has been paying royalties to the abbey for several years. The local brewery, of course, does not give industrial scale, but rather acts as a custodian of traditions and an experimental testing ground. This year it was possible to translate old recipes that had remained unread for 200 years. They were written in Latin and Old Dutch. Volunteers helped, it took four years to decipher!