Beer 101

Belge Special Ale – A Top Fermenting Victory

The perfect, affordable amber beer

Copper toned with a fruity aroma and exuding conviviality: Palm Brewery’s Spéciale Belge Ale is the perfect, affordable amber beer with reasonable alcohol content. Made for socialising, the smooth drinking ale derives its colour from the toasted malts that caramelise naturally during the brewing process. Aromatic hops from Kent supply a subtle bitterness and balance the sweet, honey notes of the ale.

Special Belge Ale was developed by Arthur Van Roy early in the twentieth century and as a top fermented beer, it is steeped in Belgian brewing tradition. Palm Brewery brings together a team of artisan family brewers, keen to deliver authentic, craft beers and build meaningful relationships with consumers.

The Belgian brewing tradition dates back to the 12th century when French and Flemish abbeys were granted permission by the Catholic Church raise funds by brewing and distributing beer. War, political movements, and foreign occupation had a significant influence on the growth and development of Belgian beer. Monasteries closed their doors during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars resulting in the loss of industry knowledge which had a significant impact on brewing tradition. It would take many years for monasteries to reopen and begin diversifying their beer production. According to George Lacambre in his book, Complete Treaty of Beer Making, Belgian brewers began to experiment with oats and wheat in their recipes in 1851. At this time, though, the beer market was flooded by imported ales from England and Germany. Belgian breweries were small in comparison; their equipment and therefore their product was inferior.

With a history dating back to 1525, the site of Palm Brewery (known as the De Hoorn property) in Steenhoffel, had already been rebuilt in the latter years of the 16th century. Heavy fighting saw it crumble and sit vacant for decades. Through the 18th century, the house was owned by Andries Van Doorselaer who used the land for agriculture, housed horses and dairy cattle and welcomed tired travellers to the inn and restaurant. The estate contained brew kettles and cooling containers and a combustion plant. There was also a malt kiln for the germination of the malting barley and to dry the locally grown hops. In time, Van Doorselar opened his own brewery. Several historical documents reference the brewery, indicating that it produced the most beer in the village.

In 1801, De Hoorn was sold to the De Mesmaecker family. Arthur Van Roy, a descendant of a brewing family in Wieze, married into the De Mesmaecker family in 1908 and began industrial development to expand the brewery well beyond Steenhoffel.

Van Roy presided over the reconstruction of the brewery after World War One and found that it was not financially viable to invest in the refrigeration technology for bottom fermented pilsner beers. In 1929, Van Roy proudly labelled his top fermented Belgian Ale, ‘Speciale Palm’. The success of this beer after the Second World War led Van Roy to expand the brewery and achieve national recognition. The brewery has continued to operate as a traditional, family run craft business. Van Roy’s nephew carried the family tradition through to become an internationally recognised brewery in the late twentieth century.

Palm Belgian Craft Brewers

Palm Brewery became Palm Belgian Craft Brewers in 2014 and in recent years, the Swinkels family acquired a majority share in the company. Like Van Roy, the Swinkels family pride themselves on craftmanship, taking pains to honour the history of each of their products.

The Belgian draught horse appeared on Palm’s labelling in 1980 to pay homage to their agricultural background and natural brewing processes. Palm has recently updated their packaging; the horse still features prominently and is encircled by a wreath of barley. The lines are clean, and the stark white background emphasises the simplicity of their message: this beer is derived from nature with care taken to maintain traditional brewing processes, dating back centuries.

In 2014, Palm opened a new micro-brewery where brewmasters experiment with new combinations of herbs, spices, hops, fruit and wood. There are four brewmasters who stake claim to their own specialty ingredient and brew in an artisan fashion, slowly and consistently. The brewery has the same capacity as the original De Hoorn house and was named in its honour.

Heron Beverages stock 330mL cans, 20L and 50L kegs of Palm Brewery’s Belge Speciale Ale.

Looking for craft beer in Australia? Check out our breweries.

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