The area around Ath, in the Wallonia region of Belgium, is known for more than simply its wonderful beer. Since medieval times, Ath has hosted an annual Parade of Giants known as “Ducasse”, in which “Gouyasse” (the local name for Goliath) leads other giant-sized figures through the streets, followed by brass bands, carnival floats, and throngs of normal-sized citizens in customary costumes. Not surprisingly, the local brewery, situated in a small town called Irchonwelz, is known as Brasserie des Géants (the Giants' Brewery).
Brasserie des Géants not only crafts big beers to match their name, they have a rather large piece of real estate as well. The brewery is situated inside the 13th century Chateau d’Irchonwelz. Yep, they brew their beer in a medieval castle – talk about Old World tradition! The site offers an interesting union of quaint charm and impenetrable fortitude. And, they don’t hesitate to point out on their brewery tours that the gate at the entrance was purposefully built tall enough to allow the occasional giant to pop in for a quick pint (or perhaps keg?) of beer.
The Giants’ Brewery was begun in 2000 by two young locals, Pierre Delcoigne and Vinciane Wergifosse, who built the brewery and operate it. With a background education in chemical and biochemical engineering, Pierre went on to graduate from the well-known Brewing Engineering program at the Louvain School of Brewing. In 1997, he and Vinciane acquired Castle Irchonwelz with the ambition of building their own brewery inside. After devoting two entire years to constructing and setting up the brewery, their first batch of “Gouyasse” went on sale in August of 2000.
Known for incorporating the giants theme in their marketing, such as with the aforementioned Gouyasse as well as a black currant flavored brew cleverly called “Ducassis”, Brasserie des Géants recently acquired another brewery known for using local lore in the naming of its beers: Brasserie d’Ellezelloise, in nearby Ellezelle, Belgium. In d’Ellezelloise’s case, it was the witch Quintine, known in local legend to have been the protector of the hills around the region’s rolling countryside. Unified, the two breweries are known, not surprisingly, as Brasserie des Légendes.
All of their beers are fit for giants and giant thirsts alike. But, in spite of their Giant name, Pierre and Vinciane brew only small batches of beer. While some are certainly considered “big” beers with high ABVs, and all are big on flavor, they are all produced in low-volume and distributed in limited quantities. Ironically, in a world dominated by European brewing conglomerates, our friends at Géants are far more akin to David than Goliath. We wonder how they feel about their position in that battle, given their love of giants and all… but we’re pretty sure they feel a connection with both characters, as they’re a little guy in a world of giant brewers, as well as a colossus in the art of brewing.