Breaking from tradition can not only be difficult, it can be dangerous. Deviation from the norm often upsets the hegemonic rule tacitly adhered to when we fail to question the world around us. (No, this is not the beginning of our manifesto…) As a member of this club, you already know that most people choose not to question, especially when it comes to their beer; they imbibe what is served to them, what’s most common, what the ‘TV-looky-box’ suggests will make them more attractive to women, and, a better sports fan. But you have taken a different path. You have elected to seek out the best, not the biggest. You question the norm, and even suggest to others that they do the same as you try to steer your friends and family to the enriching experience so often found in the pursuit of better beer.
So, we know that you will appreciate the story of Hildegard of Bingen, a woman of the Rhine River Valley (now Germany) who was dedicated by her parents to the Church at birth, sent off to a Benedictine monastery, and eventually became the founder of a convent, a theologian and philosopher, a musical composer, a seer, scientist and healer, pioneer of holistic medicine, and, more or less, the forebear of the women's liberation movement—all back in the 12th Century A.D., a time when women were regarded as little more than property, hardly ever educated, and generally unable to read or write. But Hildegard gave counsel to popes and kings, and produced many important works in a range of disciplines. She is considered by many to be the first writer ever to describe the female orgasm, and was known for her positive views on sex (not typical of the Church at that time). Questioning the establishment? You betcha. And among all her other specialties, she was a major advocate of the use of hops in beer—something barely done at the time, as the herb-and-spice blends used to bitter beer (called “gruit”) were often made exclusively by the Church.
The folks behind Brasserie St. Germain likewise appreciated the story of Hildegard, naming many of their beers after her, and making reference to a treatise that legend tells she wrote, called “The Benefits of Beer.” On page 24, according to legend, she revealed a great secret, which men have fought to obtain for generations. No copies of the treatise exist in the modern world, and no one knows what the great secret was. Speculation abounds about what the secret could have been, and many historians agree that no such treatise ever existed, but the allure of this mystery has endured for generations.
For the brewers at St. Germain, they seem to think the secret is “more hops!” In this regard, they have broken with regional tradition since their inception in 2003. Their brewery, in French Flanders, is not well known for its heavy handedness when it comes to dosing beers with hops, but St. Germain has focused around the power and glory of the flower that so inspired Hildegard, and, legions of beer geeks worldwide. After only six years in the brewing game, the tiny Brasserie St. Germain has made its mark as, indisputably, the most awarded brewery in France. Try any of their beers, and you’ll discover for yourself that the reason why is no mystery at all.