Brouwerij Van Steenberge - Witches' Brew

Brouwerij Van Steenberge - Witches' Brew

Beer Club featured in Rare Beer Club





Alcohol by Volume:


Brouwerij Van Steenberge - Witches' Brew

  • ABV:

  • Serving Temperature:

    45-50° F
  • Suggested Glassware:

    Goblet or Snifter
perfect beer for the Halloween season, for obvious reasons. Be the extra cool house on the block this year and offer samples as “treats” to your over 21 adult trick or treaters… Or just get suited up in your “dead guy on the porch” or “scarecrow” outfit, sip the Witches’ Brew between visitors, get good and sauced, then scare the bejesus out of ‘em by coming back from the dead when they approach. Halloween. What a great holiday—one of the few remaining that permits you to frighten young children without an automatic response from child protective services, but we digress… Of course, this brew isn’t brewed with anything unique to the season (no eye of newt, bladder of frog, or toe of raccoon) so it’s great any time of year, and, will age nicely due to its high ABV and bottle-conditioning—so when you get locked up for gettin’ boozed up and scaring the kiddies, it will still be waiting for you when you get out. Pours a slightly hazy golden amber color with peach colored highlights, topped by a massive white sticky head that forms mountainous patches of stickage atop the head as it slowly “crumbles” more so than it recedes. On the nose, expect notes of honey, lilac, bubble gum, orange juice, wet talcum, hints of sweet creamed corn, a faintly clove-like profile, spicy hops, lemon zest, and fumey alcohol. Look for notes of pineapple to develop prominence as the beer warms, along with an earthy, herbal/grassy element. The Witches’ Brew, at the start, goes down slightly salty and almost meaty on the palate with notes of rock candy, and perry (pear cider). But like a witches’ brew stewing in a cauldron, the character changes as it warms and breathes. Look for complex mead-like honey flavors to arise a bit later in the experience. Note the impressive mouthfeel; quite viscous and highly carbonated. The two in tandem produce a silky luscious feel with just a bit of the carbonation adding to the overall bite, off-setting an otherwise very sweet beer. Toward the finish, grainy pear skins and slightly toasted Belgian malt develop. After breathing for a spell and degassing a bit, the saltier, meatier component found upfront is quenched by the blossoming honeyed sweet floral aromatics (think rose hips) and a slightly peppery alcoholic kick. Despite the overall sweetness in the palate, the hops, carbonation and alcohol levels dry out the palate quite nicely leaving behind herbal notes and afterbreaths of nectar and fresh flowers. As they claim on the label, this beer does cast a nice spell on its imbiber. Pair with gruesome makeup and scary Nordic-industrial-death-metal.
From the wellspring of great brewing that is Belgium comes the Van Steenberge family brewery. Founded in 1874 by Jean-Baptist De Bruin, the brewery has remained in the family since. Jean-Babtist set up a brewery next to his farm. Despite his marriage to wife Angelina Schelfaut, the couple remained childless. Never a good thing for those with visions of keeping the family brewery going. Fortunately, Angelina's nephew, Jozef Schelfaut, had learned the art of brewing, and upon Angelina’s death (at the age of 92!), she entrusted Jozef Schelfaut with running the family brewery. The benefit of being a farm-based brewery is that, in theory, you can produce just about every ingredient necessary for the brewing process. But it’s no small feat to do so. These days, nearly all brewers order their gains already malted and already kilned, and their hops already plucked or even pressed into pellet form. But this was not the route that Jozef Schelfaut took. In order to provide for the production of the necessary ingredients, he (admirably) set up his own two-hectare hops field and also constructed a malt house and accompanying oasthouse (the name for a traditional hops drying building). Jozef Schelfaut: builder, brewer, maltster, harvester of hops, and shrewd businessman, able to get his beers featured near and far, helping secure the success of his family brewery. His daughter, Margriet, wed Paul Van Steenberge, a chemical engineer who became a professor of microbiology at the Sint-Lievens brewery school in Ghent and at the Agriculture Faculty of the University of Ghent. When Jozef Schelfaut died in 1922, Paul Van Steenberge had gained enough knowledge to take over the family business, and eventually became the mayor of Ertvelde. Being busy on the mayoral front, it was largely thanks to his wife Margriet that the brewery stayed alive, particularly as Paul moved from mayor to senator. Paul’s son, Jozef, studied law but still ended up in the brewery, taking over the business after his father's death in 1962. Today, Paul Van Steenberge (II), son of Jozef and grandson of Paul Van Steenberge (I), heads the brewery. He entered the family business in 1978 and in 1985 took over the management from his father. The brewery produces some very highly acclaimed beers, most quite difficult to find (you may have come across their famed ‘Piraat’, a brutally hopped, uncommon Belgian IPA style beer, and their world classic ‘Gulden Draak’ beers). We snatched up one of their very limited edition, barely distributed products for our members—so, get your bottles chilled, your appropriate glassware ready, proceed on to the tasting notes, and enjoy this rare beer!
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