While Belgium is known for its well-established breweries whose years of experience are counted in the centuries, there are a number of up-and-coming brewers in Belgium. It's not hard to understand why, with all the amazing beers available in their own backyards; it makes perfect sense that folks who have grown up on some of the best beer their side of the Atlantic would gravitate toward the brewing industry. But despite the brewing infrastructure that exists there, it's still no easy feat getting one's own brewery assembled and running. That's where contract brewing, what might seem like a domestic, outsourced-happy export from the states, comes in to play. The key difference being the breweries that make their services available on a pay-to-brew basis aren't the young, money-hungry, fly-by-night entrepreneurial capitalists that you might expect in the US... They're breweries that have been around for decades if not centuries.
The folks behind the De Struise Brouwers have made use of the local brewing infrastructure since deciding to get into the brewing business. For about the past three years they've been doing their brewing at the Brasserie Caulier in Péruwelz, Belgium. This brewery, though well-respected and abundantly capable of producing great beer, was a bit of a drive for them to get out to. This distance meant that some of the brewing and post-brewing steps that were overseen by the contract brewery owners/workers couldn't reliably be quality-controlled by De Struise Brouwers. In early 2006 they moved their production base to the old Brouwerij Deca in the famed Belgian brewing Mecca of Flanders (specifically, Vleteren). Only a 10 minute drive from their homes, it makes their brewing process that much more convenient, and permits them to faithfully oversee all of the brewing, aging and storage processes from the moment the grains are milled to the time the beers are loaded onto palates for delivery to thirsty folks through the EU (and now the US—consider yourself lucky—you're one of the first US citizens to enjoy this beer domestically!)
The old Deca Brewery is a stone's throw away from the legendary Sint Sixtus Brewery (brewers of the incomparable Westvleteren Trappipst Ales, considered by many aficionados to be the best beers in the world). Deca's cast-iron mash and infusion kettles were pressed into service in 1917 and their brew kettle is an old, authentically Flemish one, complete with brick mantle.
De Struise Brouwers is a group of friends who started to brew beer at an ostrich farm (hence the name: struisvogel means ostrich but struis in colloquial language is a strong, tall guy).Considering these humble beginnings only hammers home the point that, without exaggeration, the De Struise Brouwers are brewing in the shadows of giants, but being in such good company certainly works in their favor. We had the pleasure of tasting four of their commercially available beers, and have selected Struise Witte as our second international feature. We expect to bring you more in the coming years, as we're particularly fond of their fine brews.
For more information about the brewery, check out their web site: http://www.struisebrouwers.be.