Leireken - Buckwheat Ale
People have different passions. Beer, cycling, trains, the countryside, traditional farming, and healthy foods are but half a dozen contemporary enthusiasms that might meet over a Leireken.
A fondness for nicknames is perhaps universal, but the shared language of Flanders and the Netherlands, two small and vulnerable nations, seems to find comfort diminutives - some of which turn out to be longer than the original.
The forename Valeir becomes Leireken. A bearer of this nickname was the driver of a train plying between the French border country and Antwerp. The line passed through the hop-growing town of Aalst and the ale country of Flemish Brabant (with brews like Palm, at Steenhuffel; and Op-Ale, at Opwijk).
After part of the railway closed in the 1950s, driver Leireken was remembered in the naming of a weekend café in a former station on the line at Steenhuffel. The track there had been turned into a bicycle route. Cyclists tend to be health-conscious, but also thirsty. This planted a thought in the mind of Leo De Smedt, who did not wish to be the last brewer in his family.
Among other issues, the decline in the sale of ales had obliged him to sell control of the family's brewery, in Opwijk, to the Heineken group (to which it contributes the Affligem abbeye).
Using revenue from the sale, De Smedt took the ghost train South to a district where the cultivation of buckwheat and spelt is being revived for brewing. With the help of veteran brewer Jean-Luc Suys, he is producing the Leireken range at Silenrieux.
Products thus far include Special Spelt, Dark and this month’s featured Buckwheat Ale.
A swirly lemon curd color, and palate. The emphatic fruitiness brings a sweetness that is counter-punched by a bitter nuttiness. Almost crunchy.
This is a buckwheat beer. Robust; full of flavor. You will not be bored. Can a beer be described as "entertaining"?
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