Brewery VBDCK and the evolution of Belgian India Pale Ales (IPA)


13 February 2019

Brewery VBDCK and the evolution of Belgian India Pale Ales (IPA)


Belgian IPAs are just coming to the market.  After Brasserie de la Senne and Brussels Beer Project’s fancy approaches, a new comer is about to challenge major actors: brewery VBDCK.  IPAs or India Pale Ales are currently challenging more traditional brews following a worldwide trend that is swiping old-style beers and alternating them with a craft beers approach. After some time, the revolution has finally come to Belgium and IPAs are beginning to be the reference for new craft breweries entering the market in 2019. Larger ones such as Duvel, are also following the trend by adding new (limited) dry hopping editions to their range every year.

Early in February, Belgibeer’s team set off for Temse in Flanders to visit brewery VBDCK located about 30-40 minutes drive from Brussels. Temse is about half way between Gent and Antwerp, mostly a rural settlement with its people actively involved in primary or secondary sectors.

Upon arrival the huge orange building facing the street greets visitors. The wall has words and symbols displayed on it, some numbers are even crossed out to remind guests of the brewery’s glorious past. Below the numbers stands the mention “Verbeeck-Back-De Cock” initials to VBDCK.

Passed the gates, a relatively huge parking lot welcomes visitors. As we parked and walked out of our vehicle a tall man (Jozef De Cock) in his thirties welcomes us and shows us the way to a beautifully decorated atrium with pictures displayed on walls together with a peculiar lighting game highlighting the brewery’s milestones. At the centre a showcase displayed all beers currently sold by the brewery. The building itself seemed high-tech, with lights and music following visitors as they move across sections.

Jozef directed us to the back of the building towards a veranda overviewing what resembled pastural fields. The veranda was spacious with numerous tables disposed near the large windows.

Within minutes, we were greeted by Charlotte, who together with her dad Philippe and brother Josef, renovated the brewery just a few years earlier. “We are NOT brewers to begin with, the family business has always been in the meat industry” she begins explaining.  “Some people may think it’s not a logical step, but it was easy for us to restart a processing business and we decided to go into beer production in 2015 right after my dad sold his shares to his brother”.

Her dad had been production manager for 37 years mostly dealing with processed meats. Charlotte’s brother had also teamed forces with her dad and ended up working at their father’s place for 10 years before kicking off the brewing project. Charlotte just five years and she oversaw purchases.

“We did not know what we were going to do with the money from the sales of my dad’s shares to my uncle, but as we lived in the village and frequently drove past this building” she explains “we fell in love with it immediately after our first visit”.

Charlotte explains that the brewery’s building was previously owned by an old, peculiar man, who lived there alone. Thanks to him “time had stopped” as they were able to appreciate the building in its 19th century splendour when they first moved in after the man’s death.

Shortly after the acquisition, the family discovered that two breweries had been previously operating onsite and Temse’s town hall still allowed for beer to be produced due to ancient contractual agreements passed two centuries ago. This triggered the family into taking an interest in the beer making process.

“We also got involved in the beer industry because we got positive vibes from the Belgian Family Brewers as well as believing that more innovative beers should be brewed in Belgium”. 

The family began brewing traditional Belgian beers as well as IPAs to train local palates into trying something distinct.  Their marketing is also strongly focused in declining the traditional symbolism of monks or abbeys currently so popular among Belgian brewers and more focused on innovative communication to attract new clients.

“We still like our blonds and triples, but there are so many out there and the world does not need more traditional Belgian beers”. The building reflects the trend with a modern German brewhouse. “My brother started brewing at the house on a reduced equipment of just 40 liters just after we purchased the brewery. With the help of acquaintances such as Yannick de Cocquéau, we were able to refine the recipes”. Yannick is a professional brewer who helped the family design better beers by using the right ingredients in the right quantities. After a while the recipes went from average to world class.  

In June 2017 the brewery was opened much to the family satisfaction who could finally start trading. “We began brewing large batches by serving local restaurants and also for our kick-off event with the press”.

Sales in the beginning were satisfactory as the family hired a local distributor to refill the region’s food and beverage. “We were happy to sell, but after a while we got a little concerned as we had no visibility upon where our beers were being dispatched, we were afraid of losing control”.

That was when the family decided to hire a sales person, Maxime. Since then sales skyrocketed.

The brewery’s primary marked is Belgium. The family feels that drinkers are shifting to more innovative beers, “but VBDCK’s beers still have a Belgian twist to it, making it accessible to local tastes”. 
 


“If you travel north to Holland”, Charlotte continues “brewers have a tap room serving 5-6 IPAs, but in Belgium this is not the case and we adapted our recipes to make them accessible to local tastes. Belgium is beginning to appreciate IPAs, but we are still lagging behind some major beer countries like the USA”.

 

VBDCK beers

The brewery has 9 beers.

VBDCK Beers
  1. Saison

First blond beer produced by the brewery quite dry, 5.5% ABV.  Won a gold medal at the World beer awards in 2018. 

  1. Bière de Garde

Amber coloured beer, 7% ABV. Caramel-malty flavoured, a forgotten beer style which is making its way back to the market.   Also won a gold medal at the World beer awards.

  1. Stout

Dark, coffee-style taste, 4.5% ABV. Accessible to average drinkers, frequently used for Thai dishes or Flemish stews.  

  1. Pink imperial

Imperial stout brewed with fresh raspberry, 8% ABV.  Sweet and sour taste perfect to end a meal. Among the top three at the brewery.

  1. Grapefruit IPA

Dark blond colour, 4.2% ABV. Grapefruit taste not from hops, but rather from grapefruit peelings. A time-consuming job, but well worth the effort. Ideal during the summer.

  1. Dark IPA

Brewed with rye malts, first sip is sweet and it develops to a dry aftertaste.  6% ABV.

  1. IPA

A session IPA at 4.3% ABV. Dark blond, well balanced, floral style. Accessible to drinkers who wish to try IPAs for the first time.

  1. New England Session IPA.

Hazy blond, only 2.5% ABV, many hops used. Ideal for work days lunch meals.

  1. Kaishaku

Blond beer at 15% ABV. Made with Japanese Sake yeast. Uniting Belgian and Japanese culture.

 

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