An evening with Heverlee’s Master Brewer Joris Brams

Another lovely beer event invitation that would’ve been wasted on me – so I sent along my colleague Matt, who is far more qualified in this area and this is how he got on….


Matt Robinson is the Design Director at Tayburn and has rebranded Black Wolf, Bill’s Beer and even taken his own real ale to market (Maid in Leith). You can check out his new beer blog here and find him on twitter here.

I was lucky enough to bag an invitation to Edinburgh’s Sygn bar last Tuesday, for an evening sampling Heverlee’s recently launched Witte beer – a limited edition summer white beer. Making the trip from Leuven, Belgium was Heverlee’s master brewer Joris Brams. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to engage in some geekery with an expert brewer, and quiz him over the finer points of brewing. So I headed along to the party.


A quick bit of background: Belgian born Joris worked with the monks of Park Abbey, Leuven, to uncover a variant of the Vogelmelk flower which is unique to the grounds of the abbey build in 1129 and helped to inspire the new beer’s creation. Extensive restoration work has been undertaken to restore the abbey, so drinking this beer was an act of charity-by association. Everyone’s a winner.

Speaking openly about Belgium, brewing and beer, Joris appeared not to have made the trip just for a hard sell. Instead, in a rare act of marketing democracy, he took us on a voyage of his favourite seasonal Belgian beers, describing the history, brewing processes and tasting notes of each one.img_6841

Haverlee Witte
Unsurprisingly, we were all eager to sample Joris’ newest creation. It’s a great looking beer, with a light amber body and a thick white head. It’s quite a viscous beer, offering a thicker mouthfeel than some other beers in the category. But full bodied in texture doesn’t mean heavy in flavour – this is a light beer with lots of subtle and complex notes to uncover – it’s sweet, citrus and spicy with a well rounded finish, subtle both in its bitterness and sourness, making it a great accompaniment to seafood, herby salads or even desserts (its orange-citrus notes would handle a cheesecake brilliantly).

Info for geeks:

Pale malt, malted wheat and unmalted wheat (40% total), oats
Hops: Saaz
Additions: Orange peel
Yeast: Open-cask fermentation
IBU: 12
ABV: 4.8%

Blanche de Namur
A much paler, thinner witbier with a herbal aroma of with hints of banana and lemon. Traditionally, this beer would be brewed with older hops exposed to air for extended periods, to impart flavour of dank spice, but this is now achieved by adding coriander and orange peel.

One of the more commercially available witbiers, pale with a zesty aroma, slightly tart and an uncharacteristic bitterness for its style; the ever-growing demand for heavily hopped beers clearly influencing its profile. Populist, but still a favourite amongst the experts.

Celis White
From the creator of the original Hoegaarden (Pierre Celis, known affectionately as the ‘Pope of Witbier) Celis White was the thinnest, driest and spiciest subject of the evening. More faithful to the traditional witbier flavour profile, but the least interesting beer in comparison to its company.

Daas Witt
An unusual witbier that uses a layering process to achieve a clearer body and a crisp, bitter finish. The least popular of the evening, perhaps owing to the sharp contrast in flavour profile.


Compared to its peers, Heverlee was the clear favourite of the evening. This could easily have been a carefully engineered experience to ensure Heverlee Witte came out on top. But it’s a worthy victor – easy to drink with subtle complexities that ensure session drinkers and witbier experts are equally well attended. It’s a pity this is a limited edition, available only this summer. But that’s irrelevant – I suspect stocks will be sold out well before the season ends.


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