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Other Letters From America

Beer in Luxembourg
Is there any, apart from Pils?
by TheLongBeachBum Link to our Belgium page and brewery websites

Beer in Luxembourg – is there any apart from Pils? Well yes, but first a quick history lesson.

Luxembourg was created in 963 and it became a Grand Duchy in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars. It managed to maintain some autonomy after this time, and gained full independence from Belgium and the Netherlands in 1867. Of course, it was overrun by Germany in both World Wars, resulting in an end to it’s neutrality in 1948. A member of NATO and one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the EU), in 1999 it joined the €uro currency area. The national language, called Letzeburgesch (Luxembourgisch), is a Germanic language. French and German are also used in official publications and in schools though.  

It has a population of around 450,000, and is only 1,000 sq.miles, a little smaller than the State of Rhode Island. It does have one claim to fame though. It is the only Grand Duchy in the World, still having a Constitutional Hereditary Monarchy. It is also the smallest of the European Member States but has one of the highest standards of education and living anywhere. Taxes are low; there is no illiteracy and a GDP/Head of $43,500. (FYI: US $34k & UK $24k)  

Luxembourg is to Beer, what Korea is to Car-Making. It’s trying hard and making progress, but it is not quite there yet. Of course, it is totally outshadowed by its large beer cultured neighbors, and has a lot to live up to. To the North and West, Belgium brews a plethora of styles and arguably some of the Worlds finest strong beers. Eastwards and its fiercely proud German cousins also have an envious beer pedigree. To its South lies France, which whilst renowned for fine wines, still produces better known beers than the Grand Duchy.

 

 

So what is there for the Beer traveler in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (GDoL) then? Well there are now 7 Breweries in Luxembourg. 4 of the 7 have been around for some years. They are…

 

 

1. Brasserie de Luxembourg Mousel-DieKirch, DieKirch

 

The rather grand name for Interbrew’s presence in the Grand Duchy. The bastards get everywhere it seems. DieKirch is an old name in the fermentation business in these parts, and was formed in 1871. You know you are in Luxembourg when all the red & white Belgium Jupiler pub signs are replaced by, well red & white DieKirch ones. In 1999, they merged with Mousel (which then closed) and Interbrew took a controlling interest in the new company.

The Brewery in Diekirch has an output of 250,000 hl per annum, and is by far the Grand Duchy’s largest beer manufacturer. 1 in every 2 pints brewed in the Grand Duchy is made here, and even allowing for Exports, it is responsible for 40% of the beer drunk in the GD. Most of its offerings are well below average bland dog-piss “Pils” lagers. Maybe the only half-decent beer they make is Mousel Gezwiecklete Bier, a 4.8% unfiltered lager that is barely palatable when imbibed after partial inebriation.

 

 

2. Brasserie Bofferding, Bascharage  

A supposedly independent Brewery that seems to be more focused on giving the DieKirch pub signs a run for their money, rather than their beers; for the green and white Bofferding signs are also everywhere. It does however have an output of some 160,000 hl from its Brewery making it the second largest in the GD. Its strength is the fact that it owns over 1,100 Cafés in the GD, and some 350 in Belgium, mainly the south. It has therefore a captive market for most of its beer production, maybe this is why it does not “export”. So maybe its claim that 50% of the beer drunk in the GD is from Bofferding may be true. Having tried both the regular Bofferding beers recently, I can confirm that they are one notch above those of DieKirch, but only just. They are unpasteurised, which is an improvement, but sadly still concentrate on the lager style. Their standard Pils is clean tasting, but average. However, the Hausbéier, which comes in a green Grolsch styled stoppered bottle, should be sought out – for it is a very accomplished premium lager. It is also rumored to be brewing some good Seasonal beers, but I have never had any.

 

3. Brasserie Simon, Wiltz

Third largest at 25,000 hl. The tap handle spaces left by the above – are usually filled by Simon Pils. The Simon name dates from the early 1800’s, and even though the Brewery was completely destroyed in WW2, after rebuilding and a merger in the late 60’s, it continues to brew its beers today. Its claim to fame is that it is responsible for introducing Wheat Beer into the Pils drowned Grand Duchy, and it has stayed a regular beer so the experiment worked. Not often seen in the GD, but a Brewery to keep an eye on, for they have some great Plans including regular special and seasonal brews from a small experimental brewery that they have set up in a nearby Castle. They just seem to lack the Outlets to implement the distribution at the moment though.

 

4. Brasserie Battin, Esch-sur-Alzette  

With an output of 12,000 hl per annum, Battin is the smallest, and until recently the newest, of the Breweries in Luxembourg. The 4 regular beers are very hard to find outside of a 10 mile exclusion zone around the Brewery it seems. However, this may change soon as it has recently set up a distribution deal with the much larger Bofferding. The Battin Gambrinus Pils 5.2% is quite good for a Pils, but its best beer is the Battin Urtyp Pilsner at 5.5% a really clean tasty Pilsner.

 

 

Well it all seems a bit “doom-and-gloom” doesn’t it? Well, not quite, for at last, a Beery resurgence appears to be on the cards. During my recent annual Easter Belgium Trip I was fortunate enough to visit the 3 newest Breweries in the GDoL…

 

5. Brasserie Salaisons Hotel “Beierhaascht”, Bascharge  

Bascharge, now that place name seems familiar I think to myself. As I look out of the Coach window, we pass the Bofferding Brewery, which resembles a chemical plant. Thankfully, just up the road from Bofferding lies the newly opened Beierhaascht. The Brasserie/Salaisons/Hotel “Beierhaascht” is a large modern building that houses a massive purpose built, fully automatic, stainless steel - no money spared Brewery.  

I have to be honest and say that the beers here were a little disappointing though. The Notre Blonde was very average, nothing wrong with it - just average. The Notre Brune was a little unbalanced for me and too much of a grainy feel to it. They had a wheat beer in the tanks also, but it was not ready for consumption just yet – the beer range here will also be expanded in time. A Slaughterhouse, Boucherie, Hotel, Brewery and Restaurant all in one, not many can say that. The biggest of the newcomers, but not the best, the beer is only average. Hopefully it will improve as it gains experience.

 

6. Cornelyshaff, Kalborn

This is absolutely Brand New; the Cornelyshaff Brewery only went into commercial operation only last month. It is a Cooperative formed by local farmers, eager to pool their resources and become less dependent on subsidies. They have done a mightily impressive job. The Building may be old but the 10 hl Brewery is state-of-the-art, these Luxembourgers have some serious money at their disposal.

Another custom built all stainless steel, fully automatic plant (where do these Luxembourgers get all their money from??) with a full time German Brew Master at the helm which ensures consistent high quality beers. The Brewery only went commercial on the 4th April 2003 & our party was amongst the first to visit it. But this is no normal Brewery, for they use their local ingredients where possible. The Brewery makes two permanent beers. Ourdaller Waïssen Tarwebier is 4.6% ABV, and is an unfiltered wheat beer that is quite different to your usual Wheatbeer, for they use Spelt. Ourdaller Wëllen is 6.8% ABV, and also unfiltered, a naturally cloudy beer brewed with Buck Wheat. 2 other beers on sale during our visit were both Specials; Héinischter which was 4.2%ABV and a very respectable Pils. Cornely, a dark 4.7%ABV strange 'mish-mash' Amber Ale that had some redeeming ESB character to it. They also produce Ourdaller Béierdrepp, which at 42% ABV is a kick-ass clear spirit distilled from the Ourdaller beers. It is usually drunk as a “chaser” with the Ourdaller Wëllen. Good beer, that I feel will just get better with time.
 

7. Brasserie Artisanale de Redange, Redange

Jean Bollendorf -"Bully"

Now we’re talking!!! Probably the smallest Brewery in the GD, but the nicest & most atmospheric “nearly newest” Brew Pub in the GD. Visited on 4/19/03. A Brewery that closed in 1880, that was reopened in 2001, with a new small, but custom-built German plant you will be glad to hear. And guess what, no f***ing Pils!!! And the Brewer, Jean Bollendorf has absolutely no intention of making one - Good stuff.

Visitors from Wakefield

The Brewer focuses on producing Organic Beers. At present Okult #1 – Blanche, Okult #2 – Rousse and Okult #3 – Blonde are the regular beers. In addition, a really good Okult Stout has also been introduced, which may well be the first commercial Stout produced in the GDoL to my limited knowledge. The Brewer also plans Specials and Seasonals. The regular beers are good but can only be described as above average. The Brewer admits to wanting to “improve” his beers, and looking at the local competition, he admits he can only do this by traveling and learning from beers made in other countries. He has already been to England and regaled the virtues of the Green Dragon Pub @ Bungay and the St. Peters Brewery, clearly both favorites and establishments to which he aspires. A fantastic heart warming addition to the beer scene.

 

Although part of the EU, with its supposedly borderless free trade, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has somehow repelled invasions from Brewers in other Countries. Rarely are the beers from the GD seen in other Countries though. It is almost as if this small enclave has a force field impenetrable to beer around its borders. So if there is to be a real beer resurgence, then it will probably be from within. Well I am glad to report that the real beer resurgence has actually started, and I am sure we will be hearing more from the Grand Duchy again in the near future. Maybe they will even start exporting one day. Well its beery neighbours have nothing worry about just yet. They have some way to go to refine their beers and wean the average Luxembourgian off of bland Euro-Lager. But I do hope the exploration into different styles by the “newbies” continues a pace though; because I for one want an alternative to drinking the ubiquitous shitty bland Euro “Pils”.

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