The Land of Beer: Oud Beersel keeps the lambic tradition alive


Flanders is home to the best beer in the world and our new guide is here to prove it. This week we visit a family brewer from Beersel, Flemish Brabant

Back from the dead

Early in 2003, Gert Christiaens was in a Brussels pub known for its old-style geuzes and krieks. “I used to go there a lot to drink with my friends,” he says. “And the owner told me: ‘These are the last bottles of Oud Beersel. Next time you come, I won’t be able to serve them to you because the brewery has closed down’.”

Not only did Christiaens (pictured) occasionally drink Oud Beersel, but he remembered it from his childhood. “When I was a little, I used to come here with my Dad when he was buying beer. My parents lived not far from here.”

So he took matters into hand. He looked up the number for Oud Beersel and called the brewmaster directly. “He told me his nephew had been keeping the brewery going for the last 10 years but was fed up. The brewing installation wasn’t working anymore; there had been no investments for the last 30 years, so everything was old and hard to work with. And he was also managing the bar next to the brewery.”

The owners sold the bar and everything in it to Christiaens, including a valuable old organ and all of their bottled and barrelled beer. “I had to start learning how to make lambic beers, here with the old brewmaster and at a course in Ghent every Saturday morning for two years. I had studied economics with IT management, so I knew nothing about beer production. I was a good consumer, but I didn’t know how to make beer.”

He started learning, he said, “with the aim of safeguarding the traditional lambic beer culture, and that’s still what we want to achieve today.”

Oud Beersel is now one of Flanders’ most popular geuzes and regularly wins awards, most recently the Best Sour Beer prize from the World Beer Awards for its Oude Geuze.

“We’re known for our mild lambic beers, too,” says Christiaens. “That vinegar acidity is not for us. You have some producers who want to make extreme beers, but our aim is actually to safeguard traditional lambic beers. And if you want to safeguard them you have to produce beers people want to drink.”

Because without customers, he says, “the traditions will disappear. For me it’s very important that we can produce beers that are enjoyable to everyone, not just to beer fanatics.”

Photo: Rob Mitchell/

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