Brouwerij Kerkom Bink Blond
Looking at the label of Brouwerij Kerkom‘s Bink Blond (5.5% ABV) inspires a smile, brought on by the promise of hops and history. There are certainly hops prominent here, but the history, in all its dray horse glory, is somewhat illusory since the world first got a taste of the beer in 1988. That said, beer has been brewed intermittently at Kerkom (Kerkom-bij-Sint Truiden, in Limburg, to be exact) for over a century, the label’s archaic ‘anno 1878′ adding to the sense of history.
For a building dated somewhere in excess of three hundred years, not much is known about the first two hundred. Perhaps a farm originally, with land concerns stretching farther than the hectare today. Then a place of hospitality along the road for weary horses and thirsty travellers. Certainly it was a cafe called La Renaissance immediately prior to its brewing story, when a medical student named Evarist Clerinx, in his final year, decided he wanted to brew beer, abandoned his studies, and bought the building. And there it stayed, in the Clerinx family, for three generations.
Brewing has not been without its problems. During the Great War the German occupation of Belgium saw the brewery’s closure, although it restarted production in 1920 under Clerinx’s son, Paul, and survived the next major war the world would throw at it. Paul’s son, Jean, took the reins in 1952 at a time when Alken, a local brewery famous for its Cristal lager, was gaining market share. The competition proved too much, with Jean halting production in 1968 and conceding to the adage that you should, if you can’t beat them, join them. Alken now — after a number of mergers, divestments, and acquisitions — finds itself as Alken-Maes, Belgium’s second largest brewer, although wholly owned by Heineken.
Jean’s retirement in 1988 brought about the revival of Brouwerij Kerkom. His passionate belief that everywhere should have a streekbier (local beer) saw his small brewery produce something for the Haspengouw region. Bink Blond was the result, a heavily hopped session beer (that’s session in the Belgian sense!) that, perhaps due to its farmhouse provenance, displays some characteristics of the saison.
Poured — and with surprisingly little sediment — its dark orange colour is crowned by a thick white head that retains some lacing as you make your way through. On the nose there’s a malty sweetness, some grass, and a trio of hinted fruits — orange, lemon, and a touch of peach. Low carbonation and a medium body make up the mouthfeel. Tastewise, it’s all malt, honey, and orange flavours rounded off with a rather strong and addictive bitterness. A very refreshing beer.
Although he created Bink Blond, Jean Clerinx would be the last of his family to brew it, succession planning in the modern world being what it is, and no children wishing to continue the story. After finding his successor in Marc Limet, a local beer enthusiast, the beers have continued from 1999 (Limet eventually bought the building in 2003) to now with new beers being added along the way. However, with Kerkom’s history of brewing pauses, the story has struck again due to European laws and their demands for modernisation, with the brews currently split between other breweries — Sint Jozef and the Proefbrouwerij — until the new brewing kit is installed sometime in 2014. Many things may be relatively new at Brouwerij Kerkom, but it still has its history to fall back on.
January 5, 2014