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The Mad Brewer


October 31, 2000

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Het Dreefhuys
Bergomsestraat 48
2230 Herselt


Day 6, Wooden Head

A very short night, sleepwise that is, as Paul and Fons are taking us to Achel, the newest Trappist brewery.  It was about a 2 hour drive, to just a few meters from the border of Holland.  The location seems rather desolate, and the cafeteria/tasting rooms is virtually desserted.  Appearently, the location is very popular in the summer with cyclers, when they have as many as 2000 customers a day.

Brother Thomas, of the Westmalle monestary, commissioned the brewery from the groud up.   It's housed in the former stables, which have been extensively renovated on the inside.  The brewing capacity is 2000 liters per batch.  Ther are lagering tanks for 8000 liters, and 6 serving tanks of 1000 liters size.  The serving tanks, located in the attic, are quite interesting.  The tanks are lined with a platic bag, which holds the carbonated beer.  On the outside of the bag is pressurized air.  This keeps the carbonation level constant, at any beer volume.  Quite a clever scheme, I wonder if it can be adapted to home brewing.

Three beers are brewed, a 4 degree ligh colored, a 6 degree amber, which was not available today, and a 6 degree double.  The double uses 1.5% dark malts, and was the better of the two we sampled.

In case you wondered why you haven't yet spotted Achel at your local Safeway, the beer is only available at the monestary, and only on draught.  Production may expand to bottles as early as 2001, but don't hold your breath, it could take quite a while.

Tom is the brewer, supervised by Brother Thomas.  Before starting his job at the monestary, he had no training in brewing.  Currently he is enrolled on a brewing school which he attends on Saturdays.

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On the trip back, we decided to stop at a pub or two.   Being quite rural, places can be difficult to find, so we stopped at Het Dreefhuys for directions, and a quick brew.  We were so impressed, we decided to stop back for dinner.  It turned out to be a very good decision, as I got to experience wild rabbit, Flemish style.  The Chef/owner, was among other things, an interpreter, shop owner, and spent 6 years going to chef school.  Strangely enough, we were the only people in the place, their loss, I can assure you.  I need to send her a post card. achel_dreefhuys_sign.jpg (15287 bytes)
We were here, but nobody else was.  Unless you count the nome. achel_duvels_hei.jpg (18815 bytes)
Finally, success, we have located a pub that is open!   And what a beer selection.

"Houten Kop", a.k.a., Wooden Head, is the after affects of over-embibbing one feels on the following day, as in hung over.  It is also the name of a Belgian beer.  Truth in advertising, a stroke of marketing genius, or a little nutzo, take your pick.

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