Brussels-based brewery Brasserie de la Senne has undergone a full transformation of its beer production to organic – a long-held ambition, according to co-owner Yvan De Baets.
“We tested for a year to perfect everything,” he said.
Switching to organic production, it appears, is not a simple matter.
“Organic grains and the malt that is made from them have a different composition than conventional grains. This can have an influence on the taste,” he said.
As master brewer, De Baets is known to be a perfectionist, often going as far as to delve into the historical literature of beer to get things just right. The important thing about this transformation was to come out of it while maintaining the quality of the brewery’s beers, which include Zinnebir, Taras Boulba an Stouterik.
The organic malt comes from Dingemans, the Antwerp malting house that has been a supplier to the brewery since the start.
Among its products, Dingemans produces six types of organic malt, all made with 100% organic barley, suitable for all types of brewing from lagers to Trappist beers.
For reasons of rigour, then, it took a year of testing before De Baets was ready to let the new-formula beer loose on the public. Finally, in December, the brewery received its certificate.
“We had to adapt our brewing methods. In order not to take any risks so that each beer could retain its characteristic individuality, we chose to take the time.”
From now, the seven beers that make up the brewery’s core range – Zinnebir, Taras Boulba, Stouterik, Jambe-de-Bois, Brusseleir, Bruxellensis and Zenne Pils – will be available only in organic form. The brewery also releases regular one-off beers as well as collaborations with other breweries, and that will continue.
Brasserie de la Senne, which takes its name from the historic river that once flowed through the centre of Brussels before being covered over, left its Molenbeek home last year to move to new premises at Tour & Taxis, where it now has a whole new brewery and tasting centre.
The brewery has maintained its policy of selling mainly to bars in Brussels, in an attempt to maintain a local character and close links to local business. The beers are rarely to be found in the major supermarkets, but can be bought from specialist shops.
That means that business has been hit particularly hard by the horeca lockdown.
“Our turnover [in 2020] fell to 30% of what it was in 2019,” said De Baets.
But it has been able to rely on a dedicated fan-base, who are not averse to travelling across town to the brewery to pick up a crate or two. The shop at Our & Taxis is open Mon-Fri 12.00-18.00, and Sat 11.00 to 19.00. The Zenne Bar is closed for the time being.