The man voted the world’s most promising brewer by the ratings website Ratebeer is being forced to change the branding of his exclusive beers, thanks to a trademark dispute. Raf Souveryns (photo) is not strictly speaking a brewer, but a blender. He takes lambic beer made by others – lambic is the beer made by spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast made in a narrow corridor of Flemish Brabant province (and one brewer in Brussels itself) – and blends it with fruits. The most famous lambic-based beers are geuze, a blend of young and aged lambic, and kriek, lambic in which cherries are soaked.
Mixing lambic and fruit takes other forms: peach, raspberry, brambles and plums are used, as well as other more exotic experiments.
Hasselt-based Souveryns has been blending lambic and fruit from his native Limburg since 2013, in a range called Bokkereyder, but his production is tiny. In fact, only one cafe in Flanders serves his beers, along with a handful in Sweden, Denmark and Germany. He came to the attention of Ratebeer thanks to his dedicated following in the US, where the sour beers of Belgium are sought after, much imitated but, thanks to the unique character of the bacteria and yeasts in the air along the course of the River Senne, never quite equalled.
Ratebeer voted him most promising of the year, but soon his Bokkereyder beers will vanish altogether, at least under their current name. The reason: last year another brewery, Cornellisen from Opitter, also in Limburg, took him to court over his use of the name, which Cornellisen claimed was too close to their own beer Bokkereyer. A court agreed, and for the sake of one letter of difference, Souveryns now has to relaunch under another name.
“My beers remain the same as before,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “After the ruling, I took down my website, Facebook page and Instagram page – the channels that brought in enquiries every day. Where my beers can be tasted, for example, or if the brewery could be visited. All of a sudden everything went quiet. But I’ve taken advantage of the pause to work really hard.”
The result of that is 27 new beers, which will be presented at a beer festival shortly in Copenhagen, along with the new name for the brewery.
As for his rival Cornellisen, Souveryns has no hard feelings. “I won’t hear a bad word against them,” he said. “They do after all have a registered trademark.”