Bornem is a certified Abbey beer but it is also a so-called mother beer; beers that are sold unaltered under another label. One of its children is another Certified Abbey beer, Kreizersberg.
The International Trappist Associastion is perhaps the reason for the Certified Abbey beer. The term Abbey beer was very free, being applied to any monastic or monastic-style beer whether it was linked with an existing, defunct or totally fictitious monastery.
Especially after the introduction of the Trappist seal; something had to be done to control the name Abbey beer. Thus, in 1999 the Union of Belgian Brewers introduced the certified term. From this time beers had to fulfill a number of important criteria in order to be granted approval, most notably:
For abbey beers that were already on the market,
- there had to be a connection with an existing / no longer existing abbey
- royalties had to be paid; these could be used to help finance the Abbey’s charitable activities, or go to another defined organization if the abbey no longer existed
For new abbey beers (i.e. put on the market after July 12th, 1999)
- the beer had to be brewed in an existing non-trappist abbey or by an independent brewery having acquired the licence for the use of the name of this beer from an existing abbey . The brewery would be responsible for the commercial side but royalties would be paid to the abbey/order and the order would have to support charitable activities.
- there had to be a historical background (the abbey had some history of brewing)
- The abbey or defined charity had a right to check any marketing activity or publicity.
The Abbey in Bornem has belonged to the Cistercian monks from St. Bernard Abbey in Hemsikemsince 1836. The beer was originally known as Bernard Abbey beer but the name was changed to avoid confusion with the ( much better!) beers from St. Bernard in Watou. Van Steenberg, better known for Gulden Draak, have been brewing the beer since 1971 after the previous brewer became insolvent.
Herons are frequntly to be seen in the Bornem area, hence the distictive bottle label with a heron holding a fish in its beak.
The Bornem tripel pours a cloudy golden – light orange with a big head that fairly quickly recedes to a normal dimension. The aroma is distinguished by yeast, apple and fresh ground pepper.
The taste starts with a moderate acid twang leading in to sharp apple and milder pear followed by coriander and orange- tangerine. Wait a bit and then comes a spicy pepper, herb phenol and a light hop bitterness. Malt is so far back that you can almost ignore it and the alcohol (9.0% alc. Vol.) is also fairly well hidden. The overall taste is dry as is the finish.
The beer fits more to a strong pale ale than tripel; an enjoyable drink but not a match for the Moinette or La Chouffe. For me the too subdued malt and almost intense phenol bitters were negative points.