I doubt if Pierre Celis, the creator of Hoegaarden Wit said ”Yes, we Kanne” on his return from America, but he was possibly thinking something along these lines when his first choice cave in the vicinity of Hoegaarden proved unavailable due to a large population of bats.
The region in the south east of the Flemish province Limburg is relatively well known as a source of calcium for the cement industry. The marl caves in Kanne are 42 metres under the ground and offer a perfect environment for beer to develop as the temperature remains constant at about 11 degree Celsius.
Since 2001 the beer, appropriately named ‘Grottenbier’, has been brewed at St Bernardus using local spring water. The bottled beer is then slowly matured in the caves; the bottles being regularly rotated in a similar procedure to that used by champagne producers.
A fairly time consuming process; is the end product worth all the effort?
The label on the bottle is decent but attractive. It gives the feeling that this is a serious beer.
Once in the glass the feeling doesn’t change; a nice rich amber colour with a good off white head; an aroma of malty grain and yeast.
The first taste: a tobacco dryness, followed by some fruit sourness and subdued malt together with moderate bitterness. Very pleasurable; a beer drinker’s beer. Not too complex, no massive follow through but enough there to make you open a second bottle.
Whether the maturing in the caves and the bottle rotation make a great difference, I don’t know. Apart from the constant temperature, I doubt it, but it’s still a good reason for the name.
If you’re looking for a classic beer with not too much alcohol (6.5 % vol.) and without the complexity of Orval then this is a good choice.