Rosa Merckx is 88 and is passionate about Liefmans beers. As the first female brewmaster in Belgium she was the driving force behind the Liefmans beers for approx. 40 years. Today her signature endorses every bottle and she likes to recount that King Leopold III would regularly place an order for a few crates of one of her favourites; Liefmans Goudenband. So, a beer fit for a King!
The name Goudenband supposedly relates to the iron bands around the beer barrels; today you’ll find the beer in an attractively wrapped bottle with a champagne cork.
It’s made in open vats with beers of mixed fermentation, and is then left to mature for four to 12 months in the cellars. The mature beer is then fortified with younger beer, so the fermentation process can start up again in the bottle.
According to the Liefmans website it’s a beer which improves over the years like a good wine, but even after ten years retains its freshness. I’m not very good at waiting so after nearly a year in the cupboard I was itching to pop the cork.
But first a little bit of history.
The brewery in Oudenaarde was founded in 1679 by Jacobus Liefman. The natural yeasts in this area of East Flanders proved particularly suitable for natural brewing; the brewery took advantage of this phenomena in the 1900s and became well known for its kriek and fruit lambic beers.
Unfortunately this success could not be sustained and in 1990 it was taken over by Riva who were, themselves, forced to declare bankruptcy in 2008.
The Liefmans beers were far too good to be allowed to die out, however, and Moortgat Duvel took the opportunity to further expand their range (less than two years earlier they had acquired Achouffe). Today the Liefman brewery site is home to a museum and event centre.
The beer bottle, wrapped in blue paper is an eyecatcher on the shelf; unwrap it and the sombre black/grey printed label together with the wired champagne cork is like a step back in time. As one would expect from an Oud Bruin, it pours a dark ruby with a good beige head.
The yeast was firm in the base of the bottle so it gave a very clear appearance. The aroma is at first sweetish and slightly perfumed in a spicy way followed by grain and fruity alcohol (8.0% vol.). A touch of farmyard mustiness leaves no doubt about the beer’s origins.
The beer is tart but not overly so – more like a well dosed lemon soda – the sweet malt holds it in check. Cherry, vanilla and a hint of rhubarb are all there together with some bitterness and an oak/smoke phenolic element.
Coming out in the middle of all this was a distinct metallic note. The sweetness disappears towards the end to leave a good crisp finish; a perfect blend between the slowly ebbing tartness and metallic tones.
Liefmans Goudenband is a classic example of its type: Dont hesitate to buy it should you see it on the shelf. Better still, buy a few bottles and drink one every year or two to see how it improves over time.
Happy beer drinking!