Question: Who is the patron saint of hop pickers and beer brewers?
Answer: Arnold of Soissons.
He was born in Brabant in 1040. Before he settled for the monastic life he was a soldier, later he founded an abbey in Oudenburg where he began to brew beer.
Compared with most water supplies at the time, beer, having been boiled during the extraction process, was “safe to drink”. For this reason Arnold encouraged the local peasants to drink it and his name became associated with the beverage; there are many depictions of him with a mashing rake in his hand. He was made a saint in 1121 just 44 years after his death (presumably thankful beer drinkers had a hand in this!) and his his feast day is July 8th.
So much for the saintly history; in 1981 the mayor of Brugges asked Henri Maes and his daughter Veronique of the Halve Maan brewery to brew a beer for the inauguration of a statue of St. Arnold. They called the beer Hendrik after the founder of the family brewery and Straffe to represent its strength (today 9.0% alc. Vol . At that time in keg form 8,0%).
The beer was an immediate hit with the people of Brugge so they continued to produce it. The brand name was later taken over by the Riva brewing group who in 2002 shifted production away from the town. In 2008 the then bankrupt Riva concern was taken over by Duvel Moortgat.
The son of Veronique was able to negotiate the return of the name Straffe Hendrik to the Halve Maan and today it is the last authentic Brugge tripel ale.
And a very good one, at that!
It’s brewed with a mixture of 6 different kinds of malt and a good portion of hops (Saaz and Styrian Golding), giving it an amber golden colour, a strong taste and good bitterness. On the nose it’s a bit light; fruit, yeast and alcohol are all there but it’s as if they are a bit too shy; always just around the corner. The taste is well balanced between fruit and malt with a hint of spice and a good bitterness.
A well made beer, typical of its type; something St. Arnold would have been proud of.