Read an account of the battle of Waterloo and you may find a mention of the Mont St Jean farm, which was used as a hospital by the English troops and their allies on the day of the battle and immediately afterwards. If you happen to make a trip to the battlefield and climb up the lion mound you can spot the farm to the North East situated alongside the road to Charleroi.
The history of the farm dates back to the early 13th. Century when it was mentioned in the charter of Henry I. but for our purposes 1456 and 2014 are important beer dates; the former as the farm accounts first show the existence of a brewery and the latter when Anthony Martin, grandson of John, who brought Guinness Special Export to Belgium, purchased the derelict farm and established a new brewery and visitor centre.
Brewing at the new Waterloo Brewery started in November 2014, well in time for the 200 year commemoration of the battle in June last year.
The Waterloo labels proudly state, ‘the beer of bravery’ and depict the charging English cavalry; an invitation for every Englishman to do his duty, take a bottle or two from the shelf and bravely dive into the foray. I settled for the 8% alc. vol. Strong Dark Ale.
The beer pours a clear dark amber with an off white head. The aroma is initially fruit (mostly dark plum) and yeast followed by dark malt and caramel. Some bitterness (hop and dry dark chocolate/coffee) come up first in the taste together with malt which then tends towards caramel.
A touch of peppermint, spice and a few nuts blend into the chocolate and remain into the finish. A slight soapiness crept in but not enough to spoil anything. The alcohol was warming towards the end.
All in all, more than a brave attempt at a good beer and worth the effort; drink it on the battlefield if you can but not if you feel you would have been on Napoleon’s side.
Happy beer drinking!