Saturday, December 22, 2007

Demise of Goudenband?

Word on the Burgundian Bible Belt discussion site is that Belgian brewer Liefmans/Riva is bankrupt.

Its brown-hued Goudenband — in a beautiful tissue-wrapped, champagne-corked bottle — has long been the sine qua non of the oud bruin (or Flemish Brown) style.

Here's how beer writer Michael Jackson described the beer — and the style — in a 1998 issue of All About Beer:
At their best, ales in the Oudenaarde style have a teasingly smooth, almost feathery, fluffy, body (from water low in calcium, high in sodium bicarbonate); a dry, complex, caramelish maltiness; a winey, nutty sherry, Montilla note [Oloroso sherry] (from long periods of maturation at ambient cellar temperatures); a light but distinct interplay of sweetness and sourness; and a spritzy finish. <...> [A] beer of around four months old is blended with stock two or three times that age. The blend is centrifuged, primed with invert sugar, given a dosage of the original yeast, and bottle conditioned in the brewery's cellars. Its characteristic sour wineyness, iron, saltiness and toastiness ... will develop with a few months, or even years, of cellaring.

The blogger Stonch provided a link to a Netherlands webpage, that does seem to confirm this sad news. My Dutch is nearly non-existent, so I utilized an on-line translator. As best as I could determine:

Brouwerij Liefmans failliet (21-12-2007)

Liefmans, with breweries in Oudenaarde and Dentergem, has applied for bankruptcy in court in Kortrijks, West Flanders, Belgium. The company had requested relief - some sort of Dutch equivalent of Chapter 11 (that is to continue operations while some of its debts were forgiven and others were negotiated) - but this was rejected by the court. With 50 full-time employees, Liefmans/Riva produces the Dentergems Witbier, Jan van Gent, Liefmans Frambozen, Liefmans Goudenband, Liefmans Kriek, Lucifer, Straffe Hendrik, and Vondel brands.

I first read of Goudenband and its indefatigable owner, Madame Rose Blanquaert-Merckx, in Michael Jackson's New World Guide Beer. But even so, I was unprepared for my first taste of a Goudenband:  Cherry-skin tart, with hints of caramel. It truly was my first Belgian-beer WOW experience.

When I opened a brewpub in the early 20-aughts, I was supplied with several cases of vintage 1989 Goudenband by a local distributor. There were a few corkers in the lot, and all had  impressive depositS of sediment. But most had survived well: brick/russet in hue, bright when decanted off the deposit, carbonation intact, and with a vigor and delightful complexity.

As of this morning, there's nothing about this posted on Liefmans' website: It would be tremendous loss if this amazing beer were to disappear.

[UPDATE 2008.02.11: White Knight for Liefmans?]


  1. Howdy
    Great blog, tonsa great info.
    This is a potential tragedy for me.
    Liefman's is one of my absolute faves: Kriek, Goudenband and the rare Gluhkriek. I think MJ once said that Liefman's was the only brewery in Belgium to use actual real cherries anymore. Will you be at the Royal Mile dinner? I'm no hop-head but I can't wait for the fresh cask of Hop3(+1)
    ps: thanks for sharing the Dremo pix!

  2. Yes I will, and look forward to seeing you there at the Mile!

    There is potentially good news about Liefmans. Go here.


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