Emmanuel “Manu” De Landsheer, owner of Malheur told me the story behind his small, artisanal brewery. His family has been brewing beer since the 1600’s in Bougenhout, Belgium near Dentermonde. The original brewery was called Sun Brewery. In the brewery’s tasting room, the walls are adorn with historic photographs of each family member working in the brewery or the hop fields.
All of their beers were living ales – sour ales. They grew their own hops, they used the well water and their yeast was of the wild atmospheric sort. Over the years, the well water became contaminated with nitrates and the landscape changed as well. The beer was not the same, so they halted brewing and began bottling for others. Today, they are no longer bottling but they do maintain a distribution company as well as an import-export company. In fact, they are the #1 exporter for Westmalle Trappist.
Manu resurrected the brewery and called it Malheur, which produced its first beer in 1997. It was Malheur 4 and it was 5% abv. Malheur is a French word that translates to “misfortune” – maybe that is a strange name for a brewery – maybe not. Apparently, students from the University gave this name as a class project & Manu described it as “hard times or positive disaster” It could be fitting, since it took almost 400 years to evolve into what it is today – through a series of disasters that turned out a positively unique artisanal brewery.
The US imports the 10, 12, Brut and Dark Brut from Malheur. 2000 saw the birth of 12, which is a terrific Dark Belgian Ale (Quadruple). I think Manu called it a brown ale. I tasted it on draft at the brewery and it will rival St Bernardus Abt 12. It’s THAT good.
In 2001, Malheur’s first Brut beer was made. This fantastic beer endures 3 months of bottle fermentation at cave temperatures. After the first three months, they angle the bottles in specially designed racks while turning the bottle clockwise over the course of two weeks – called method champenoise. When all the yeast settles, they freeze the top portion of the bottle and the extra cO2 built up from secondary fermentation blows this sediment out of the bottle. Afterwards, they cork it, add the wire cage and glue the foil on by hand.
The ingredients are pure and no shortcuts are taken. No sugar or adjuncts are added. The beer quality speaks for itself and if you haven’t tried one yet, most Flying Saucers have Malheur. Bring a friend and share a bottle – this will ease the sting of this high end beer’s price tag.
Lucas, Manu, Sam & me – with a 12 in hand.