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Other Letters From America

Easter Sunday Morning Service at the Abbey d’Aulne
A visit to the Brasserie Val de Sambre
by TheLongBeachBum (see his profile at )

Val De Sambre, was once an Abbey Brewery “without a Brewery”. It has now completed the successful commissioning of its own plant. Their Abbey d’Aulne (ADA) beers have been in existence for some 25 years & had been brewed under contract by some notable luminaries, but most recently by de Smedt.

The 1st Brewery Visit of the Sunday morning on our recent 2003 Belgium Trip. What better way to spend Easter Sunday than in an Abbey Brewery? We arrived at 11am, but only after our skilful Coach Driver, Saint Paul, had expertly negotiated the twisty country lanes of the Hainaut province.

The Brewery is located within the small Tasting Café which in turn is in a very old building, alongside the ruined, but still stunningly beautiful Abbey at Gozée. It was a gorgeous  sunny day & the ruins looked resplendent in the peaceful countryside. We followed the sign that pointed into a small courtyard, advertising Brasserie Val de Sambre. Once there, a life sized jovial looking wooden monk pointed to the entrance with a raised beer.

Inside, as you enter in the middle of the building, is a smallish, chest high bare-brick circular bar. To your right, is the Brewery itself. The whole brick building has thick solid stone floors. The roof is of a construction style long gone. It has those tightly packed brick-arched roofs that are supported at approx. 6-8 foot intervals by a myriad of large stone pillars about 12' tall. It sort of reminded me of old Roman/Greek Temples.

The Brewery is on open view; alterations cannot be made to the building for historic reasons. As such, stainless plant would have looked just a touch too modern. For the first time that I can recall, all of the equipment on view is either of all-copper construction, or as with the storage vessels and piping, totally covered in copper cladding that give this impression. It all helps to add a very in keeping traditional feel to the place.

The beer range starts with the Blanche de Charleroi, the staple 5% Organic Wheat Beer. Then it brews a 5% Ambrée, a 7% Brune & a 7% Blonde (Tim Webb's guide states 6% but it is actually 7%). These 3 are the session beers for those that fancy a couple of beers during their visit. Higher end beers are the 9% Triple Blonde & 10% Triple Brune (again Webbies Guide incorrectly states this at 9% - two mistakes Timmbo? Tut, tut). The 9% Xmas beer, Abbaye D'Aulne Super Noël 9° was also on sale but only in bottles. Some of our party bought the remaining stocks of these, some just smashed them on the floor.

In the Café, all of the beers are served to you in a lovely ceramic grey goblet that has a dark blue painted rim with the Abbey d’Aulne crest stamped on them (the letters ADA topped by 3 Birds (Geese?)). These are great to drink from & available to buy in three different sizes..

As is becoming more popular I note in Belgium & even Luxembourg, Brasserie Val de Sambre also distils one of its beers. In this case the Brune, to make a 40% ABV clear spirit, called Esprit d’Aulne. It’s an “ass-kicker” as they say this side of the pond!!

Brasserie Val de Sambre is set in some beautiful countryside in the western Hainaut province in Belgium, and is well worth seeking out. Selling some decent Abbey d’Aulne beers, it was another great Brewery Visit to add to all the others that we have done over the past 10 years on our Belgium Trips. Link to Belgium page and other brewery details.

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