“Nino-vation” – De Ranke

Nino Bacelle, takes the floor at “Beermoth” in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and after a brief introduction apologises for his slightly poor grasp of the English language, he’s here to talk about “De Ranke Brouwerij”, his brewery and the wonderful range they create. (The latter being my words not his, but nonetheless true). The apology is clearly not needed as the room is full of beer lovers glued to his every word, and he proceeds to deliver one of the most engaging talks of its kind that I’ve witnessed.


Image courtesy of BeerMoth

On the table in front of us all sit six bottles, of that six only one (the XXX) is new to me, as I’ve been a fan of the De Ranke range of beers ever since I first began to explore what Belgium has to offer. XX was the first De Ranke I tasted and it was just so different to any Belgian brew I’d tasted  before, so dry, bitter and incredibly drinkable. I also loved the paper wrapped bottles and still do, unwrapping one to pop the cap adds a bit of theatre to the occasion every time.

IMG_9312Nino relays his story of the struggle to learn how to brew in Belgium many years ago at around 1981, experimenting with what he could get hold of at the time, the lack of information available and the often reluctance of established brewers to share their secrets. From there a spell at a Belgian “brew school” before cutting his teeth by offering his services to help out when and wherever he could to put those newly acquired skills to the test.

Once he was happy that he was able to produce something to produce commercially that would have some market appeal, the journey began in earnest as the first steps proper towards what we now know as De Ranke were taken. Taking hired brew days at Deca Brouwerij in Woesten and soon being joined by Guido Devos (the second brewer and joint owner of De Ranke), it was here the first production of Guldenberg, an abbey beer typical in style at least to other popular beers in the area and designed to appeal to the local drinkers was brewed.

IMG_9316It was what went on from there with these two guys is what I found really interesting, back in the nineties, deciding to buck popular trends in their homeland and produce beers that they wanted to drink rather than for market demands, a risky but quite a topical strategy considering what has happened here in the UK in recent years.

XX Bitter was the first of these “new-fangled” beers and caused a stir at Deca at the time, inspired funnily enough by British beer and the writings of “The Beer Hunter” Michael Jackson. Using cast iron and copper equipment dating back to the 1930’s as I recall, but modifying it so as to use full cone hops and not essences or pellets, fresh local ingredients, much to the astonishment of the resident brewing staff. “Why do you do it this way, it creates so much mess and makes the process so much more difficult”, the answer, simple, “better flavour, aroma and bitterness”. This insistence on using only the finest and local where possible ingredients continues to this day, as does their dedication to quality.

I could rattle on about Nino’s story, the history and description of each beer for pages but I won’t, partly because I probably wouldn’t do it justice with my pretty hopeless memory but also as I think more people should hear it from the man himself, only then would the enthusiasm for doing what he and Guido do clearly be evident.

What I will say though is what a joy it was to go through the range of beers in his and the company of folk in mutual agreement and appreciation. As I mentioned earlier, all but one of them on offer were new to me, that though, although delicious, wasn’t the highlight. For me, getting reacquainted with many of them that I had perhaps forgotten made the evening so much more pleasurable, Guldenberg and Noir de Dottignes in particular on that front.

IMG_9314To briefly recap on “XXX” before I close, Nino explained that it was brewed initially for an American beer festival, where the demand for their beers are high. Made using exactly the same recipe as “XX Bitter” but altered by the addition of 50% more hops alone. The result of this is not what I and my drinking companions expected and in fact splits the table in terms of which they prefer. It is bitter yes, but much fuller in body than its sibling and as such feels completely different, stronger in abv even when it fact it is 0.2% lower. I’d really recommend trying both side by side to see for yourself as we did, dragging the last bottle of previously devoured XX from our table.

If you read this in time, you may still have the chance of meeting Nino and sampling a few beers together this afternoon (Saturday 14th June 2014) at BeerMoth between 1-3PM. If not, please do try the beers and hopefully we can get him back across to the UK again sometime soon.

Thanks to Nino for your innovation all those years ago, and your clear passion to continue enjoying what you do, also to the guys at BeerMoth for really memorable night, I just hope I’ve captured enough here to do it all justice.




“This is Beer On TV 2”

IMG_5352This is  a follow on post from something I read over at The Good Stuff this morning, in it Leigh discusses the history, highs and lows of beer on TV. It’s well worth a read and has some great links to old clips of shows (check it here) but ultimately asks what do we want from a beer show on TV?

This post actually started as a comment in reply to Leigh, but I wittered on that long I thought it may as well be a post on here in support of the cause.. You should though really read the original first to put this into context, so go on, do it, do it now, here’s that link again, I’ll hang on here for five and go and make a cuppa….

“A short time passes”

It’s an interesting point on how to present this, I quite liked the laddish charms of the Oz and James etc shows as mentioned in Leighs post, they were easy watching and often quite informative, I first learned of Brewdog and Grandma’s Weapons Grade Ginger Beer on that show. They were fun too which I definitely think is important, beer is for enjoyment, it should involve laughter, smiles and good times.

michaeljacksonA historical section included maybe? Trying to dispel a few myths about beer, show some old clips. Saturday Kitchen have Keith Floyd, we can have Michael Jackson?

Some of the Hairy Bikers stuff was quite good too when they toured Belgium for example, although clearly more food based. I particularly loved seeing them drinking in places I’d visited as it brought back memories, so some of that has to be in there.

I’m not sure I actually want to see beer on Saturday Kitchen either, even though I admit to joining the twitter deluge last year. For me that was about getting voices heard rather than having some flouncy over exuberant beer ponce throwing him/herself around Morrison’s only to pick up a bottle of 3 for a fiver supermarket averageness to pair with a steak and kidney pie. Beer and food though is a must.

twitter_beauty_profileBeer reviews. Now I’m not dissing the video reviewing community here, but I’m not convinced lots of beer reviews dominating a TV show would have much mileage (as with written reviews too), there definitely should be some, but perhaps as part of a wider spectrum of info share interspersed with stories and  visits to live events. Talking to real people and asking them what they think.

We already have some great presenters out there at the moment who know their stuff and have TV experience, Marverine Cole, Sophie Atherton, Pete Brown to name but a few. Great writers professional and amateur, video and written bloggers too that could all have some sort of input, especially on a regional basis.

So what do we (I) want, I’m not sure either, lets look at what we have so far…

  • Laughter, smiles and good times
  • History
  • Food or more specifically beer and food in all it’s various guises.
  • Beer reviews (any flouncy flamboyantness will be banned)
  • Real people, get out there at events and talk to folk

I’m thinking maybe something like a mixture of Sunday Brunch, The Gadget Show and Country File. Studio based with food and guests involved but also with a series of field reports from across the regions of the UK and beyond. Showcasing new beers, breweries and brewers and reminding folks of old classics they may have forgotten.

A starter for ten on a new TV show, that isn’t too much to ask is it?

Any takers…..