Series by Christopher Barnes about Belgian beer. In this episode: the Brunehaut brewery and St. Martin Beer.
Brasserie de Brunehaut, located in the municipality of Brunehaut in the picturesque south of Belgium, just outside the historic city of Tournai (Doornik to the Flemish), has become a world-renowned brewery under its new ownership.
Originally founded in 1890, the brewery’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the years until it finally closed its doors in 2005. This is when Marc-Antoine de Mees saw the opportunity to start his own business selling Brunehaut beer. De Mees, who had been selling brewing equipment internationally, bought the brewery and set about turning around the brewery’s reputation and fortunes.
Since Marc-Antoine de Mees took over Brunehaut, he’s boldly turned an old brewery with a mixed reputation into a dynamic operation putting out awarding beers with unique selling points. He kept the Brunehaut beer name but turned it into something new and vibrant. The Brunehaut line of beers is organic with three of them being gluten-free as well! Marc-Antoine is also working with a local family farm, Domaine De Graux, to produce the organic grain he’s using in the Brunehaut beer line. As the farm is able to get more of its land certified organic, he’ll expand the organic title to his other lines as well.
The Brunehaut beers are all organic. The three Brunehaut gluten-free beer types, however, start out life as normal beer but are then subjected to a proprietary process that removes the majority of the gluten. The beers clock in at under 5 parts per million. Most gluten groups list 20 ppm as the threshold.
Each bottle contains a batch number that can be checked against its lab results so you can tell your beer is actually as gluten-free as it promises. You can find the link to their gluten-free certification on the Brunehaut website. In addition to being organic and gluten-free, the beers are also vegan.
Brunehaut Blanche – A Belgian wheat ale brewed with spice. Organic but not gluten-free.
Brunehaut Blonde – A blonde ale that is both organic and gluten-free. Consistently listed as one of the best tasting gluten-free beers in the world.
Brunehaut Amber – A Brunehaut amber ale beer with a great yeasty Belgian character, organic and gluten-free.
Brunehaut Triple – This is the newest beer in the Brunehaut family. Like its siblings, it’s organic and gluten-free. This beer joined the family with a bang. It won the Bronze medal in the Triple category at the European Beer Star in 2013. This is a major award to win, especially since it was competing against beers that contain gluten!
The St. Martin Beer
The Saint Martin line of beers can trace its history back to the historic Abbey of St. Martin, founded in 1096 AD, located in nearby Tournai. They are authentic Abbey beers allowed to carry the Abbey beer logo. To meet this qualification, the Abbey whose name is being used needs to have a history of brewing and the brewery needs to pay a licensing fee to the church which is used for charity.
Additionally, the beer brewed needs to pay homage to the brewing tradition in some way. St. Martin used to have a brewery. Records were found showing the purchase of spice for the purpose of brewing.
St. Martin Blonde – A Belgian blonde with a crisp, hop character
St. Martin Brune – A Belgian brown or Abbey-style Dubbel with incredible depth of character
St. Martin Triple – A robust and flavorful Abbey-style Triple
St. Martin Cuvee de Noel – A special winter release of spiced dark ale. The spices in this beer pay homage to the original St. Martin beer
St. Martin Cloak of St. Martin – A special limited-release Quad ale
Where to go for a Brunehaut beer
Tournai is an ancient city that has played a role in 2,000+ years of Western European history, starting its life as a minor outpost along a key Roman road. It was once the capital of the Frankish Empire in the 5th century and has been claimed by many empires since.
Today, it sits in the south of Belgium near the French border and is a small city that’s rich with cultural heritage. It boasts the oldest Clock Tower in Belgium which is a UNESCO heritage site along with the Romanesque/Gothic cathedral, Notre-Dame de Tournai. If you wish to visit the remains of the Abbey of St. Martin, you can view them in the basement of the city hall. Tournai and Brasserie de Brunehaut even hosted a beer dinner for the United States’s Ambassador to Belgium in St. Martin’s catacombs a few years ago!
Le Beffroi – This beautiful Brasserie features all of the St. Martin and Brunehaut beers in a delightful environment just off the Grand Place in Tournai. I recommend the Jambon, which is a local favorite and quite delicious.
Sel et Poivre – This small restaurant is situated in near the Brunehaut Brewery in Brunehaut, just south of Tournai. Here you can enjoy a fresh seasonal menu along with a St. Martin beer/Brunehaut.
Aux Amis Réunis – If you’re looking for a more laid back place to just enjoy a few St.Martin/Brunehaut beers while visiting Tournai, this may be the place for you.
Don’t drink and drive!
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Christopher Barnes is an American beer writer, blogger, and brewing industry professional with a passion for travel, Belgium and its beers. You can find his writings at I think about beer or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
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