It’s very difficult for me to hide my enthusiasm for the beers of Brussels’ Brasserie de la Senne, so I’m not going to. De la Senne crafts some of my favourite beers being brewed anywhere in the world. The combination of drinkability and modern flavours, while still remaining not just resolutely Belgian but resolutely Brussels really resonates with me. It’s no wonder that the Belgian capital is also one of my favourite cities in the world.
Brasserie de la Senne takes its name from the Senne (sometimes spelled Zenne) river that flows along the border between Brussels and Flanders and into the city itself. Along with the eye-catching, 1930’s cinema inspired branding that depicts the city itself, this really adds to the brewery’s sense of place, which de la Senne in turn channels through the beers it produces.
Translated from the original Latin, the term Brettanomyces simply means “British yeast". There are many strains of Brettanomyces, or Brett, and each of them imbues a beer with its individual characteristics when it ferments sugar into alcohol. The one similar characteristic between all strains of Brett is that it will devour every drop of fermentable sugar within a beer. As a result beers that it’s present in tend to have an incredibly dry finish, making them very drinkable regardless of the alcohol content.
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (or Brett Brux for short) is the strain of Brett that occurs naturally in the environment around Brussels and the Zenne valley. It’s not part of the natural atmospheric makeup of yeast and bacteria that causes spontaneous fermentation in lambic and gueuze, however. Instead it makes its home on the skins of fruit and within the grain of oak barrels and foudres. It’s in the latter that is slowly works its magic.
Brett Brux produces flavours and aromas that carry descriptors such as “barnyard” and “horse blanket” as well as a character that could be described as sour, leathery or earthy. It’s an essential ingredient in the production of lambic, gueuze, Flanders red, Oud Bruin and Trappist ales such as Orval.
Orval is probably the best starting point when trying to pin down the flavour of de la Senne Bruxellensis. Is has similar dry, woody, earthy characteristics to what made Orval so popular in the first place. In contrast to that, this beer has a bright, spritzy minerality that is so unmistakably de la Senne.
Bruxellensis is aged in the bottle for four months before release, so the Brett characteristics are already strongly prevalent when the beer is fresh. However, a little careful aging will bring those Bretty flavours to the fore. I prefer it fresh, but as with Orval it’s worth picking up a few to experiment and see how old you prefer yours.
The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Brasserie de la Senne Bruxellensis in store or online now.