Rondje Roodbruin / Red-Brown Ale Trail

Verhaeghe Brewery

Verhaeghe-Vichte Brewery is a small family business in the south of the province of West Flanders whose history dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. It was started by Paul Verhaeghe as a brewery and malt house. The brewery was a hive of activity in the period before the First World War. In those days, most breweries sold their products in the surrounding area and in a few cases only at village level. In this respect it is correct to say that Verhaeghe Brewery exported its beer, albeit on a regional level. ‘Paul’s barrel beer’, as the beers of brewer-founder Paul Verhaeghe were popularly called back then, were renowned for their limpidity, even after transport. This quality appealed to customers as far away as Brussels. In those days this was a long way from Vichte due to the poor road infrastructure and the limited transport options; beer was mostly transported over country roads in horse-drawn carts.

The great success in the early years of Verhaeghe Brewery’s existence came to an end due to the outbreak of WWI. The Germans responded to Paul Verhaeghe’s refusal to brew for the occupying forces by dismantling the brewing installations, particularly sought after for the copper that was used for manufacturing ammunition.

The installations were rebuilt and production was resumed after the war. Re-establishing trade relations with customers in Brussels, who had not been supplied with beer during the war, proved to be difficult.

Sales on the local market were organised further. Bottled beer became popular in the 1920s. Bottling machines were acquired as well as four small bottling plants within a radius of 15 km around Vichte.

During WWII, activities were reduced to a minimum because of the restrictions imposed by the occupying forces. Due to a lack of barley, only table beer (a low-alcohol brew) could be produced: so-called “zéro-huit”; its name refers to the low alcohol content of 0.8% ABV.

The brewing industry was transformed after the Second World War. After two periods of occupation, lager-style beer finally came to dominate the Belgian market. This breakthrough heralded the end of a lot of breweries that had only brewed top-fermented beers. The combination of technological progress in the industry, changes in consumer preferences, higher living standards, improvements in road infrastructure and increasing mobility took the brewing industry to the stage of mass consumption. Numerous breweries with nation-wide visibility achieved their greatest success in this period.

Verhaeghe Brewery adapted to the new situation, but remained firmly rooted in the region. It paid particular attention to improving the quality of its existing beers and the creation of new beers of better quality. As a result, its beers won several international competitions: Verhaeghe Brewery was awarded first prizes for ‘Vichtenaar’ and ‘Echt Kriekenbier’.

Nowadays, the brewery is rewarded by consumers for its past choices. Both in Belgium and abroad, consumers increasingly appreciate the high-quality beers with their particular and easily recognisable flavour. This is demonstrated by the success of the ‘Duchesse de Bourgogne’ specialty beer, a Flanders red ale matured in oak barrels and brewed according to the traditional production method typical of southern West Flanders.

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