Save the Grand Cru campaign grows

Classic Rodenbach Grand Cru reportedly on probation

Jan 27, 2000 - Beer enthusiasts around the world hope that an Internet-inspired campaign will save one of the world's classic beers from extinction.


At stake is the future of Rodenbach Grand Cru and quite possibly two other outstanding beers from Belgium, Oerbier and Stille Nacht from De Dolle Brouwers.

Dann Paquette, head brewer at North East Brewing Co. in Boston, began spreading this news just a week ago. "Yesterday I got five emails while I was writing just one," Paquette said Thursday. He began by posting one message in an Internet newsgroup and sending a few individual emails.

They reported that the Palm Brewery, which acquired a controlling interest in Rodenbach less than two years ago, has already stopped making Rodenbach Alexander and reportedly put the Grand Cru on a one-year trial. Palm also informed De Dolle that it would no longer receive yeast from Rodenbach, because of change in health laws. De Dolle -- which used the yeast to make its popular Oerbier and Stille Nacht -- has installed a small lab and is using its own yeast cultures in test batches on a new, but not-much-different Oerbier.

Paquette, who brews several Belgian-style beers at the Boston brewpub, was visiting the De Dolle Brouwers when he learned about the changes. "They (Palm) want to get Rodenbach down to one basic beer, and it will be made for (a wider audience)," he said. He noted that the basic Rodenbach had already changed drastically, affecting not only its sourness but also the body and color.

"They want to concentrate on the Belgian market, and there all the young kids are drinking Tuborg (a Danish lager from Carlsberg)," he said. Paquette notes that he finds it hard to believe that Rodenbach will live up to Palm's commercial expectations during the one-year trial.

Michael Jackson gives Rodenbach Grand Cru 4 stars (his highest rating). In his Beer Companion he writes about the complexity of the Rodenbach yeast, noting that the University of Leuven concluded that at least 20 cultures are present.

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