Palm explains plans for Rodenbach beers

Brewery denies rumors Grand Cru 'on probation'

Feb 25, 2000 - Belgium's Palm Brewery reportedly has been deluged with email after consumers who love Rodenbach beers reacted to rumors that Palm would discontinue making some of the famous Flemish beers.


When it was reported in mid-January that Palm had put Rodenbach Grand Cru on a one-year probation and discontinued making Rodenbach Alexander many angry protests followed

Peter Buelens, public relations manager at Palm, has since authored an email message for those who write the brewery. In part, it reads:

"We wish to react to the rumours and mis-information regarding Rodenbach which are circulating on the Internet.

"When the Palm Brewery took a majority stake in the Rodenbach Brewery in Summer 1998, it declared that it would take full responsibility for this exceptional brewery. Rodenbach is the only brewery in the world making a brown-sour beer through the 'mixed fermentation' process, the so called Flemish Red Ale. Essential in this process is the 18 to 24 months maturation period into 300 huge oak barrels of 100 to 600 HL each. During this maturation, the organic acids are transformed into esters, this gives the Rodenbach beer the aroma and taste profile of wine. Palm has always been dedicated to preserving the unique, authentic Belgian beer culture. We are keeping our word!

"At the time of the takeover of the Rodenbach Brewery, it was on the point of collapse. In one year, Palm succeeded in reversing the disastrous decline of Rodenbach Classical which is now growing again. Palm Brewery has invested 70 million Belgian francs (About $1.8 million US) in media, POS-material, and in above - and below the line - actions.

"Moreover the Palm Brewery is also investing 170 million Belgian francs (about $4.2 million) in the Rodenbach Brewery estate. The objective is to transform the Brewery into a pole of attraction in the region and to draw many visitors to the brewery.

"The Rodenbach Grand Cru beer is the 'mother' of Rodenbach beers .... The good news is that of course Rodenbach Grand Cru is not being withdrawn. Palm Brewery has just invested in the re-design of the label. Rodenbach Classical is a blend: one part aged in oak barrels from 18 to 24 months (20%), and the other aged five to six weeks (80%)."

Buelens goes on to confirm that production of Rodenbach Alexander ends in 2000. It was first brewed in 1986, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Rodenbach, co-founder of the Rodenbach brewing tradition.

He writes the decision was made Rodenbach Alexander is a "Kriek"-beer based on extracts and a real "Kriek" is traditionally made from 100% "Lambiek" but Rodenbach Alexander is not. Palm is more interested in promoting traditional Belgian beers, such at Boon Kriek (Palm also has a stake in the Boon Brewery).

That is small consolation to fans of Alexander, who continue to question Palm's decision. In contrast, some have pointed out that breweries are businesses and not obligated to make products that aren't supported in the marketplace.

While Belgium's leading beer consumer group, De Objectieve Bierproevers (OBP), actively works to save the "Old Bruin" (sour) beers it acknowledges that overall Palm has been good for the Belgian beer scene.

Steven Vermoere of (OBP) puts it most simply: "The only thing that really will help is the drinking of Grand Cru. And if this seems not happening in Belgium, maybe the export will save the Grand Cru."

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