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Sterkens

The Sterkens brewery started as a typical farm/brewery in the Antwerp Northern Campine region. Documents from 1731 indicated that the Sterkens family was already brewing in those early days. These documents contain a.o. a deed stipulating how Cornelis Sterkens bought his share. It says : "A house, with brewery, stable, shed and shovel and two adjacent gardens and meadows, together about 60 ares to be found in the village of Meir, estimated at 2800 guilders ". But most probably its history goes back much further. In a book called " Meir ", published in 1912 by Father Gratianus, provincial of the Carmelites, it was mentioned : " It should be said that theis brewer's family is very old : the prayer-book of 1731 yet mentions the brewery of Frans Sterkens ". The most extraordinary historical curiosity that found its way to the Sterkens brewery,is without doubt the recipe for St. Paul abbey beer.Up until the 18th century, the St. Paul abbey brewed their own beer. For reasons unknown the abbot handed these recipes over to the Sterkens brewery in 1780. In these recipes a brewing process is described that is closely tied together with prayers and lamentations of the abbey. Exact timing of these lamentations made it possible to transform these writings to an extraordinary end result. Up to some tens of years ago you could still find a farm next to the brewery. This was a remainder from the times that every plain farm was self-supporting with growing vegetables, breeding cattle, baking bread and brewing beer. As opposed to most farms for Sterkens brewing became more important than working the land. They no longer brewed to support themselves but to let others who had stopped brewing, enjoy the taste of beer. Forty years ago they definitely stopped farming. The father of the family, Frans Sterkens (or was it grandmother who kept the books) describes the relation between breweries and social life in those days. We can read how the guildsmen held their feasts in the brewery."They drank six halves and three quarter barrels and eight jars for 100 Belgian Francs and 98 cents. An other entry mentions : "The doctor bought a quarter barrel ". A month later the same entry is found and four weeks later another one. It seemed that the doctor bought a quarter barrel every month (i.e ;. a liter a day). The vicar however, bought half barrels of a somewhat lighter beer but they did not last a month. He paid at the end of each month. After World War II, the brewery expanded rapidly. In 1957, the Ster Ale was launched. Since the Bokrijks kruikenbier was being brewed, export gained more importance. Not only to the Dutch, Spanish, English, Swiss, Italian and French markets but also to the US, Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Africa. Recently they have started exporting brewing technology and know-how via micro breweries. The Sterkens brewery has its own tasting room. Groups of min. 25 people are welcome and can, for a small fee, both visit the brewery (by appointment) and taste beers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.Brewing process : Today still the beer is being brewed in an artisanal way. The actual process has never changed, although the equipment has been adjusted partially. The copper kettle is surrounded by masonry and the enormous, with a wooden skin protected filtration tank in which their forefathers brewed their beer, is still being used. For the actual brewing water is drawn from a 220m deep well. The mash of water and scrapped malt is heated in a copper kettle by means of steam. The filtration process takes place in the filtration tank. The malt peel serves as a natural filter retaining the elements which are not decomposed. This hogwash is collected every day and used as cattle feed. Filtration requires knowledge and experience of a craftsman. Someone who knows just how far the taps can be opened to use the residue as a filter. The filtrate is then pumped back into the copper kettle and boiled. During this process hop is added, which gives a certain aroma and bitterness. After a second filtration in the tank, the wort is cooled and brought in the fermentation tank, together with an exact quantity of yeast the yeast



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