This year, the beer festival 24uurs van Maastricht has added a third day of festivities. For the first time, the festival will devote an entire day to the regional beers of Limburg. What makes this area so special, and what does it offer for beer lovers?
The beers of Limburg (south-east Netherlands and north-east Belgium) inspire passion and creativity among people who love making and drinking beer. In Belgium, beer is so much a part of community life that UNESCO named it an intangible cultural asset, and beer is hardly less beloved in The Netherlands.
The brewers of Limburg range from hobbyists tinkering for their own enjoyment, to commercial giants producing millions of liters per year and exporting their beers to delighted consumers all over the world. Some Limburg breweries have centuries of history behind them, and are now run by the great and great great grandchildren of the founders.
History of Beer in Limburg
In a land long famous for enterprise and global trade, it’s no surprise that this region produces so many world-renowned beers. However, the growing legion of microbreweries and brewpubs in Limburg are also deeply rooted in local tradition.
For centuries, beer everywhere was a genuinely local product, made by the town brew master using local ingredients, and consumed in households, public houses, inns, and cafés in the immediate vicinity. The technologies needed to produce, preserve, advertise, and transport beer in quantity didn’t develop until around the turn of the last century. With the turmoil of two World Wars, a world-wide depression, and the arrival of commercially produced beer, most of the unique local breweries of Limburg, and their beers, died away.
However, a new century has allowed smaller Limburg breweries to flourish again. The region boasts dozens of regional breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. These are able to thrive because beer gourmets are eager to try innovative varieties and beers that uniquely reflect their region. Also, the internet provides beer brewers and beer drinkers with a way to communicate and find each other, as well as a way for smaller breweries to sell their product to a wider customer base. Add a regional tradition of loyalty to locally made beers, and you have a recipe for success for small brewers.
These conditions allow local brewers to follow their personal passions, such as all organic ingredients, or highly specialized brewing traditions, or seasonal beers. Small brewers help their towns thrive. They attract visitors, strengthen local identity, and create jobs.They fan the flame of beer devotion.
Famous Breweries of Limburg
Alfa Brewery is located in Schinnen, The Netherlands. Founded in 1870 by Joseph Meens, the Alfa Brewery is now run by the 5th generation of the family. Alfa is the only brewery in The Netherlands to brew with water from a certified underground spring. For the first 90 years, Alfa beer was only available in the Schinnen region. Then, in 1960, the Meens family extended their market to the whole of The Netherlands, and since 1963 they’ve exported to Hong Kong, Greece, Italy, the US, the UK, and Germany.
Lindeboom Brouwerij is located in Neer, The Netherlands. This independent brewery began operation in 1870 under the founder, William Geenen, and is now run by the 4th generation of family members. An ancient lime tree near the brewery eventually inspired the name of the beer and of the brewery. Lindeboom beers are available in The Netherlands, Belgium and England.
Cornelissen is located in Oppiter, Belgium. The brewery began operations in 1807, under the name Sint Jozef. In 2016 the name was changed to Cornelissen, since six generations of that family had been involved at the brewery since 1859. Cornelissen currently produces 15 beer varieties, and markets them worldwide.
Gulpener is located in Gulpen, The Netherlands. Founded in 1825 by Laurens Smeets, Gulpener is an independent brewery. Gulpener attaches great importance to sustainability; their ingredients are sourced locally where possible, their labels are made from recycled paper and the brewery operates on green energy. In 2005, the brewery planted 5 hectares of forest to offset CO2 from their production. Gulpener beers are available in The Netherlands
Trappist Achel is located at St. Benedict Abbey, Hamont-Achel, Belgium. The brewery first received a brewing license in 1850. In 1917, the brewery closed when Germans took all the equipment. Brewing began again in 1998. As of 2021 Achel is no longer recognized as a Trappist brewery because there are no longer any monks in the monastery; however the brewery continues to operate, producing blond, brown, blond extra and bruin extra ales using Trappist methods and recipes. Their beers are available at the brewery.
Jessenhofke is located in Hasselt, Belgium. Jessenhofke produces top-fermented beers in an all-organic brewery. They sell their beer in 10 countries and online.
Castle Brewery Ter Dolen is located in Houthalen-Helchteren, Belgium. The brewery is situated in a medieval castle and abbey that was abandoned for years. Renovated in 1993, the brewery was installed in 1994. Ter Dolen has 8 beers under their label now, as well as a line of spirits. Ter Dolen beers are available locally and online
Ambrass Brouwerij Sittard is located in Limbricht & Sittard, The Netherlands. Ambrass makes 9 varieties of top-fermented beers that are unfiltered and unpasteurized. Their beers are available locally and online.
Brouwerij de Fontein is located in Stein,The Netherlands. Open since 2006, Fontein brews bottom-fermented beers as well as spirits. Beers sold onsite and in Stein.
Brewery Kerkom is located in Sint Truiden, Belgium. This brewery often uses several different grains in each of their beers. Some of their recipes use gruit, a combination of herbs, rather than hops, harkening back to medieval times.They brew 10 varieties, which are available at the brewery and at near-by restaurants and markets.
In addition to the commercial scale and local scale breweries, there’s another variation on beer culture in Limburg – client breweries, or contract breweries. Some of these brewers produce their own varieties, others do not. But they offer hobby brewers facilities and knowledge, which allows them to brew their own personal varieties in substantial quantities.
Weerter Stadsbrouwerij located in Weert, The Netherlands. Weerter City Brewery grew from the passion of a local hobby brewer, Erwin Strijbosch. This brewery offers facilities to other hobby brewers. Over 100 locally developed beers are available in their tasting room for visitors to sample.
Brouwerij Anders! Located in Halen, Belgium. Anders! Brewery is a state of the art facility that offers professional guidance that allows their clients to brew specialty beers in quantity. A special brew for a big company or family event, for example.
The beers of Limburg range from the most traditional to the most experimental; from available world-wide to extremely local. They’re a vital part of the culture of the Limburg region, made by passionate beer aficionados who love to share their creations. The number of breweries in Limburg is surging, leading to many small scale, very local breweries which must be searched out, but they are well worth the effort. On Thursday, June 23, join grapefrute at the The Maastricht Beer Festival in celebrating these local beers and the passionate brewers who make them.