Nomadic brewers are considered something of a modern phenomenon in the beer world but there was one man, the colourfully named Willy de Lobel, who started wandering around Belgium in search of somewhere to brew his beers as far back as 1999.
His journey came to an end – as it seemingly does with so many other gypsy brewers – at the door of Dirk Naudts’ De Proefbrouwerij. From here Willy’s two recipes for a Chapel of Viven (now known as Viven Blond) and Monastery of Viven (now known as Viven Bruin) were polished and perfected over the next few years.
In 2003 Willy decided to ‘hand over the keys’ to his beloved beers to the son of a local liquor dealer and enthusiastic brewer Tony Traen and charged him with carrying on the tradition of the Flemish brewing art.
Under Tony Viven’s beers have undergone name changes and been given a elegantly cool new look while at the same time two has become five with the introduction of an ale, a porter and an IPA to the Viven range.
All of Viven’s beers are now available to buy in a mixed pack from beer importers Pilsnergubbarna, who kindly sent me a case to taste my way through.
Today I’m going to pick out my two favourite beers from the box – one an ‘original’ recipe that reflects the brewing concept’s Belgium-inspired roots; the other a more hip interpretation of a US Imperial IPA.
Viven Bruin (once known as Chapel of Viven and one of Willy’s two original recipes) pours a chestnut brown with a slightly nutmeg coloured head. On the nose this Abbey Dubbel throws out fudge and hazelnuts with a faint hint of smoked bananas. There’s lots of syrup and lightly burnt brown sugar in the taste over a layer of dark fruits (raisins in particular). It’s a little ‘spritzy’ and the finish is excitingly bitter for the style. I’m giving it 3.3 out of 5
Viven Imperial IPA is a take on what is fast becoming a ‘classic’ US craft beer style. Although Viven is proud of its Flemish roots I can’t find any of it in this IIPA because it’s pretty much text book stuff! An alluring copper body shines out from under a fluffy egg-white head. Smells just as it should of freshly squeezed grapefruit and pine with some mango chutney thrown in. Finishes proudly bitter yet superbly balanced with a pinch of spice and some calming caramel from the beer’s solid malt base. This is a powerful IPA and yet the extravagances of the style have been brought brilliantly under control. It gets 4.1 out of 5 from me!
The Viven Belgobox is available to order from here.