From whom the suds flow
May 30, 2010 Leave a Comment
Fred Limbeek, whom I affectionately refer to as “my beer guy” is possibly the nicest man I’ve met since relocating from Canada to Maastricht and what an acquaintance to make.
I met Fred and discovered his store one lazy Saturday afternoon while exploring my new surroundings. Fred is the proprietor of Glimburger, a charming store in Maastricht city centre featuring sundry local products including a variety of beers from the surrounding region.
The store is spacious, rustic, and filled with a wash of natural light that creates an inviting atmosphere for passer byers to stop in and look around.
During my first visit and despite my novice knowledge of beer it was easy to slip into a conversation with Fred about the seemingly endless supply of beers I had previously never heard of.
Even more pleasant was how I found it refreshing to engage with a local, an experience which contrasted to my impressions of Maastricht people as being more reserved than those from my home country.
Of a slightly older generation, Fred gives the impression that he has worked hard in his life and now wants to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He seems genuinely interested in getting to know his customers and often you will find him engaged in conversation at a table where customers are enjoying some of the delectables his store has to offer.
He appears confident in his ability to speak English, despite clearly being native Dutch speaker and not knowing every English word in conversation.
In the short, relatively brief time that I have come to know Fred, he has proposed to take me on tours of local breweries and offered me supplies to make my own beer. He has extended his goodwill to me and as newcomer to this land it is a generosity that helps Maastricht feel more like home.
Another great aspect about Fred‘s personality is his willingness to share his knowledge about the craft of beer making. On a recent visit to Glimburger, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Fred about his store and reflect on the sudsy beverage flavoured by malt and hops that we all know and love as beer.
Brewing the perfect beer
Over my hour-long conversation with Fred I gained a new respect for beer and an impression that perhaps, just possibly, there might be something magical to the centuries old craft of brewing the perfect beer.
My chat with Fred began much like many previous greetings, with a smile, a handshake and a cold glass of beer although for the record I did attempt to politely decline his offer but I felt it behoved me to taste the product, for journalistic sake of course.
We started our conversation at the beginning where Fred’s interest in beer took root, some thirty years ago, during his birthday celebration on February 2, 1953, when he first tasted a Belgian beer; “From that day on,” he told me, “all I wanted to do was to enjoy and learn about Belgian beers.”
Unlike pilseners, a pale lager beer bottled under familiar marquees such as Brand or Budwiser, Belgian beers typically contain more flavour and aroma elements due to the type of malt they use in the brewing process.
Popular brand names include Duvel or Chimay. For beer connoisseurs, like Fred, pilseners may otherwise be synonymous for tasteless beers and ever since that fateful day when he had his first taste of a Belgian beer, he has refused to drink a pilsener, if not only to taste it. What makes Belgian beers so special according to Fred is that they “are so tasteful, all the passion is put in the bottle.”
Fred believes that “this region is the best in world [for making beer] because [the brewers] do not make concessions on quality and they do not try to change what works.”
“If you are a brewer you have to have courage because you do not make a lot of money,” he explains. “This also means that breweries do not spend a lot on marketing, which makes it difficult even for locals to know about regional craft beers brewed right in their own backyard.”
What makes beer so special?
Fred’s own dedication to promoting regional, truly artisan beers, means that he only stocks beers brewed within a 30-kilometer radius and which do not include the use of preservatives or additives like sugars.
This year Glimburger will see 126 varieties of beer which rotate on the store shelves depending on supply. Fred finds it important to allow new varieties an opportunity to be tried and enjoyed.
Fred’s passion for beer can be no more obvious than in his beer glass collection, which consists of 10367 beer glasses. For each glass Fred keeps two related beer bottles, one preserved, and one emptied from tasting.
Fred has also received numerous accolades for creating his own beers, some of which can also be purchased at the store. One of Fred’s most cherished brew achievements occurred at an annual Belgian beer tasting competition (www.limburgse-biervrienden.be) held by a devoted group of beer enthusiasts who come out every year in the second weekend in November to try new beers .
His beer Dwarsligger was the first beer to be sold out. Those more familiar with the Dutch language will better understand the meaning of dwarsligger, but as I have come to understand it, it is a person who persistently says “No” until as I guess, they try Fred’s beer.
It’s “the complexity,” insists Fred, that makes beer so special. Early in his chosen calling he first intensely studied wines before studying beer and his conclusion is that “when you want to know everything about beer, about the taste, about the aroma, about making it, its so much more complex than making wine.”
Fred’s top three favourite beers
Fred’s top three favourite beers underscore this point, as each beverage is as intriguing and steeped in history in its own right.
Fred’s third most favourite beer Gueuze, is a brew that I find endlessly fascinating. Gueuze is a lambic beer that belongs to a class of beers distinct from all the rest. Lambic beers are only those beers brewed in the Pajottenland region in Belgium (just west of Brussels) that are allowed to undergo natural fermentation en plein air. The environment of the Pajottenland region supports a specific strain of yeast microorganisms that allow natural fermentation to occur and produce a beer that is not only drinkable, but also tremendously enjoyable according to Fred.
His second most favorite beer and the elixir we enjoyed during our chat is Adelardus Trudoabdijbier Tripel. A triple beer indicates the use of three times the normal amount of malt used in the brewing process, leading to a proportionally higher content of alcohol, around 9% by volume. This particular beer is also brewed at a 250-year-old Abbey a distinction that loosely means having an affiliation with an existing Monastery and, according to Fred “by a brewer who has two wives.” Initially, I wasn’t sure if this distinction was going to turn into a discussion about polygamy but as it turns out the brewer’s second wife is his brewery.
Adelardus Trudoabdijbier Tripel
His favorite beer and one that he does not stock because it does not meet within his 30-kilometer perimeter requirement is the Belgian trappist beer Westmalle Tripel. In this case, the trappist designation does indicate that the beer has been brewed in the walls of trappist monastery and to quality standards upheld by Monks who have been brewing beer since the Middle-Ages. It’s anybody’s guess why concerted pilgrimages to the trappist monasteries aren’t nearly as popular as the journey to Mecca or the Holy Land because at least at the monasteries you can be assured a refreshing drink at the end.
In a generation that markets beer more for mass consumption rather than personal enjoyment it’s easy to dismiss beer as a one dimensional product, so it’s nice to be reminded every so often of the long history and tradition in the art of beer making.
When I asked Fred if there was one thing that he’d like to communicate to people about beer, “it’s that you should enjoy it”, he replied, so enjoy it I will, as I hope that you will do too.
I encourage you to visit the Glimburger, meet the charming Fred and explore some of the wonderful beers this region has to offer.
For more information on the Glimburger store or the beers mentioned in this post please visit any one of the following links.
Glimburger is located at Sint Pieterstraat 52a, 6211 JP, Maastricht. The website for the store can be found at www.glimburger.nl
More information on Fred’s top three beers can be found here:
3) Lambic Geuze, www.lindemans.be
2) Adelardus Trudoabdijbier, www.brouwerijkerkom.be
1) Trappist Westmalle, Tripel, www.trappistwestmalle.be
Text and photographs by Patrick Granton
Patrick Granton is a Canadian PhD student in radiation oncology at Maastricht University