Peaceful pint in Brabant
Palm dominates the Brabant village of Steenhuffel, on the old route from the hop-growing town of Aalst to the brewing city and regional capital, Mechelen.
The enterprise has its origins in a farm called De Hoorn, in 1597. The farm's brewery seems to have emerged with its own identity in 1747, though the owners still have cows and breed Brabant horses.
A descendant of the owning family from that period, 84-year-old Alfred Van Roy, is chairman of the Board and still signs the cheques. The brewery made a darkish, top-fermenting "Steen huffel Bier" until the 1920s. At that time, Pilsner-style beers began to be introduced to Belgium, but the Van Roys could not afford the cooling equipment needed for lager.
They decided to produce a pale ale in broadly the British style. The family would have liked to adapt their name to create a brand.
"Royale sounded good, but my uncle's brewery beat us to it." the chairman said. The company's brochure notes that palms are a symbol of victory, and the brand was introduced after World War I but a decade later.
Mr Van Roy says the name was suggested by a member of the family who was a priest. "The rest of the family weren't sure, but the palm is a Christian symbol, and the word is the same in French, Flemish and English".
Palm is brewed entirely from pale ale malt, hopped with Fuggles, East Kent Goldings and some Targets, and fermented with a three-strain "top" yeast. It has 5.2-5.5 per cent alcohol by volume.
The beer has a bright, medium-amber colour; a lightly spicy aroma; a gently creamy, malty, palate; and a late development of tart, bitter-orange, dryness. It is a beautifully rounded beer.
Published Online: MAY 2, 2000
Published in Print: SEPT 1, 1997
In: What's Brewing
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