A visit to the brewery of Achouffe
All that childhood naivety, such bliss. Especially for parents who can occasionally take advantage. The beauty lies in the fact that you can almost make them believe anything, if only you start early on, telling them the tales that make your life and theirs a little simpler.
One such a tale offers you the possibility to carelessly enjoy your cold (case of) beer without a constant nagging for nipps. Whenever my kids ask me if they can have a sip of my pint of beer (or any other alcoholic substance for that matter); I slide my glass over to them, telling them they càn have a sip … I also mention that they should well be aware of the fact that if they do, they will stop growing. Subsequently brows get raised, eyes widen, little pearls of sweat start forming on their foreheads; they face the risk to forever remain the same wee size.
Up until now, this little quirk has done the trick. However, the older they get, the more critic they become. To renew their faith, exaggeration is needed. You’ll need to visit the brewery of Achouffe.
A Tell-Tale of the Valley of Fairies and Leprechauns
Once upon a time in the valley of the fairies, near the town of Houffalize, lived little leprechauns. They lived under the ground were their prime occupation was brewing a delightful and luscious beer. In their brewery, built in a large cavity underneath a hilltop, they produced up to 15 million muds of golden ale on a daily basis. The production of lilliputian nectar was pumped out of the brewery, forming a beer spring in the woods of Cédrogne, quenching the thirst of the Templers that dwelled in the surroundings at the time.
I explained to my kids how a good brewer always has to taste his own product before bottling it, much like a good cook tastes his own food before serving it. Because this was one big prosperous ‘family-business’, the leprechauns’ kids were obviously immediately activated in the production process. They were the ones taking a tiny sip from each and every bottle before it got corked, to ensure the beer hadn’t gone sour. This tasting-custom is still used today and is why, you will never see a bottle or can of beer filled up to the top. One sip always lacks.
For most kids, this very plausible explanation should suffice. If you start sipping beer as a kid, you stop growing; prove being the leprechauns who are not by definition little but because of the burdening responsibility of inspecting the aromas of the beer that rests on their kid shoulders.
If your kid should nonetheless still have doubts, be reassured, the story continues. It was a cold day in the sun. As always the leprechauns were rushing about, brewing their beer when all of a sudden, the hilltop collapsed. The entire brewery and all leprechauns perished under the weight of the dirt that had come down. Except for one leprechaun who survived, named ‘A.Chouffe’ , after the sneezing sound he made whenever he went above ground, exposing himself to the bright beams of the sun. Robbed of his life purpose of brewing beer, he wandered the surrounding woods at night. It was on one of such nightly strolls that he encountered two men, Pierre Gobron en Christian Bauweraerts, who agreed to help him recreate the ancient recipe for the leprechaun beer as the original got buried along with the entire gnomemansland. Eventually they succeeded in rescuing the beer as well as the gnome itself from near oblivion. In utter ecstasy A. Chouffe tasted the first perfect bottling, sneezed one last time and passed away … In his honor, his image was immortalized on the etiquette of the beer.
Sad story but not nearly sad enough to encourage kids not to drink, so let’s make it a bit more grim; Pierre Gobron en Christian Bauweraerts soon discovered that four hands were too little to provide growing demand with enough of their golden draught. At the end of their tether and desperate, they eventually sold their beer and so its soul to the devil. And there you have it; you don’t have to be very superstitious to know that Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers eventually always meet up…
That last passage might just need a some interpretation; the brewery was indeed taken over in 2006 to ensure it’s growth. Moortgat, the company who took over Achouffe, owns a number of beerbrands of wich the most popular is called ‘Duvel’, or Dutch dialect for ‘Devil’.
Since the Achouffe-brewery, ever after the deal with the ‘Devil’, has lost the last of it’s artisanale character, I didn’t take the effort to tag along on a guided visit. The trip to the ‘valley of the fairies’ however was a success. I left with my daughter who was 6 years old at the time, claiming she didn’t believe in these strange creatures anymore. But by the time we got there, she had already spotted fairies and leprechauns all over the place. And after a stroll around the town and its surroundings she got completely convinced by the foamy malt that still lingers in the creeks. Afterwards I enjoyed a cold Mac’Chouffe, without any nagging for sips. Safe to say … mission accomplished.