The early 1800s was a good time to be a mail delivery person in Belgium. If you were canny and got your routes to pass through the town of Dendermonde, when in need of thirst quenching sustenance, you could pull up at the De Hoorn Inn and have a decent beer poured into a special glass that would fit neatly onto a holder on the side of your carriage. There would be no need to leave the precious mail cargo stored in the carriage and you could quaff away to your heart's content. Ingenious.
This beer was, of course, Kwak, its entrepreneurial creator being one Pauwel Kwak - and it's still served in a special fluted-bulbous-ended glass to this day. I like the necessity is the mother of invention aspect of this, and I like the Kwak labels too, with a surrealist/pop art slant that could be the love child of René Magritte and Peter Blake.
But what strikes me more than anything about Kwak’s history, is that, although the glass has stayed the same… times have certainly changed.
We’ve discussed this before; just how different beer’s place in society was some 200 years ago. A thirst quenching beer in the middle of a hard day’s work was seen almost as a right… apparently even if your work involved driving! I suppose technically, in those days, as long as the horses didn't indulge, it wouldn’t really be drinking and driving (the horse and carriage really being a semi-autonomous vehicle that even Elon Musk would be proud of).
Once again it’s proof of the historical appreciation of the “power of beer” and really does have me wondering - was I born in the right century?!
I guess that’s why the current beer scene is so important. The craft nature of modern brewing is hopefully resurrecting the notion of the artisanal beer (which was beginning to be lost to the commercially mass produced quaffer) whilst your typical small-scale, local craft brewery is bringing beer back into the community in a positive way. And so, a new generation of beer lovers will be coming through the ranks with a highly attainable, high quality selection of brews, from savvy, sustainably minded, inspirational producers, no more than the click of a button away thanks to the likes of Beer Cellar. That’s got to be a good thing right!?
Let’s try this inspirational Kwak.
It pours a deep amber in the glass with a velvety cream head. On the nose it’s the malt that’s winning by a fraction, and the citrus hop notes combine with caramel, anise and cumin in an experience that’s not unlike spreading marmalade on a slice of spiced rye bread. The palate is big and full bodied with the notes from the nose appearing in force. Once again the malt wins by a fraction with a rich caramel right at the death.
This is exactly the beer you thought it would be. Big and Belgian and totally heart-warming.
So, back in the 1800s you could grab a thirst quenching, civilised beer whilst delivering the mail. But, when you got home from work, unfortunately there was no way to order a beer of three online. Maybe I was born in the right century after all…