Brouwerij Roman – Brewing Through Generations

Lode and Carlo Roman in the heart of Brouwerij Roman
Lode and Carlo Roman in the heart of Brouwerij Roman

Brouwerij Roman is the oldest family owned brewery in Belgium, making a wide range of Belgian beer styles as well as the Romy Pils. The brewery in Oudenaarde dates back 1545, and is now in the hands of Lode and Carlo Roman, 14th generation of the brewing family.

The current buildings are from the 1930s and they are an awe-inspiring sight. The huge yard with buildings on all four sides reminded me of a Danish country estate (like Hagenskov), and I suppose with its private quarters, horse stables and grain storage, it isn’t very far from the truth, though further production buildings make the brewery even bigger.

The brewery yard
The brewery yard

The beautiful copper brew kettles are also from the 1930s, though today they’re fitted with stainless steel inside. There are two sets of fermentation tanks as the brewery is slowly modernizing. There are old tanks from the 1960s, and more modern cylindro-conical tanks for production of lager and the most popular top-fermented beers in the portfolio.

The Roman family tree is pretty impressive
The Roman family tree is pretty impressive, showing how the brewery has been passed down through 14 generations. Click the picture for a readable size

All in all, it’s a modern and ambitious brewery, with an expanding range of beers. The basis for the whole business is the classic Oudenaarde Bruin, or Flemish Brown Ale. I expected that kind of beer to be a caramel sweet beer but with a tart edge – beers like Liefmans Goudenband – however Roman’s Adriaen Brouwer is sweet with just a little hop bite and no tartness.

And there’s a story behind this. The Czech-born Roman Emperor Charles IV, based in the hop loving country of Germany, enacted the “Novus Modus Fermentandi Cerevisiam” decree in 1364. It was a beer quality law that required brewers to use hops for the beer to keep longer.

Brouwerij Roman's old machinery is still on display
Brouwerij Roman’s old machinery is still on display

His area of influence ended at the river Schelde, and on the western side of the river, under French power, it was still allowed to brew beer with the spice mixture called “gruit”. And since the city powers controlled the gruit market and had a big economical interest in its continued use, beer was still brewed the old way. For the gruit beers to keep, a controlled souring was used, and the Flemish red and brown sour ales were the result. Oudenaarde is on the river Schelde, and a natural border between the hopped beers and the sour beers.

After World War 2, Brouwerij Roman launched the Romy Pils, to take up the competition from bigger players in the market, and add a second pillar to the business. In the past 30 years as the market for specialty beers has expanded, many more beers have been added, most famously the Ename abbey beers. We tasted a range of the beers along with six little lunch snacks, all of which you can read about in the next blog entry.

Brouwerij Roman's range of beers
Some of Brouwerij Roman’s range of beers

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