Hendrick Verspecht joins Herlinda Heras and Harry Duke today on Brew Ha Ha. Hendrick is a co-founder of the first authentic Belgian-style brewery in Sonoma County, cuVer Brewery. The last time he was on Brew Ha Ha was this episode on September 16, 2021, when cuVer was just about to open their Windsor location to the public. Since then the brewery has won an important award and has seen an increase in orders for its award-winning brew. He learned brewing in his garage at home in Belgium and studied plant biology at university in Belgium. Now the family has this brewery in Windsor with a lot of others nearby.
Tara Nurin will call in from Minneapolis, Minnesota to report on the Craft Brewers Conference. They had the most entries they have ever had at this year’s edition. Tara’s call is posted separately on this podcast episode.
Hendrick and his extended family opened the brewery just over a year ago to make the Belgian styles that they missed. They had an opportunity to purchase a brewery and they have had a great first year. They are located off Bell Road in Windsor in the beverage district near Artisan Alley. Check the website for up-to-date hours.
The Award-Winning Pepperwood Ale
cuVer Brewery won the award for Best Session Beer for their signature recipe called Pepperwood Ale. It also won an award as a home brew at the California State Fair in 2018. He is especially proud of the fact that they won an award with a Belgian beer, in a category that is not strictly for Belgian beer. It was for any that are ABV 5% or less. It is made to be refreshing and relaxing and not too strong. Hendrick says “it’s a farmworker’s beer. I just went for local spices that I find in my backyard.” The native California Bay Laurel is also called the Pepperwood tree. He also uses Meyer lemon peel, and finding enough of those can be a problem. But it also uses Saison yeast, which is a key ingredient. Belgian beers are fermentation-driven and a lot of the flavor comes form the yeast itself.
They are snacking on Herlinda’s home-made frittes with the beer, which are a daily chow in Belgium. “It happens to be thee perfect beer pairing food,” says Hendrick. Their orders have increased since they won.
Lambic and Gueuze Styles
He has also brought some other special Belgian beers for tasting. Lambics are a style of spontaneously fermented beer, made in the Bruxelles area. You don’t add yeast to it. It is exposed in a shallow, flat vat called a cool ship. Russian River Brewing Co. has one and Shady Oak has a mobile one. It picks up yeast in the environment, then gets pumped into barrels, where it slowly starts to ferment. This bottle is a 2020 bottling, so it has been in the bottle for 2 years. A Lambic is a single brew and the Gueuze is a blend between 1, 2 and 3 year old brews. “It lives somewhere between beer, wine and kombucha.” There is even a pellicule that is film floating on top where the microbes are growing. (Pellicule is Latin for “film” literally “little skin.”)