Video: Grégory Verhelst talks about Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles and Brassigaume, an out-of-the-way beer festival in Marbehan, Belgium. In the first part of the interview Verhelst talks about the festival and then about his philosophy of brewing when founding Rulles.
Yes, the Beer Idiots thought they were adventurous, taking their lazy, urban souls out of the fog of Brussels and venturing two hours by train to Marbehan, a Belgian village of 1000 people in the country’s Wallonia region, to attend the wonderful festival of Brassigaume. We admit, we don’t do enough coverage about brewers in Wallonia. So this was our chance.
We ended up interviewing a Luxembourg brewer (Bare Brewing), a British one (Tigertops), a Polish one (Gzub) and an Italian one (Gjulia). But we did redeem ourselves. We have already featured one of our favourite brewers from Wallonia: Atrium, which is celebrating its first birthday this month. And we interviewed Laurent Agache of Brasserie de Cazeau, a family-owned brewery founded in 1753, and which he has revived based on the recipes of his father and grandfather. Of course, we also interviewed brewer Grégory Verhelst, founder of Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles, and of Brassigaume, though it takes a village to run a festival.
Verhelst founded Rulles in 2000, a year before he launched Brassigaum. After tasting Moinette from Brasserie Dupont as a young lad, he decided that brewing beer was his calling. After graduating with a diploma as an agricultural engineer, with a specialisation in brewery-malting, in went on to found Rulles, which now produces about 4,000 hectolitres a year, using an open fermentation method.
All the beers are not filtered or pasteurised. They undergo a second fermentation in the bottle and barrels. He chose the brewery’s location in Rulles for the water from the local river of the same name.
Verhelst bills himself as achieving authentic tastes in the “spirit of craft”. He started with a blonde, and worked his way up to producing a brune then a triple. A summer beer followed in 2004, then his pride and joy, a pils in 2015. He also produced an imperial pils in 2015 followed by Holy Hop Circus this year. He has made lots of other beers in between, from wild to mild, but these are the staples of his production.
Then there is of course Rullquin, a blend of a stout and an oude gueuze from Tilquin. Like most brewers in the area, he started off with yeast from the nearby Orval Abbey and since 2009 has been able to culture enough of his own strains for his operation.
Image: Brasserie Rulles’ mascot Marcel was created by the artist Palix. who also created the whimsical logo for Brassigaume, featuring a steampunk oldster in a beery garb floating above some beer suds.
Gem of a festival
Brassigaume is a hidden gem. Let us just say we love this festival, set in a spacious tent, and with a down-to-earth nature. It’s fun and friendly and we made many friends. Brassigaume unashamedly bills itself as a festival for ‘authentic brewers’ and this year marked its 19th edition with the hipster label of ‘craft beer’. Belgium, one could argue, has always been home to craft breweries, despite also being the headquarters of AB InBev. It’s just that no-one ever bothered to call these small, artisanial brewers hidden away in villages across the land by that moniker.
For microbreweries in Belgium’s south, this is main showcase for their beer. Wallonia does not have the mass of beer festivals as in the Brussels and Flemish regions. But it does have Brassigaume, which featured 26 brewers over the two days (October 19-20). Marbehan is in the Gaume region, known for Orval Abbey, so it has a strong tradition of brewing.
List of brewers at 2019 Brassigaume