Subscriber Exclusive

Breakout Brewery: Bokkereyder

“New lambic blender” are words not often spoken, but upstart Raf Souvereyns’s Bokkereyder lambic brand is putting that phrase in headlines with a distinct nod to the blending tradition and a progressive attitude toward incorporating winemaking techniques.

Jamie Bogner Dec 10, 2018 - 13 min read

Breakout Brewery: Bokkereyder Primary Image

Photo by Jamie Bogner

“Absolutely not.” Raf Souvereyns does not want photos taken in his industrial warehouse in Hasselt, about an hour outside of Brussels. He’s a private person, and publishing photos of what is basically his second home seems like sacrilege. We meet on a summer Sunday during the Belgian cherry harvest, and Souvereyns, along with a handful of friend volunteers, are packing cherries into barrels then racking beer on top of them. We taste some cherries, destined for his kriek, and they’re sweet but rich with layers of earth and almond. They’re not the well-known Schaerbeekse variety, but a flavorful variety from a farm south of Brussels that Souvereyns prefers. He doesn’t choose fruit or methods based on lambic tradition or consumer familiarity but is on a mission to bring the fruit-handling techniques of winemaking into the world of spontaneously fermented beer.

“When I started this whole thing, I knew why I wanted to do it—I knew it could be done in a different way, from my experience at wineries learning about winemaking,” Souvereyens says. “I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I knew that I could possibly make something better or at least give it a very different twist. Whether it’s better is very subjective, but I could make it a whole different product.” Bokkereyder, the brand (named for the creatures of Dutch folklore that rode on the backs of goats provided by Satan), started inauspiciously—as a home-blending project in his grandmother’s house. A winemaker sent him home with a small barrel and suggested he age some lambic in it. After acquiring some inoculated wort from De Troch, he aged that beer for a year, added some cherries to the barrel to make a kriek, and the result was…disappointing.

“It was the worst beer I’ve ever made,” says Souvereyns.

Make & Drink Better Beer

Subscribe today to access all of the premium brewing content available (including this article). With thousands of reviews, our subscribers call it "the perfect beer magazine" and "worth every penny." Your subscription is protected by a 100% money back guarantee.

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].