De Clerck, Jean, is known as one of the brewing world’s most influential scientists and scholars. Born in Brussels in late 1902, he attended the brewing school at Belgium’s famed Catholic University of Louvain, becoming its professor in 1943, a role he would play for the next 30 years.
In 1947 De Clerck founded the European Brewery Convention, and the following year he published his canonical two-volume work, Textbook for brewing. His career brought him to a number of breweries, but it was with two that De Clerck made his most enduring marks.
Between World Wars I and II, the Moortgat brewing family commissioned De Clerck to deconstruct the popular McEwan’s Scotch ale. He used the yeast he found in the imported beer to make a dark brew that was given the name Duvel, from the Flemish word for “devil.” Decades later, when preferences had veered toward lighter-colored beers, De Clerck returned to the Moortgat Brewery to reengineer Duvel, creating the golden strong ale that remains wildly popular today.
When De Clerck was summoned to the Notre Dame de Scourmont Abbey in the early 1950s to correct production problems that had made its house beer, Chimay, almost undrinkable, he found that none of the monks was formally trained in brewing. De Clerck arranged for one, Father Théodore, to take his course in Louvain, and eventually the two worked together to create Chimay Blue Label, a dark, strong ale that sent the Trappist brewery on its way to worldwide fame. De Clerck died in 1978 and was buried at the Scourmont Abbey, an honor usually accorded only to its resident monks.