Park Abbey; the home of Heverlee and a beloved fixture in my hometown. A place where, hundreds of years ago, a group of visionary monks created a lager to be shared with the community – and consequently attracted some - let’s diplomatically say - ‘unwelcome attention’ from bigger, and more competitive brewing neighbours in Leuven.
But that’s all in the past. Now the Abbey, which once grew to be one of the most prominent in the Southern Netherlands, is gaining a new lease of life – a welcome move in my eyes and in the eyes of my neighbours, who have grown up under the watch of its magnificent, but slightly time-worn, architecture. A massive €45 million renovation will see its grounds not only returned to their former glory but also used in wonderful new ways.
BACK TO THE BEER FUTURE
A walk around the Abbey’s 42 hectares (after wandering round, a pint feels well-deserved, let me tell you) reveals its beautiful, dramatic buildings, orchards, farmland, old stables and even a lake. Nothing has been added or taken away from the grounds since 18th century, and it shows. Despite the busy construction work that’s now underway, I get a real sense of stepping back in time whenever I visit – a place that’s full of historical importance, including the part it plays in the story of Belgian beer.
Sales of Heverlee are helping towards the renovation and the project’s first milestone is expected to be reached this summer – and it’s very fitting one! The old mill, which sits next to the lake and was the very place that the monks first made their lager, is being transformed into a modern café bar, where Heverlee will be poured to visitors. Yes, you will soon be able to enjoy a Heverlee Beer there – and we expect thousands will come to the Abbey when the renovation is complete next year. Those lucky folk will be able to taste Heverlee in its original setting; the very place that inspired me to bring the beer back to life and over the Channel to the UK and beyond.
From my most recent visit, above is a picture of the Abbey as it is now. In the meantime, cheers to the future!
Posted by Joris