The History of Liefmans

Liefmans is a brewery with a wonderfully long-standing pedigree and can be traced back as far as 1679, officially becoming “Liefmans” in 1770.

The first owner

Jacobus Liefmans first established his brewery on the banks of the River Scheldt over 300 years ago. Throughout much of that time, the brewery has been run by the Liefmans family, right up until the early 1900s.

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The second owner

The Liefmans family owned the brewery until 1905, when it was purchased by the Van Geluwe family. They in turn sold the brewery to Riva Brewery in 1990.

The third owner

Riva began brewing the wort for Liefmans at their brewery then trucking it over to Oudenaarde to be fermented and conditioned in Liefmans’s massive tanks.  Despite being capable of fermenting and conditioning vast quantities of beer, the brewery portion was completely undersized and powered, the cost of upgrading it would have been prohibitive. Riva went belly up in 2007 and the future looked dim for Liefmans.

The current owner

Fortunately, the Moortgat family, owners of Duvel, stepped in and saved Liefmans and their historic beers. Nowadays, Liefmans is owned by Duvel-Moortgat, but all of Liefmans’ most-famed beers are still fermented on-site.

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Key roll players

One individual who played a key part in the brand was Rosa Merckx. This highly gifted lady was closely involved in the brewery’s operations over several decades. Thanks to her encouragement, the cherry beer evolved into a real success story.

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Liefmans was the first brewery to wrap every bottle by hand in tissue paper. In honour of Rosa Merckx, her signature now appears on every Liefmans label. Along with today’s master brewers, she still keeps an eye on the quality of Liefmans’ products.

The brewing process

A genuine Liefmans can only be brewed and perfected in the Oudenaarde premises. Much of the fruit beer’s character comes from the brewery’s use of local waters that are rich in iron and calcium. Those mineral riches are a source of the brown colouration that is so characteristic of Liefmans’ beers. It’s reckoned that their famed dark colour comes as much from that calcium, as it does from the dark roasted malts and added cane sugar.

A new beer

You could very well ask whether the Liefmans beers have changed throughout the years? The answer is, yes they have, without a doubt – in the same way that wine undergoes an evolution in taste with every vintage.

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They are also constantly expanding their portfolio and has recently introduced Yell’oh On the Rocks, a refreshing apero beer with aromas of pineapple, lime and apple.

You can purchase Yell’oh On the Rocks from all major liquor outlets. I get mine from Roeland Liquors in Cape Town, priced at R30 a bottle.