The Distillerie de Biercée, Thuin
‘Every day, I taste the products, I organise the production of alcohol and eaux-de-vie, I test new flavours, I give tours of the distillery… It’s a great job’, says Pierre Gérard, distiller at Biercée for more than 20 years.
If you are not yet familiar with the products of the Distillerie de Biercée, it is time to let yourself be seduced. Located close to Thuin, at the heart of Greater Charleroi, it sells eaux-de-vie and unique liqueurs, made with fresh fruit and spices. Gastronomic heritage which has been a source of pride for the region for more than 70 years.
Using regional resources for a unique product
‘The distillery was launched in 1946, when a Normand visited his Belgian cousin and saw the orchards, identical to those in his region. He was surprised that the fruit wasn’t being used. His observation made his cousin think who was then inspired by French calvados to make the first regional alcohol from fruit. And so, the Vieille Pomme was born. This alcohol was similar to the ‘trou normand’ served fresh as an aperitif’, explains Pierre Gérard.
The distillery has grown a lot in 70 years. It has developed a range of alcohols and eaux-de-vie, always with the idea of producing drinks using the freshest ingredients possible, depending on the season. ‘In September and October, we work with apples and pears; in winter, citrus fruits; in May/June, berries. We directly transform the fruit’, he says.
The distillery is one of the last ones to make alcohol with fresh fruit
The distiller also completes his range of flavours with spices and herbs which he adds at the maceration stage.
Fruit is chosen according to its taste and depending on its availability, focusing on the local as much as possible. ‘We are supplied with cherries, apples and pears from Belgium. We are forced to get the rest from further afield, in particular, plums and Mirabelle plums which we buy in France. We get lemons from Murcia in Spain’, says the distiller. Pierre Gérard particularly values untreated and organic fruit.
No flavourings are added to the alcohols. He explain to us: ‘Sometimes, we put one or two drops of natural colouring in them to add colour to them’.
To make it look attractive, after distillation, a little cherry juice is added to the Biercée Griotte
Eau de Villée and other successful specialities
The distillery is particularly known for its flagship product made from lemons: l’Eau de Villée, created in 1981. This liqueur is the only one which can be stored in the freezer. ‘People enjoy this alcohol served fresh’, he says.
In addition to this bestseller, the gins and the Poire Williams have also been very successful. Followed by the Griotte (cherry aperitif) and the Noir d’Ivoire (chocolate liqueur).
L’Eau de Villée is really the symbol of the distillery
Every step is carried out here, at the distillery. The distiller works on the maceration or the fermentation, the distillation, the ageing of certain alcohols, such as the Poire Williams for example, and bottles it. ‘The maceration of the alcohol lasts 4 weeks, on average. We distil for about 120 days per year’, he explains.
Changing tastes, from very sweet alcohol to gin
For a while, demand has been growing for gin, whisky and bitters. As a result of this change, the Distillerie de Biercée is innovating whilst respecting traditional distillation expertise. ‘People enjoy alcohol that is a little more complex, with herbaceous or spiced notes. I’m working on different flavours in this regard. It’s fun for me, it gives me new ideas every day’.
Parallel to the production business, the distillery offers tours. In particular, it shows collectors’ items which include some very nice stills (distillation equipment), the production premises, the cellars where you can find Belgium’s first rye whisky. The tour ends with tasting specialities in the brasserie. It’s all located in an old farm full of character.
So, who said that beer was Belgium’s only speciality?
Distillerie de Biercée
rue de la Roquette, 36
+32 (0)71 59 11 06
©Video/Reed & Jérôme Gobin