Interview: brewmaster Sam Quartier (Brouwerij Bockor)

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Brewmaster Belgium

The Vander Ghinste family has presided over Brouwerij Bockor, a small Belgian brewery, since 1892. Sam Quartier became Bockor’s brewmaster in 2005, helping to ensure that Omer stays properly hopped and Jacobins remains consistently tart. Quartier was at Blue Palms Brewhouse on March 19 to lead a Flemish Sour Blending Seminar. He discussed the history and process and showcased sours at different stages of their evolution. Afterwards, he discussed his background and mission at Bockor.

How did the opportunity come about for you at Bockor?

I graduated from the Universtiy of Leuven as a bio engineer. I first started at St. Bernardus, in Watou, also a little village in Belgium, as a production and quality brewing engineer. I got another job, and five years ago they called me because they were in need of another brewmaster. I had an advantage because it was very close to my door. It was 5-6 miles from where I lived.

How did you become so interested in beer?

That’s a long story. I was 13, 14. You’ve got a little bit of a difference between the U.S. and Belgium. In Belgium you can drink beer when you are 16. I was in a youth movement. We would come together as kids and we had some mentors who are guarding you and teaching you some things. I had two mentors who were two students in Leuven with the same studies that I did. They were talking about making beer and that was very interesting. I began with the same studies in my first year, in biochemical engineering. I knew I would study for five years, and in the fifth year you have to choose what you’re going to do with food or beverage. I knew after the first year that if everything goes well I wanted to do something with beer. It’s a very rare process that you start with grains and water and some yeast and you end up with something magnificent, that is beer.

What was the first beer that you brewed?

The first beer that I brewed at St. Bernardus was St. Bernardus White.

So you never started as a home brewer? You were always professional?


Would you say that you have any brewing mentors?

Well those two guys who talked me into doing those studies. We had a very good professor at Leuven who I think is retiring this year. Professor Freddy Delvaux.

What’s your first beer memory?

I was 12, 13, I went on a holiday. It was the last night and we were at the bar. Not at a common bar, like you have here, but a family bar, and I asked my father if I could sip on his beer. I think it was a wheat beer, Hoegaarden. It was a soft, sweet beer. I just asked for a sip. That was my first beer experience.

What styles of beer do you typically enjoy drinking?

I like all styles. As a brewer, I am very much a fan of high fermentation blonde ales with good hopping and good bitterness. What we make with Omer has a bitterness of 30 IBUs, three types of hops that we use at different times, and a very special aroma, with high fermentation yeast that gives a lot of esters, a lot of fruitiness. That’s a beer that is quite easy to drink. It’s not that complex, but it’s quite easy to drink. You can drink it with food, you can drink it in different weather. In general, I like all beers. If it’s a good beer with good taste, then I like it.

Any opportunities to collaborate with other breweries?

In Belgium we are an independent family brewery. It’s always been from the family Vander Ghinste so that is something we would like to remain. We would not like to collaborate with other breweries, because now we have our own identity. We have my boss, Omer-Jean Vander Ghinste, you’ve got the production manager and the quality manager. Together we’re all brewmasters. So we can do our own thing. We just communicate with our boss on how we’re going to do it. If you collaborate with other breweries, you have discussions and sometimes discussions can lead to postponing decisions. We are a little brewery. If we say we’re going to do it today, or we’re going to do it next week, it will be done, because we’re such a small brewery.

What are some other breweries that you really respect?

I respect a lot of Belgian breweries. Belgium is a land of great breweries, and small breweries can make fantastic beers. A lot breweries export to America. I really have a deep respect for home brewers. Also in Belgium, we don’t have the financial power like say, A-B InBev. They have so much money and can do so many things with their product. Little breweries – I count myself as a small brewer, we make 50,000 barrels – we can still make good beers. Let’s say all breweries in Belgium.

If you could only drink one more beer, what would it be?

It would be a beer of my own brewery. It could be the Jacobins. It’s tough to decide. I very much like the Omer and the Jacobins. We also have a very good lager Pils. If I was to die, I would ask God for more time so I could drink three beers.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

I would choose the Jacobins for the last beer, hope they’re going to continue making that available over here.

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