'Our Maasheggen beer must retain special flavor'

Cuijk Brewing Brigade

Plants and herbs from the Maasheggen already formed the basis for an artisanal tea and a wide range of quirky syrups. Last year a specialty beer was added to the growing palette of regional products from Maasheggen. With hops and various blossoms from the area and flavored with honey from a local beekeeper.
Interest in the Maasheggenbier was high. "Our first batch of 120 liters was sold out in no time," said the Cuijk Brewing Brigade.

The Cuijk Brewing Brigade is formed by René Haring, Marcel Koot and Henk Winnen. The application engineer, data analyst and nurse found each other six years ago in their shared passion: brewing beer. "We met at a forum for hobby brewers," says Henk Winnen. "We didn't know each other yet, but it clicked immediately. We also shared the same desire: all three of us wanted to make a beer that would eventually end up on store shelves."

The three hobby brewers also immediately agreed that their beer should be special. "We wanted our beer to stand out," said Marcel Koot. "We therefore immediately, from the beginning, looked for special flavors. For something that did not yet exist in our area. Tasty, accessible beers that above all taste like beer, with -what we call- a Kuuk twist. With that "Kuuk twist"-and with us that comes from grains, yeast, hops, and spices-we enrich the flavor palette in such a way that we stand out. That people say, "gosh, I haven't had it this good before." Or even better, that they order a second one..."

After first marketing a number of Cuijk beers (a blonde beer, a NEIPA, a tripel and a saison), the trio came up with the idea of making a Maasheggenbier. A special beer, with herbs from the Maasheggen. "In itself, the use of herbs in beer is not so special," says Koot. "Belgian beers often already use herbs, such as coriander. And Grolsch has also previously released a beer with elderflower and lime blossom."

Wild hops

It didn't stop the members of the Cuijkse Brouwbrigade from figuring out how to turn their Maasheggenbier into something special after all. René Haring had previously had experience using wild hops in his beer. Wild hops are also found in the Maasheggen area. "Once we spent an entire day picking hops at Maasheggen, after which we spent evenings peeling off the flowers. A huge job, but it yielded the hops we needed to give our Maasheggen beer a special flavor," said Haring.

By adding lime blossom, elderflower and honey from a beekeeper in Oeffelt, the beer acquired a dark, sweet and spicy taste. Marcel Koot: "We initially had 120 liters brewed at brewery Sint Servattumus in Schijndel. With that we had about three to four hundred bottles and fifty half-liter jugs filled."

The first version of the Maasheggen - "to see if there was a market for it," the Brew Brigade said- sold out in a short time. A new, slightly modified version of the Maasheggenbier will be released in mid-June. With hawthorn blossom as a new ingredient and with slightly fewer hops. Henk Winnen: "It is always a surprise how beer tastes when it is produced on a large scale. The taste is always just a little different than when you brew it, on a small scale, at home. Based on that, we made these adjustments."

On the map

The Maasheggenbier is available at liquor stores in Cuijk, Haps and soon Boxmeer and Gennep, among other places. In addition, a number of catering establishments in the Maasheggen area are also interested in putting the special beer on their menus.
"The most important thing for us is that it remains a special beer. That it retains the flavor that makes it unique," Haring believes. Winnen adds: "We don't necessarily have an end goal in mind. We just enjoy making a great beer together."

The Maasheggen area still offers plenty of ingredients to further refine the special beer. Although the members of the Cuijk Brouwbrigade also realize that there is no inexhaustible picking in the UNESCO area. "We are well aware of that," says Koot. "We also only pick a maximum of a few hundred grams at a time. We can often get by with that for a year."

The (continued) development of Maasheggenbier can also be followed via the Cuijkse Brouwbrigade's Facebook page.

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