BRASSERIE DE LA SENNE – TARAS BOULBA is the final beer that we will be BrewViewing for the month of November 2014. We were hoping to find any beer from BRASSERIE DE LA SENNE to our visit at Perry’s Liquor & Craft Beer in Livermore California, back in the end of September. We have read so many great things about the beers being produced from this relatively new brewery, that we jumped on the chance to BrewView Taras Boulba!


The beers of Brasserie de la Senne are produced by two passionate brewers from Brussels:  Yvan De Baets and Bernard Leboucq.

They work in a small brewery honoring the traditional ways of brewing beer: unfiltered, unpasteurized, free of any additives and using only the finest raw materials of the highest quality. Their dedication to uncompromised quality is definitely one of the outstanding characteristics of the brewery.

The beers, with their complex flavor and well-distinguished personalities, are true beers of character, made in Brussels.


Yvan and Bernard met in May 2002, at the time of the second edition of the Zinneke parade in Brussels, for which Bernard had created the now famous Zinnebir.   They started their professional brewing career towards the end of 2003, building a microbrewery in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, in the former warehouse of the Moriau brewery. They decided to call it the Sint-Pieter Brouwerij. After producing for two years, the premises had become too small due to the success. They decided to move and make their dream of establishing the brewery in their city, Brussels, a reality. To mark the occasion, they named their brewery after the river from which their city was born more than a thousand years ago: Brasserie de la Senne. It took Yvan and Bernard five years before they could properly settle in the city. Meanwhile, in order to continue production, they rented different breweries, owned by friends, where they could brew their beer themselves. These migratory years came to a conclusion on December 22, 2010, the date of their first  brew 100% made in Brussels!


Bitterness is the key characteristic of their beers: it is their foundation. They have produced bitter beers since the beginning of their existence – and they are here to brew bitter beers! Their approach was simple: they wanted to brew beers to their liking that they could no longer find on the market. They took on the challenge to bring this flavor – so fundamental in the evolution of human societies but sadly neglected in our modern societies – up to date.

Of course, their beers are not confined only to bitterness, they are always balanced with the aromatic contribution of malt, hops and fermentation.


They produce strong beers, but their great specialty is beers that are light in alcohol. As a typical example, the Taras Boulba (4.5%) is “the” beer for quenching your thirst. They want to show that there is not necessarily a need for alcohol to get flavor. Light beers further allow prolonging the pleasure – and therein lies the reason for the beer’s existence.


Quality and the desire to always do better is their obsession. They will never give in to the lure of profit.

This is first concerning the quality of taste, with beers of character, without any concession to commercialism.

It is also about using superior raw materials, where the quality prevails over price. They strive to maintain a long-term relationship with their producers as well as being as close to them as possible.

Furthermore it is about a quality production process, with particular attention to cleanliness – a key in brewing – and the choice of technology. At certain key stages of production, they have chosen to work with low intensity technology, to maintain the richness of taste and texture provided by the raw materials. It is, for example, the lack of filtration that gives a light veil to their beers – it is a sign of their natural character.

Finally they give time to the time: it takes the them two months to make a beer, which is considered a very long time to make beers of top fermentation these days… This also explains why they sometimes have stock ruptures of some beers. They take pride in being a local brewery; Brussels is their market, followed by the rest of Belgium. They limit their exports, despite the success they have encountered abroad. The beers are, however, available in a dozen countries, with a leading presence in the United States, Italy and Japan. (Source: BRASSERIE DE LA SENNE)


Here is the explanation that Shelton Brothers (importers of Brasserie de la Senne’s beers) has to say on the matter:

It’s all been explained to us by the brewers, but we’re still not entirely clear about it. What we can understand is that a young Flemish man has gone and married a French-speaking Wallonian girl, and his father, Taras Boulba, is very angry. (Smeirlap means ‘fool’ in a bizarre local dialect, which combines Flemish and French, somehow.)

This is all a bastardization of the original story by Gogol, whose protagonist was Ukrainian (Zaporozhian Cossack, specifically), and a Protestant. His son marries a Polish girl, a Catholic, during the religious war between the two countries in the 1600s, and the Ukrainian father simply kills his son to eliminate the shame.

The label says this is “just the beginning of the story,” so surely the brewers have something else up their sleeves. We can’t wait.


Style category:  Belgian Blonde Extra Hoppy Ale

Light blonde with 4.5% alc., generously hopped with the finest aromatic hops, giving it a very refreshing character and a scent reminiscent of citrus.

Quick note from Shelton Brothers: Taras Boulba is the perfect session beer — loaded with complex yeast flavors, hopped to perfection, and as drinkable as any beer you’ve ever tried. At 4.5% alcohol, it’s built for drinkability — we suggest buying it by the case.


Poured into a tulip-shaped glass, and served at 50°F. Pours a light blond color. The white colored head pours an easy 4-finger height, with large and small bubbles; dense and rocky. The head sustains extremely well. The rim variation color is slightly lighter.

As the head collapses, the Brussels lacing it leaves behind is very thick and even. (We ensured this was a “Beer Clean” glass). The meniscus is slow rising- very impressive for a beer that is less than 5% ABV.  There was a  cloudy haze to the beer, due to the bottle conditioning and extremely heavy yeast sedimentation.

10 minutes later, the head still sustained between a 1/4″ to 1/2″ inch in height, with very dense Brussels lacing on the glass. When we roused the beer after standing for 10 minutes, the beer re-produces almost a 3/4″ head once again. Amazing.

Very impressive citrus bouquet- we could smell the citrus aroma right away even before sticking our nose into the glass. (Our noses being at least a foot away from the glass!) Beautiful floral, fresh hop aromas. Grassy, citrus (Meyer lemon) there is even a wild grape skin yeast aroma to it. The hop nose is well balanced, not overly piney. There is an excellent balance of fresh yeast, citrus and hops all at the same time.

Definite dry hoppyness- most people will try to compare the taste to another famous Belgian Blonde ale, but not so. The crispness is different. This is what we like about Belgian Hoppy beers- they do it in a way that is complimentary to the beer.

Upon the initial taste, the bitterness hits the roof of the mouth, and not so much the tip of the tongue. It fills the mouth with its hop astringency- you can feel it in your cheeks! Extremely drinkable, it has a nice (not mega-overpowering) hop bitterness / dryness with great yeasty spicy phenols that begs for another refreshing sip.

APPETIZERS: Chicken salad, sashimi, pork terrine, braised endives. Soft triple- cream cheeses.
ENTRÈES: Moule en Frite, Waterzooi, chicken marsala, fish tacos, baked oysters.
DESSERTS: Poached pear, Meyer lemon cheesecake, lemon bars, or just grab a bunch of high quality grapes from Druiventeelt Van Camp!

When we found Taras Boulba on the shelves at Perry’s Liquor & Craft Beer, we immediately knew that we had our list of four beers to BrewView for November 2014 complete. This was another brewery whose beers we were hoping to find in the USA shortly after watching a segment on the Belgian TV show, Tourneé Generale, a few years back.

As you all know, hoppy Belgian beers are resurging in popularity. Brasserie de la Senne have taken every measure possible to ensure that the person who opens up their beer for the first time and takes that first sip, will be very well pleased.

The brewery has gained some notoriety with their artful, and quirky labels. Each label has a story behind it. The brewers have made a conscious choice to market their beers to bars, restaurants, cafes, and beer shops that will care for their product well. They have made this choice to ensure that their paying customers will enjoy the best possible drinking experience. We praise them for that.

This is an awesome beer- very drinkable and very “sessionable.” This beer (and all Brasserie de la Senne beers) are soon destined to become world classics. Seek this one out for sure- we’re glad we did! This goes in our top 100 beers of all time.


Shelton Brothers – Taras Boulba


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