|Leffe has always used the finest natural ingredients and top fermentation brewing techniques that have made this beer such an important part of Belgium beer culture. To understand Leffe one can't help but be deeply inspired by the rich and fascinating history of the Leffe Abbey where this unique beer was first brewed almost 800 years ago!|
In fact, the history of Leffe closely parallels the history of Europe. During the Middle Ages, monasteries were founded all across the European continent and in the northern lands, it was the abbots that brewed beer. Not only was beer safer to drink than water, since the brewing process involves sterilisation, but the rich abbey beer was also a form of highly nutritious liquid bread. The origins of Leffe and the Abbey of Leffe - as it still can be visited today are thanks to the Norbertine Fathers, followers of the rule of St. Augustine. This Premonstratensian Order was sent to a magical site nestled in the Leffe valley between two rivers - the Leffe and the Meuse. Two churches had been built there in 1060. In 1152 Count Henri the Blind of Namur donated both the churches and the land to the nearby Floeffe Abbey which became the Abbey Notre-Dame de Leffe in 1200.
The Norbertine Fathers were excited to discover on the site a mineral spring, limpid and pure. In 1240, this water became the basis for Leffe when the brewing of the beer in its earliest form sprang to life. The Abbey purchased and received additional lands, including a hop field, a mill and a bakery. In 1240 the Abbey bought the brewery of Saint Mérdart, situated on the opposite bank of the Meuse River. There, they brewed beer for the community as well as passing travellers and pilgrims. At the time, the sole method of beer production was by top fermentation, a technique still used today to produce Leffe. It was during this period that brewing activities started to flourish. For this reason this date will always stand out in the rich history of Belgium beer as the origins of Leffe.
The Leffe Abbey quickly expanded, partly because of the important power given to its abbots. However, the combination of severe flooding in 1460 and invasion by Charles the Bold's Burgundian troops in 1466 left the Abbey shattered. Recovery came slowly as the church was rebuilt. Because the Abbey's title deed had been destroyed along with other records the Abbey was forced to sell or let a part of its territory. In this way, the brewery came to be operated by laymen. Supervised by the abbot, it continued producing beer for the Abbey's internal consumption.
In 1719 a new church was consecrated, replacing the one built after the 1460 flood. The festivities lasted three days. Considerable investment by the Abbey in the brewery continued during this period. The French Revolution was unkind to the Abbey, as invaders looted and vandalised Abbey property. The Leffe Abbey was abolished under Republican Law. Its land and buildings were nationalised. The brewing activity stopped altogether in 1809. After changing hands repeatedly, in 1903 the Abbey was finally taken over by Premonstratensian Fathers from St Michel de Frigolet, expelled from France due to the country's anti-clerical Combes law.
Devastation again afflicted the Leffe Abbey when Belgium was invaded during the First World War. A fire ravaged the archives. In 1928, Fathers from the nearby town of Tongerlo took over the Abbey. A year later a fire again damaged the buildings. The Premonstratensians however returned and reestablished the Leffe Abbey. In 1952 the Leffe Abbey, now re-established, found itself in dire financial straits. As a remedy the abbot formed an agreement with the brewer Albert Lootvoet to re-launch the production of Leffe respecting its grand tradition. Coming from a brewing family, Lootvoet began producing Leffe Brune that very year. Immediately successful, it was soon followed by the other varieties that make up the current distinctive range of Leffe brands. Lootvoet's enterprise kept growing. In 1977, it passed on to the Artois brewery, itself part of a centuries - old brewing tradition.
When Artois and Piedboeuf merged in 1987, Interbrew was created. 2004 saw historic combination of Interbrew and AmBev to create the world's largest brewer, InBev. Leffe is sold today in over 60 countries. In recent years it has enjoyed particularly strong sales growth on all continents. In Belgium, it is the fastest growing Abbey beer, while it's the number one Speciality Beer in France.
Throughout its rich history, Leffe has continued to be brewed according to the Leffe Abbey Fathers ancient recipe and with just as much care. The grain, hops and yeast that made up the ancient Leffe recipe are still the natural ingredients of today's brew. And the reputation of one of the world's greatest abbey beers continues to grow as discerning consumers around the world recognise what it means to Savour Life and Savour Leffe.
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