Brouwerij Gulden Spoor is located in the courtyard of a former farm that dates back to 1552. Back in the 16th century the farm was the property of Guldenberg Abbey in Wevelgem, which now no longer exists.
Beer runs through the veins of brewery founder and owner Peter Koopman.
Around 1900, Peter’s great-grandfather Kamiel Van Damme was a cart driver for two breweries: Sint-Maarten in Heule and Sint-Antoon in Gullegem.
His son Gustaaf Van Damme specialised in transporting flax, an agricultural product for which the textile region around the city of Kortrijk was well known.
The site of the brewery used to be a coaching inn on the main road between Kortrijk and Roeselare.
Peter Koopman’s father was a machinist, but his farm offered several rooms for parties and get-togethers.
This, and the specialty beer café, De Lekpot, in Loppem, set up by a friend, inspired Peter to found ‘t Rusteel in 1983. This establishment initially focused on regional beers but, over the years, grew into a fully fledged beer restaurant. Rusteel is a local dialect term for the trough from which horses eat and refers back to the former coaching inn.
The formula was an immediate success: beer is extremely popular in and around Gullegem.
By 1985 the first home-brewed beer appeared on the menu: Vlaskapelle, a slightly sour Flemish red-brown beer, was brewed on-site using smoked whisky malt, to be followed two years later by Netebuk, a saison-type beer.
In the local dialect, netebuk means ‘rascal’ or ‘scallywag’ – a good indication of the wayward character of the Netebuk beers.
‘t Rusteel has had a fully equipped home brewery on-site since the year 2000.
Current brewer Bjorn Desmadryl first joined the team as a trainee at the end of the 1980s when he was an IT student. Bjorn married Kim, who helped out in the kitchen at the time and is qualified in Biotechnical Sciences.
They joined Peter Koopman’s son Pieter, who holds the same qualification, to form the basic team of ‘t Brouwkot, later renamed Gulden Spoor.
The business began in a modest way with equipment consisting of recycled milk urns and boiling kettles, but it would not be long before ever larger brewing halls were installed to meet the demands of the growing enterprise.
The red-brown Manten beer and the tripel Kalle were created, both named after bell-ringers at Kortrijk belfry.
The range of home beers gradually increased. The basic range includes Gulden Spoor Blond, Tripel, Dubbel, Quadrupel, Red Ale and IPA.
There are also the Netebuk Original (Blond), Wheat Edition and the seasonal Winter and Coffee Editions for those who want to experiment further.
There is a noticeable focus on beer pairing, demonstrated by food combination tips printed on the beer labels.
Since 2007, the brewery has been operating under the name of Gulden Spoor, a reference to the Battle of the Golden Spurs that took place in 1302 between the Flemish and the French occupiers and started at nearby Groeningekouter.
The combination of beer restaurant and brewery has proved to be right on target. ‘t Rusteel seats up to 250 guests and the majority of these are beer lovers.
The restaurant is also a testing ground for new beers and an important sales outlet for the brewery.
Gulden Spoor produces around 55 different brews per year.
The total annual production volume now reaches approximately 300,000 litres. Two-thirds of the output goes abroad with the main export markets being the Netherlands and Bulgaria.
Peter Koopman has instilled a love for regional products and local beers into his fellow brewers. As to Bjorn Desmadryl, he discovered Orval at the tender age of 16 and this gave him a life-long taste for character beers.
He aims to use the basic Gulden Spoor range to show that he is able to supply consistent quality with beers that fit into traditional as well as more modern styles, the IPA and Red Ale for example.
The beers are brewed in an artisan way and usually re-ferment in the bottle.
This brewer places as much value on creativity as he does on technology.
This is evident from the Netebuk line that often includes seasonal beers or beers created on the spur of the moment.
Bjorn wants to take up specific brewing challenges but ensure continuity at the same time.
All of his beers are generally well-balanced and accessible.
These are beers to drink not just to taste - in other words, beers that make you want to order a second. That rules out extreme beers.
Bjorn sees a lot of potential in the upcoming latest generation of light but flavourful beers, usually only containing around 3 to 4% ABV.
This is relatively low in comparison to many other Belgian speciality beers, which in the main range from 7% ABV to 11% ABV.
Bjorn draws much of his inspiration from Italian food culture and is a frequent visitor to innovative microbreweries in Italy.
There he focuses on beer pairing, just as he does at Gulden Spoor and ’t Rusteel.
Brouwerij Gulden Spoor often launches surprising, original creations such as its Netebuk Wakatu single-hop IPA, brewed with just Wakatu variety hops.
Bjorn Desmadryl, his wife Kim and Pieter Koopman, the son of brewery owner Peter Koopman, form the management team of the Gulden Spoor brewery.
Bjorn learned the brewing trade hands-on and his list of previous employers includes the Riva brewery in Dentergem.
Over the years a number of brewers have rented the brewhall, albeit never without Bjorn’s supervision.
Names that spring to mind include: Brouwers Verzet and the Zeven Zonden brewery.
This was a two way process, with Bjorn learning about several different beer styles.
The brand new brewery is now located in the yard of ’t Rusteel, the operation’s beer restaurant.
It moved up from being a few doors down the road – which means that the ties with the kitchen are now even closer.
All of the beers are tasted by the three brewers plus Peter Koopman and Domien Plouvier, the head chef at ’t Rusteel. Domien uses the tasting sessions to inspire his regularly changing menu and to make suggestions for food pairing.
This trio at the heart of Gulden Spoor are supremely flexible.
Any one of the three partners has to be able to take over a colleague’s job.
Bjorn manages production with Pieter’s assistance. With the knowledge acquired during her studies, Kim focuses on quality control as well as admin.
In addition to the regular production, there is plenty of opportunity to experiment with a variety of seasonal beers and special editions.
There are plenty of challenges to keep the brewers busy for some time to come.
Pop into ’t Rusteel beer restaurant and you cannot fail to notice the brewery. The brewhall is clearly visible through a glass wall. Sit down in the courtyard terrace and you will see the brewers at work.
A splendid view of the brewery shop is a bonus.
Brewery tours can be booked in advance via the website.
You can look forward to a comprehensive tour of the brewing hall and bottling plant with an expert explanation of the entire brewing process, from the production of the mash to the finished, ready-to-drink beer.
All processes take place within one single, compact, building so the trail is easy to follow.
Moreover, you are literally ‘close to the source’. Your Netebuk or Gulden Spoor will not come any fresher.
Lunch or dinner at ’t Rusteel is often tagged onto a brewery tour. Companies often reserve the whole restaurant as part of a corporate brewery visit.
The tour concludes with a tasting session that allows you to explore the rich taste palette of the – often – comparatively light beers produced by Gulden Spoor.
Get to know the classics by all means, but taste a Netebuk seasonal beer, a Gulden Spoor Red Ale or an IPA too. Fancy a beer with your meal? The bottle label shows you the type of food that goes best with your beer.
The city of Kortrijk offers an attractive blend of the old and the new. The splendid 16th-century City Hall, with its elements of late Gothic and Renaissance architecture, is an obvious attraction.
The renovated Grote Markt (the main market square) is surrounded by restaurants and bars with many outdoor terraces, a great place to enjoy a good glass and a view of the ancient belfry (also 16th century).
In common with many historic cities in Flanders, Kortrijk boosts a beguinage. It is located in the shadow of the Church of St. Martin (Sint Maarten). Pious nuns no longer reside here; however, it is a peaceful location in picturesque surroundings.
The city of Kortrijk owes its riches to the textile trade. Flax in particular used to be widely grown for the linen trade.
Find out all you want to learn about the history of flax in the brand new flax museum called Texture.
You will discover that the ‘golden river’, the Leie has played a major role in the flax industry. You can also see – and feel – which fabrics are made from flax.
Afterwards, there’s no better way to quench your thirst than with a Gulden Spoor beer.
Kortrijk 1302 tells the story of the famous Guldensporenslag (the Battle of the Golden Spurs) that gave the brewery its name. And explore the ‘new’ city by talking a walk along the river Leie.
Admire seven new bridges and a number of beautiful parks. A tip: this shopping city has plenty in store for bargain hunters.
Barely half-an-hour’s drive away you reach Ypres, the heart of Flanders Fields where the First World War was battled out.
Visit its fortifications, the Menin Gate where the Last Post is sounded every night to honour the victims of the war and the Flanders Fields war museum.
In the nearby village of Zonnebeke you can explore the trenches preserved by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917. Tyne Cot, not too far away, is the largest war cemetery of the Great War in this region.
Getting There & Around
Gullegem is located on the edge of Kortrijk, close to the A19 (exit for Gullegem). By car, it is 100km away from both Brussels (use the E40 then E17) and Antwerp (E17). From Ghent, also using the E17, the distance is 50km.
From Kortrijk railway station you take bus 62 to Sint-Eloois Winkel and Roeselare. There is a bus stop at the brewery.
Explore the region of the Leie, in and around Kortrijk, by bike.
Use the signposted Goedendagroute (49km) that leads you along the banks of the Leie through the De Gavers recreational area and alongside the Bossuit-Kortrijk canal.
The flat Leie region is great cycling country. Plan your own route using the cycle node network or use your bike GPS.
If you are keen on walking or hiking, there are several themed city walks in and around Kortrijk.
Look out for signposted walks called ‘Land van Mortagne’ and you will find 150km of walks and trails across an undulating landscape with woodland, nature reserves, farms built in the classic square style and ancient chapels, covering the area between Bellegem, Zwevegem, Bossuit and Spierre.
Further hiking opportunities are offered by the lovely Heulebeekvallei (valley of the Heulebeek), soon to be a recreational zone and nature reserve, located at the back of the gardens of ‘t Rusteel.
Gastronomy, Food & More Beer
Buikspek van de grill (grilled pork belly), ovengebakken huisbereide paté van varkensvlees (oven-baked home-made pork paté)… ’t Rusteel is still serving the dishes your Grandma would have made, paying homage to the farm that grew into this restaurant.
In the countryside people used to be careful with their food supply and cooking had to be creative. The tasty regional products and dishes featured on the menu bear this out.
Head chef Domien Plouvier earned his culinary stripes in two restaurants: Pinot Gris and Marquette. He promotes an innovative yet local cuisine, based on terroir, with a standard menu plus seasonal suggestions.
Give this one a miss if you expect the smears or mousses from the school of nouvelle cuisine. However, beat a way to its door if honest cuisine and generous portions are your thing.
Let yourself be surprised by dishes including salmon trout, fillet of haddock, pheasant, fawn or else a fish casserole from the oven.
A classic steak frites always goes down well, as does meatloaf with salsify and pureed potatoes, and how about a quiche with grey shrimp and smoked salmon?
Whatever takes your fancy, you are sure to find a Gulden Spoor house beer to go with it. Peter Koopman will be happy to advise you. Every single dish on the menu has been conceived with beer pairing in mind. At ’t Rusteel, brewer, cook and beer sommelier work hand in hand.
Tel. +32 (0) 56 27 78 40