By David Diehl
Photos by Jan Regan
Derek and Stacey Edinger, owners of Brewery Ardennes, are truly bringing Belgium to the Finger Lakes. When they visited the Ardennes region of Belgium, they found many similarities in the charm of the country and what we have here from town to town.
No arguments here.
And what better way to inject all of the things that they love about Belgium into our region than beer?
“Stacey and I met at Cornell, I was a homebrewer and we both have a love for visiting breweries including Belgium. We love the Belgian style of beer, and we were fortunate enough to visit there a few times,” says Derek. “That’s what we are trying to do here. It’s a style that not a lot of people are focusing on and we think it is very approachable. A lot of it is generally not too hop-forward—malty, sweet and diverse. There is something for everybody.”
Adds Stacey, “The physicality and climates of Belgium and the Finger Lakes are very similar. I don’t think they get quite as cold and probably not as much snow, but Belgium feels eerily like the Finger Lakes when you drive around the small communities.”
While certain styles of beer get a lot of their flavor profiles from the hop or malt content, Derek explains that Belgian-influenced beers get their unique characteristics from the yeast.
“If you know about wine, beer and alcohol in general, you may think that yeast is there to turn sugar into alcohol. But certain yeasts can create flavors as well, including pepper, banana, bubblegum, clove, etc.”
His favorite beer is his Belgian Tripel and he was excited to break down these brews of the Trappist monks:
Single: “A Belgian single, or a blonde—a light beer with a little bit of hops that the monks would drink with their meals.”
Dubbel: “An Abbey beer is dark and malty. That recipe goes back to the Middle Ages. That would be a beer that they would drink on a special occasion.”
Tripel: “This is a little bit newer. It was invented early in the 20th century. This is blonde in color, higher in alcohol, and it contains both hop and yeast flavor. Ours tastes really light and dry, but it packs a punch.”
Quadruple: “Not every place makes a quad—it’s like a double-double. Dark in color because of the malts, with candied or confectionary sugar. Add this to the yeast and it creates all kinds of complex flavors. Expect raisin, roast and chocolate”
Both the Dubbel and Tripel are available on tap and in specialty bottles along with all of their new renditions of contemporary brews.
“Popular styles like IPAs are going to be a little bit different. We will have a Belgian twist on the hazy IPA and sours,” says Derek.
“Our interpretations of current beer trends will be molded with a broad palate and Belgian influences.”
To bring the Ardennes experience full circle, Stacey and Derek have also placed focus on two other elements: setting and cuisine. As soon as you approach the Brewery Ardennes campus, you will be taken aback by the stunning architecture of this revitalized sheep farm. It’s a dynamite location to add fermenters. High arches, high ceilings, high windows—it’s tough to look down as you take your first sip.
“We were looking for a farm brewery setting, found this place listed online and knew this was it. The unique French-Norman style is what originally caught our attention,” says Derek. “We became really intrigued when we learned more about the history of it as a sheep farm and how it was interwoven into Geneva history. Our vision is to create a unique, upscale and approachable beer and culinary destination. Our history-filled and charming setting really enables that feel.”
Continuing the experiential appeal of a visit to Ardennes, a lot of precision and authenticity has been placed into the cuisine and the glassware.
“Belgian food is like the beer: It’s pretty approachable. It has humble ingredients. A lot of the small towns don’t have fancy options for food, so, making the best, there can be a focus on menu items like rabbit stew cooked in the Dubbel,” Stacey explains. “We will probably make that in the winter. We are still playing with how often the menu is going to change at Ardennes, but with serving our Belgian-inspired mussels dish—that can be a canvas for multiple flavors that we can rotate each week. That way we can highlight the beer too.”
“Our glassware is all part of the Belgian experience,” Derek explains. “Belgian beers, almost every brewery will have a differentshaped glass—and sometimes they will have a different-shaped glass for each style of beer they make. There is design and thought to it. Generally, Belgian-shaped glasses, like the goblet or the tulip, are open to encourage the aromas of the beer. For our Tripel and Dubbel, we use a traditional chalice-shaped glass—they are specially imported from Europe.”
When checking out a new brewery for a pint turns into an immersive experience from a different continent, it’s a reflection of the tremendous dedication from the owners Derek and Stacey. Detail is king at Brewery Ardennes; let them take you on a journey through a glass—right here in the Finger Lakes.
570 Snell Road
David Diehl is a Hobart & William Smith Colleges alum. You can follow his work at FLXWORDS.com.