Brewery Vivant snags gold in West Coast beer contest

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Chris Mitus and Jason Spaulding Courtesy Brewery Vivant

Brewery Vivant’s soon-to-be-rereleased historical farmhouse ale is making waves in the craft beer world.

The Grand Rapids-based brewery’s Lange Wapper ale claimed the gold medal in the Rare and Historical Beer category at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Oregon. The 2022 contest was held March 4-6 and included 482 breweries from around the globe and 2,721 individual entries.

Lange Wapper will be released as a limited run on tap and in packs of four 16-ounce cans Thursday, April 21, at Brewery Vivant, Broad Leaf Brewery & Spirits and in select stores.

Chris Mitus, Vivant’s head brewer, discovered the Uitzet-style beer (or “Uytzet” in Dutch) over 10 years ago during his homebrewing days researching lost beer styles. Vivant first brewed the beer in the summer of 2017 and decided to bring it back again this year.

“I was able to piece together a recipe based on some old brewing literature from the 1700s,” Mitus said. “Being able to drink a style of beer that hasn’t been brewed for hundreds of years gives you a feeling of drinking a bit of history.”

Uytzet is a farmhouse-style ale that originated in The Netherlands and Belgium. The tasting notes impart a light spiciness from use of buckwheat and unmalted wheat, and the color is deep from an extra long boil, the brewery said.

Brewery Vivant co-owner Jason Spaulding said Mitus approached him a few years ago about this lost beer style.

“He was excited to brew a beer using similar methods of the farm brewers of the old days,” Spaulding said. “Many times, farm brewers took any leftover grain they did not sell during harvest and made beer with it. Mitus worked hard to source the buckwheat as a main ingredient, which is seldom used in brewing today, but (it) really makes this beer distinct.”

The Lange Wapper name comes from ancient Belgian folklore of a shapeshifting creature that wreaks havoc on the townspeople in the Belgian countryside, especially as they leave to walk home from the pub late at night, Vivant said. A bronze statue of the legendary Lange Wapper stands in the city center of Antwerp, Belgium.

“We never intended to enter Lange Wapper into competition, but after looking at competition guidelines, it seemed to fit the historic beer section to a T,” Spaulding said. “The name seemed fitting to tie together with the Belgian countryside folklore.”

Can art for Lange Wapper by Sarah Lindstrom. Courtesy Brewery Vivant

Grand Rapids artist Sarah Lindstrom did the artwork for the can labels. Vivant worked with Lindstrom previously on its Wizard Burial Ground imagery, and she currently is working on new art for an old favorite called Devastation, which will be released this summer.

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