Community: The American Women’s Club of Luxembourg goes to Bofferding; it’s a nice way to learn about the country and to meet other expats.
Photo: Steve Eastwood
As one of its regular excursions, the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg schedules a visit to Brasserie Nationale in Bascharage, the largest brewery in the Grand Duchy. It’s one of numerous outings they take together to introduce expats to Luxembourg and to one another. There’s a lot of membership turnover in the club because people come and go with job transfers, but the group is tight.
It got started many years ago when two young American women living in Luxembourg met and became friends. Mary Elvinger and Kappy Dupong both married Luxembourgers and relocated here. One day, Mary heard a woman speaking English in a store and introduced herself--the woman had been in Luxembourg for six weeks and Mary was the first person who talked to her. The two decided to create a group to welcome newcomers to the country and, with the support of the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas, formed the AWCL. Their first meeting took place on March 3, 1959 with 16 members in attendance. Today, there are more than 300 members from 40 different countries.
The women gather for coffees, book clubs, hiking trips, travel, quilting, language lessons and outings--among other things. Their brewery visit is a typical Friday night affair. About 20 members are there, some with their husbands. Spirits are high even before the beer tasting get underway. “The tour is fantastic,” says Sue Makrickas, the club’s current president. “But, then again, I would expect nothing less of Luxembourg.” This is her second tour here--she and her husband were expats in Luxembourg 25 years ago.
Sights, smells and taste of brewery visit
Our guide, Fred Merens, a retired volunteer, is genuinely enthusiastic about the beer. He takes us through the facility rattling off facts about barley, hops, yeast and water as we inhale the aromas and taste the product in its various stages.
Brasserie Nationale was born in 1975 from the fusion of two breweries, Bofferding (founded in 1842) and Funck-Bircher (established in 1764), but it produces the former. Bofferding beer is a totally natural product without additives or preservatives that is sourced from its own well, he explains. The hops come from the Bavarian Hallertau, the largest hops growing area in the world.
We congregate in the brewhouse, the heart of production, and sample the water, then a scnopps-like product halfway between the water and the beer, and finally the finished product--its freshness is undeniable. Sipping the frothy beverage in a room full of massive fermentation and holding tanks, with a capacity of 458,000 hectolitres, give one a new appreciation for beer.
After the sampling, we make our way into the bottling area where bottles are cleaned, filled, capped and labelled at a rate of 27,000 per hour. It’s an impressive tour for a brewery that produces a beer worthy of its DLG Gold Medal distinction. When the tour is over, we head to the brasserie to raise a glass to new friends in a new country. And to Luxembourg’s finest beer.