The Belgian Brewery

The legend of Dark Coal

In 1865, twenty-nine miners were found drowned in the “Grande Bacnure”, a coal mine located just behind the Belgian Brewery. According to legend, a spirit still haunts the site*.

The facts :

In 1865, a flood at the Grande Bacnure: 29 victims, a terrible disaster.

Early in the afternoon of Thursday June 15, water suddenly invaded the galleries of the Grande Bacnure colliery in the basements of Bernalmont between Vottem and the Coronmeuse district. The twenty-nine miners occupied at this time will all be drowned or asphyxiated.

As soon as the disaster was announced, parents and neighbours arrived on the scene. Heart-breaking scenes unfold in front of the gates of the colliery. "A father asks for his children, children ask for their parents, brothers and sisters". The management of the colliery appealed to the police to "ensure perfect order". Indeed, the crowd was not only tearful but also angry, because they attributed the responsibility for the disaster to the director of the colliery.

Among the first corpses, the rescuers found a young worker, aged 15, suffocating. She died before the doctors arrived. His body was then deposited in a room in the colliery. In this improvised morgue, the day after the disaster, there were “thirteen corpses lying stretched on straw! On one side, seven men, on the other, six young girls aged 15 to 20 !“.

Some bodies were pulled from the bottom the same day of the disaster, others were pulled from the muddy waters 19 days after the disaster: 15 men and 14 women aged 15 to 64, all from Liège, Herstal and Vottem. The average age of women was 22 years old.

The next day, the Liège newspapers expressed their shock: “mining work should not be the lot of women”. The ban on women working deep in the coal mines was only voted in 1911.


The legend :

The coal mine is now closed. Some claim, however, that a spirit haunts the area still marked by the 2 slag heaps overlooking Place Coronmeuse.

This spirit, named “Dark Coal”, is said to manifest on the 15th of every month and is said to have inspired the making of the beer that bears its name. A dark, light and nutritious beer that the “holy people” drank with a raw egg to give them strength and courage before entering the mine.

Who is Dark Coal? The controversies are rife: it could be Jean or Elisabeth Franco, a father and his daughter who both died during the disaster. Some think it is Marie Radoux who had the reputation of being drawn to this beer. We also suspect the unfortunate Guillaume Plumier, the one who, it was said, “gave the fatal blow that triggered the flood“. Others think it is none of them: a 30th miner was never extracted from the mine and is still waiting to be freed.

It is in honor and to remember these unfortunates that the Belgian Brewery (installed on the edge of the mine) has composed this recipe of yesteryear.

When you taste the Dark Coal, do it to the remembering of these unfortunate departed. And avoid abusing it at the risk of being haunted by the spirit of Dark Coal.

** Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health. Taste our recipes wisely!
* The information collected is largely inspired by a publication by Walthère Franssen that can be found on this link.


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