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Bierkasteel ‘beer castle’ opens today

The new Van Honsebrouck brewery at Emelgem in Izegem has opened its doors. The impressive fortress-like structure took two years to build at a cost of €40 million. The Bierkasteel – literally, the Beer Castle – is not just a brewery, it also hosts a visitor centre, a brasserie, is a conference and event venue, and has its own shop. Far from being just a beer production facility, Van Honsenbrouck’s Bierkasteel has ambitions to become one of the biggest tourist attractions in West Flanders.

A successful and established name on the Belgian brewing scene, the Van Honsebrouck brewery was bursting out at the seams of its historic home in the centre of Ingelmunster. In order to grow, the company had to move, and so a new Beer Castle was planned on the site of a former furniture factory in Emelgem, a village in Izegem.

“It’s modern, but there’s still a nod to the old castle at Ingelmunster,” explains events manager, Bruno Lambert. “We’re writing new history here. For the first time in a century a brewery has been rebuilt from the ground up. But the castle remains on our logo and in the fabric of our building, with its medieval-style towers.”

The Bierkasteel is open to visitors six days a week.

Tours on weekdays start at 10:30am, 2pm, and 4:30pm. At weekends you can book Saturday moring tours by making a reservation through the website. Tickets for the tours are €15 for adults; €7.50 for under-16s; and €12 for members of groups of 25 people or more.

Tours start in the impressive Throne Room, where a movie welcomes visitors. Famous local actor, singer and beer lover, Wim Opbrouck, provides narration for the brewery’s videos, which also feature animation and photos from the brewery’s huge archives.

Everything in the new brewery tour is accessible for disabled visitors.

The Bierkasteel is a big step for the Van Honsebrouck brewery, a family company with roots going back to the start of the 19th century.

Production at the new facility has doubled to 20 million litres, produced with the help of 74 large boilers and 2,000 square-metres of bottling plant alone, where 30 different beers are packaged for sale, coming off the production line at the rate of 20,000-bottles-per-hour. An area the size of two football pitches is needed just to store the brewery’s stock.

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 The bottling plant

Tradition is respected too. The giant foeders (great wooden vats) in which Belgian beers are often matured are filled with Bacchus and St Louis beers – all 30,000 litres of them – slowly coming of age for 18 months.

The unique atmosphere of the Foeder Hall can be enjoyed as an event space, and has just hosted its first wedding celebration with the Bierkasteel’s brasserie handling the catering.

brasserie

All visits end with a tasting session and the chance to grab a couple of bottles to take home from the brewery shop. As well as the beers you’ve seen being made, you can also enjoy Van Honsebrouck beers in top-quality pralines from the local chocolatier Parfait.

You can also enjoy the brewery’s products in the brasserie, which is open every day from 10am to 10pm. Beer in the 140-seat restaurant is not just an accompaniment to the food, but a creatively used ingredient in an exciting seasonal and local menu. But if it is just a beer you’re after, please pop in, grab the extensive beer menu and maybe head for the terrace to enjoy the view.

Van Housenbrouck’s Bierkasteel is also a high-quality meeting or conference venue. “Anyone can organise a company event or meeting here, with or without a guided tour of the brewery,” says Bruno. “We run a bar for our guests, and our meeting rooms come in a wide variety of capacities.” There is parking for 250 cars onsite, office facilities, and a staff canteen.

The stately welcome room at the Bierkasteel.

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This article was originally published by Het Laatste Nieuws.

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