A new year means a new start. The new Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck in Izegem is now fully operational. In fact, we are talking about ‘three breweries in one’. The brewery is equipped for the production of top-fermented beers (Brigand, Filou, Kasteel, Slurfke), mixed fermentation beers (Bacchus) and beers of spontaneous fermentation (St Louis). The brewery is able to produce large volumes (125 hl) as well as smaller quantities (50 hl). In fact, it is also a microbrewery that can respond quickly to up-and-coming trends in the beer market by brewing small volumes. In Izegem, tradition and innovation go hand in hand.
A brand new koelschip (the basin used for open fermentation) has been installed. Here, the lambic wort cools down and ferments spontaneously when it gets in touch with the microflora (wild yeasts) that are present in the local environment. The beer continues to ferment in new, oval-shaped foeders. These vertical foeders are filled with Vlaams oudbruin bier (Flemish old brown beer) (Bacchus). The Trignac XII is maturing in the new barrel hall. This degustation beer is produced from a Kasteel Tripel that has matured in barrels previously used for cognac. Of course, the top-fermented beers and spontaneously fermented beers are produced entirely separately from one another after the wort boiling stage. The cleaning processes are also kept strictly separated. This is how the brewer ensures that his top-fermented beers are not ‘infected’ with microflora.
Once again, flexibility is the order of the day in the fruit beer chamber and the krieken maceration chamber. The brewer has all he needs to develop fruit beers based on lambic, top-fermented beers or Vlaams oudbruin (Flemish old brown) or else to create his own blends. The new brewery is equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art technology. The central ‘backbone’ – central network of pipes – steers the entire logistic flow: the transfer of the wort to the fermentation and storage tanks, from the tanks to the bottling plant, the cleaning process, the water supply… You can compare it to a highway with fully automated traffic.
Finally, the Izegem site includes 15,000m2 of warehousing facilities that also house the warm chambers where several beers undergo re-fermentation. Wherever possible, the production process is automated to free up the operators’ time for quality control. Another advantage is that the brewers can now develop new beers more quickly and closely monitor the development of foeder beers. The brewers know which elements have a positive or negative influence on the taste of the beers and can intervene in the process where necessary.
In addition to brewing the standard range there is the capacity to produce all kinds of limited editions with their own special packaging. This is where the lab, located in the middle of the production area, plays a crucial role. It analyses the water, checks the raw ingredients and tests and compares the quality of the brews. Also, visitors are now welcome at the brewery. You will soon be able to follow the entire production process in a food-safe environment.
The tour concludes with a tasting in the brewery tavern with its attached shop. You can also pop in here during the weekend when no brewing takes place.
In brief, the new Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck unites the entire production, logistics, visitor and café-restaurant facilities on one single site. The new buildings were designed with a view to maximum flexibility. At its Izegem facility, Van Honsebrouck is able to brew more beers more quickly, including smaller volumes. Based on ten brews of 115hl each per day across five days, brewing capacity now amounts to 250,000hl per year. This represents more than twice the previous capacity.