By in News Comments Off on Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a Legacy

When Luc Van Honsebrouck took charge of Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in the 1960s, he set about turning it from a pilsner brewery into one which focussed on specialty beers. “My father was a visionary,” says Xavier Van Honsebrouck, the fifth generation of his family in the business. “He took a radical decision in the sixties to no longer focus on lager brewing. Our brewery was ahead of its time and we’re still now reaping the benefits.”

Now they produce over 20 different specialty beer brands. The latest addition to the line-up is ‘Filou’ (8.5% ABV), which Xavier translates from the French as ‘Rascal’. It’s a beer which falls somewhere between a Tripel and a Strong Golden Ale, brewed with 100% pilsner malt an a hop bill which includes Golding, Saphir and Saaz. “Every owner of a family brewery has to make one great new beer,” says Xavier: “I believe the Filou is the second beer for me after successfully launching the Kasteel Rouge.”

brasserie1The brewery has recently undergone a complete rebuild and has moved a few kilometres from its original home in Ingelmunster to a new facility in Izegem which is 5 times the surface area of the old one. Annual production capacity has increased from 100,000 to 250,000 hectolitres and by the time it’s complete, it will have cost more than €45 million. This huge investment to more than double the capacity of the brewery together with Xavier’s ambition to create his own ‘great new beer’ offer an insight into his vision for the future and the obsession he has with his own legacy as a family brewer. “I’m soul mates with Hans Depypere of Brouwerij St. Bernardus,” says Xavier. “He’s an entrepreneur. He’s not in it for the money. Either am I. If you wake up and the first thing you think about is money, then you’re doing something wrong.” It may not be money that drives Xavier, but there’s no doubting Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck are commercially shrewd operators.

They’ve enjoyed success in markets as diverse as Japan and Mexico with their Kasteel, Bacchus and St. Louis ranges. Export accounts for 55% of what they produce. “In Israel, the number one Belgian beer is Stella Artois,” says Frederic Boulez, Commercial Director at Van Honsebrouck. “The number two Belgian beer is Kasteel Rouge.” Their strategy at home focuses on the restaurant, café and hospitality sector. “In the pub they try it and in the shop they buy it,” says Frederic. “Belgium is a pub market. We are really pushing Filou in the Horeca now.” In an attempt to continue the good work of his father, Xavier is thinking big. “Our dream is to be the number one location for beer tourism in Belgium,” he says repeatedly. It’s a mantra you hear from a number of staff members at different parts of the brewery.

Their new facility the ‘Bierkasteel or ‘Beer Castle’ will welcome not only people with a passion for beer, but there are plans to host everything from corporate seminars to wedding receptions. Their foeder room is strategically placed beside their brasserie, so diners have the visual backdrop of 8 upright oak vats (4 of 200 hectolitres and 4 of 50 hectolitres), all of which have just been shipped in from France. Xavier sees innovation as the key factor for securing that legacy. They’re one of the few breweries to have the equipment and technical know-how to produce beers of spontaneous fermentation, top fermentation, and mixed fermentation under one roof.

And they don’t shy away from developing new products. “Once a month we meet with a panel of experts to brainstorm,” says Xavier. “We recently released Barista (11% ABV), a beer with a chocolate flavour and a basis of coffee. For us, no idea is too crazy. Belgian brewers often think within the box, but we’ll become a brewery museum if we do that.” Innovation doesn’t mean you can’t remain true to your heritage. “The U.S. breweries copy us,” he says. “But they’re learning from us. We need to be more creative. We have to remain in front. But that doesn’t mean making IPAs. We want to promote and protect Belgian beer. And I want to protect my family tradition.”

By in News Comments Off on Bierkasteel ‘beer castle’ opens today

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.


 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.


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.


This article was originally published by Het Laatste Nieuws.

By in Beers, News Comments Off on Izegem, the brewery of the future

Izegem, the brewery of the future

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.


By in News Comments Off on Barista Chocolate Quad, between beer and coffee

Barista Chocolate Quad, between beer and coffee

Our Barista Chocolate Quad is a strong dark beer of the quadruple type with hints of chocolate and bridges the gap between beer and coffee. The Barista tells you straight away what it is all about. The focus here is on malt rather than hops. The Barista Chocolate Quad is a genuine degustation beer and makes for the ideal finish to a meal.

This strong dark one stands up well to a robust meat dish; a steak or a stew for example. Its sweet impressions come from the sugar residue in this beer that does not re-ferment in the bottle. The Barista story started a few years ago, back in in 2012. After several visits to the USA, Xavier Van Honsebrouck, CEO and owner of the Van Honsebrouck brewery, came up with the idea of brewing a beer with the aromas and taste of chocolate and coffee. This led to the creation of the Kasteel Winter, the Barista’s predecessor.

In the Barista toasted and roast malts are predominant but are enhanced by chocolate malts, pale ale malts, pils malts, coffee and cocoa powder. The beer is fragrant with, and tastes of, caramel, toffee and chocolate. “We spent a long time searching for the ideal recipe,” brewer Hans Mehuys divulges. “We managed it in the end, also thanks to the classic Kasteelgist (Kasteel yeast) that accounts for the fruity aroma. In terms of hops, we opted for two Belgian varieties: Belgian Kent Golden and Safir.”

The Barista Chocolate Quad joins the ranks of rather dry, dark beers, such as the Cuvée du Château. Taste it and prepare to be surprised by aromas and tastes you’d rather expect from coffee or chocolate, always sustained by the warm glow of alcohol.

Why not arrange a marriage between beer, coffee and chocolate? Xavier Van Honsebrouck: “The most enjoyable aspect of the brewing trade is experimenting and discovering new flavours. But you have to open yourself up to it. Your classic beer drinker will straight away try to pigeonhole a beer, place it within the box of a tried and trusted beer style. If the box doesn’t fit, they are at a loss. We prefer to think outside the box, to colour outside the lines, and will always consider whether these new aromas and tastes add something to our range. Whether or not the new beer fits an existing beer style, well, that is not too important at the end of the day. The beer drinker has to be convinced by what he finds in his glass. We are very happy to see that most beer drinkers – including those who were hesitant to start off with – are won over by the Barista once they have tasted it.”

Xavier rightly is proud of this new addition to his beer family. Whether or not he is able to inscribe his name in elegant lettering on top of the cloud of froth that covers this delicious dark beer, remains to be seen.

By in News Comments Off on Filou, a powerful thirst quencher

Filou, a powerful thirst quencher

We Belgians are keen on our strong blonde beers and tripels. Having launched the Brigand and the Kasteel Tripel, Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck is now introducing you to Filou. This is a pure beer brewn with pils malts, Munich malts and three varieties of hops: Kent Golding, Safir and Saaz, without any further additives. The Kent Golding aroma hops provide the mildly fruity touches, the Safir accounts for the floral hints and the Saaz contributes a subtle hop bitterness and a slightly perfumed character.

Filou ∏ Van HonsebrouckThis relative newcomer does not fit into the standard range of Kasteel beers. It is by no means a second Kasteel Tripel although it shares its yeast with its illustrious predecessor. Neither is it related to the rebellious Brigand with its label depicting a warrior with a ready-to-fire hand bow, proudly looking you in the eye. The difference: the Brigand is a far drier beer.

The development Filou, just like any new beer, involved a lengthy quest. It took no fewer than eight months before Xavier Van Honsebrouck, CEO and brewery owner, and head brewer Hans Mehuys were entirely satisfied with the recipe. Xavier, with plenty of pride: “We achieved what we set out to do. The Filou is a powerful beer that goes down smoothly. Taste a Filou and you will want a second. As a brewer, what more do you want?” Hans and Xavier describe their Filou as a ‘modern heavy blonde’ thanks to its quaffability.

Filou is all things to all people. Its name also goes down well: short and to the point, as well as easy to pronounce. The name rings a bell with everyone. The name ‘filou’ is originally French but could be used to refer to a cheeky young rascal. However, that goes a few steps too far for this born seducer of a beer. The Filou is charming but deceptive and before you know it, you are on your second or third glass.

The image on the Filou label stays in the mind. A little rascal, his cap nonchalantly planted on his head back to front, as he prepares to confront you. He takes aim at his target, closes one eye, flexes his muscles, fires his catapult and… bang, right on target. Cupid immediately springs to my mind, the tiny god who fires off his arrows at couples in love. However, this rascal looks a little bit less angelic, judging by the gaze he fires at us from the Filou glass and bottle. Filou is a strong blonde beer of the triple type that has been popular in Belgium since a year and day. If we are thinking of specialty beers, a strong blonde often springs to mind. The triple flows from the rich tradition of abbey beers. The ‘Triple’ denomination indicates a higher proportion of ingredients, and consequently an increased alcohol volume compared to the dark ‘dubbel’ or double. Filou has an alcohol volume of 8.5 per cent. After all, this rascal did not get its name without a reason. It goes down very easily for such a heavy chap.

Xavier Van Honsebrouck: “Quaffable strong blonde beers are in great demand, both in Belgium and abroad. This is a beer without any rough edges. It is beautifully balanced, the alcohol and bitterness are never predominant and its taste is mild, full-mouthed and round.”



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