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Brand-new co-CEO Michiel Clyncke looks back on almost six years at the brewery and sheds light on the plans for 2024

Michiel Clyncke started working at our brewery as sales manager in August 2018. A year later, he stood at Xavier’s side as Junior CEO. What followed was, in his own words, a rollercoaster of challenges, issues and opportunities. After five years as Junior CEO, Michiel is driving the brewery forward as co-CEO. ‘The past few years have been FILOU-menal. It’s already clear that my first year as co-CEO will be even better,’ he says enthusiastically.

We are in a leap-year, just like four years ago when the corona crisis exploded in all its ferocity. ‘I had just become Junior CEO when we were presented with our first real crisis. In early 2020, the hospitality sector was shut down for a lengthy period. Although retail could partly compensate for the loss of hospitality sales, we launched various ‘Filou supports the hospitality sector’ actions at the time to buck up our hospitality partners,’ Michiel recalls.

A first

As one crisis ends, other challenges present themselves. Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022. Due to the imposed sanctions, exports to Russia – our third largest export country at the time – fell largely silent. Add inflation to that at the start of 2023 and the war that broke out in Gaza later that year.

‘Despite all the challenges, we ended 2023 at 169,000 hl, our best result ever. That is in part thanks to the good distribution of our sales markets and the launch of Kasteel Rubus Framboise.’

A selection of the highlights

When Michiel looks back on the highlights of the past few years, it’s instantly apparent that there was always something going on. ‘When I had just become Junior CEO, we introduced our in-house can line to the press. We are increasingly reaping the benefits of that investment. With Kasteel USA, we imported 50 cl cans of Kasteel to the United States of America. Besides the 25 cl and 50 cl cans, this year we are committing our efforts to the 33 cl sleek cans that have a nicer and more elegant appearance,’ Michiel says.

‘Additionally, in recent years we have invested heavily in capacity expansion, green energy and making our business processes more efficient. Thanks to the efforts of all departments involved, we successfully switched to a new ERP system this year.’

The fact we have grown significantly as a brewery not only translates into volume but also into people. ‘In 2019, 113 staff were employed in the brewery and the Bierkasteel. Today, we are a well-oiled machine of 142 staff and the list of vacancies continues to grow.’

The fact we have grown significantly as a brewery not only translates into volume but also into people.

It was not only our brewery that made an impression in recent years, our partners did too. ‘Following on from our campaign “Kasteel, you find true richness everywhere“, we sponsored Bestemming X.’ The brand-new game show by Geronimo Productions won several awards, with the prestigious Golden Rose as the ultimate crowning glory.

We not only made ourselves heard on TV, but also at festivals. In 2023, we welcomed quite a few new names, including big hitters such as Festival Dranouter and Campo Solar.’

Pioneering role

In recent years, the brewery has regularly profiled itself as a pioneer. ‘It’s a role that fits us like a glove. We continuously innovate, even in times of crisis. While other brewers try to emulate the flavour of our Kasteel Rouge, we treat consumers to something new. Thanks to Kasteel Rubus Framboise, our authority in the strong fruit beer segment has strengthened. This summer, we are going to reinforce that status even further with the launch of the first alcohol-free rouge beer: Kasteel Rouge 0.0%.’

As someone in his early 30s, Michiel is aware there is a whole generation that is more alcohol conscious. Furthermore, legislation creates more awareness around alcohol consumption and the market share of alcohol-free beers continues to grow. ‘Kasteel Rouge 0.0% is an essential product expansion. We are claiming our place on the alcohol-free shelf space with a high-quality special beer, a new beer experience for every consumer, even those who do not drink Kasteel Rouge.’

The pioneering role fits us like a glove. We continuously innovate, even in times of crisis.

It is not only Kasteel that is going all out in 2024. ‘Ten years after the first brew, Filou is claiming the title of “Beer for Champions”‘. The Golden Shoe Gala was just the start, because Filou is the official sponsor of the Belgium Lotto House in Paris and Olympic Festival in Middelkerke during the Olympic Games in Paris.’

Greatest of All Time

Although his first year as co-CEO appears pretty full already, there is always space for an additional project, innovation or investment. ‘In the meantime, I’ve learned that nothing is impossible at Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck,’ Michiel laughs.

‘Our focus is on further growth, both in terms of volume as well as in margins. In any case, we always manage to bring every challenge to a successful conclusion. That is thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of our staff. Each department is growing, becoming more professional and contributes to the growth of our brewery and the Bierkasteel. Together, we are Greatest of All Time and we are building on that success story together.’