Sint-Jans-Molenbeek & Brussels
Production: 210,000 hectoliters
Beers: Sèlection Lambic (old gueuze), Gueuze, Kriek, Kriek Primeur (first of new season’s cherries), Framboise
Bell-Vue is the largest of the lambic breweries, holding a 63 percent market share of lambic in Belgium. Belle-Vue brews at a new brewery in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, just outside Brussels, ages and blends its lambics at the old Brussels site, and bottles and kegs the beer back at the new facility. Tanker trucks ship the wort and finished beer between the two breweries. At the old brewery there are five huge floors of barrels holding 10,000 pipes and 87 foudres, all full of fermenting and aging lambic.
Philèmon Vanden Stock, who began as a Brussels lambic blender, formed Belle-Vue in 1913. In 1927 Vanden Stock bought the Belle-Vue café in Brussels, adopting the name for his beers. The brewery took the name in 1969.
Vanden Stock bought his first brewery in 1940 and his son, Constant, took over in 1944-45. In 1969 Belle-Vue bought the Decoster and Brabrux lambic breweries, followed by a takeover of the De Neve brewery in 1975. In 1991, Belgian brewing giant Interbrew bought a majority interest in Belle-Vue.
Several of Bell-Vue’s lambics are available in the United States.
Production: 5,000 hectoliters
Beers: Young and Old Lambic, Old Geuze Boon, Geuze Marriage Parfait, Kriek, Old Kriek, Kriek Marriage Parfait, Framboise Boon, Framboise Millèsiemè, Faro Perotale
Frank Boon began to work in the beer business straight out of college in 1975, as a distributor in Halle. He learned the art of blending from Renè De Vidts, a blender since the 1920s. De Vidts and other lambic blenders formed the Union de Marchands des Bières in Brussels in the 1920s, a cooperative brewery that supplied them with lambic wort until 1962.
In 1977 Boon took over De Vidts’ business when the old blender retired. Boon moved the business to the center of Lembeek in 1986, taking up residence in a former iron foundry. He began to build a brewery in 1988 when he was unable to obtain enough wort from existing lambic brewers. His brewery became fully functional in 1990, making Boon the first new lambic brewer in many years.
Of good lambic beer, Boon said, “If you drink the beer in your glass, you must have a very strong character to refuse a second one.”
Several of Boon’s lambics are available in the United States.
Production: 900 hectoliters
Beers: (all traditional lambics) Old Lambic, Grand Cru Bruocsella 1900 (unblended old lambic), Gueuze, Kriek, Rosè de Gambrinus (framboise), Gueuze Vigneronne (with Italian muscat grapes); Lou Pepe Pure Kriek, Framboise and Gueuze, Cuvee Fou’ Foune (apricot)
Located in the Anderlecht section of Brussels on the western edge of the city center, Cantillon is a fiercely traditional lambic brewery, and the owners are often at odds with their fellow lambic brewers in Belgium. Jean-Pierre Van Roy is the head of the family of brewers that includes his wife, Claude Cantillon-Van Roy, son Jean and daughter Julie.
In the 1700s, the Cantillon family brewed in Lembeek. Paul and Marie Cantillon-Troch moved the business to its present location in Brussels in 1900, taking up space in a building dating from 1874. Their sons, Marcel and Robert Cantillon, took over the business, and in 1937, they bought a brew house from a brewery in Ouffet. By the following year, the Brothers Cantillon were no longer just blenders; they were brewers.
Van Roy, a former science teacher and employee of Phillips music, took over the business in 1970 from his father-in-law. He created the Brussels Gueuze Museum at the brewery in 1978, a venture that brings thousands of visitors from all over the world to Cantillon each year.
By 2002, all of Cantillon’s lambics will be produced with 100 percent organic barley and wheat. These beers will go on sale the following year.
Jean-Pierre Van Roy said that one must have a “true passion” to do this work. His son, Jean, said, “We are the lambic fundamentalists. We don’t have a lot of friends in Belgian brewing because we are honest. When we don’t like something, we say it. A lot of people don’t like this.”
When asked about lambics made with exotic fruits, Jean said, “May I say it? Yes? Merde. It’s not serious. This is a bad image for lambic.”
Now we know why other lambic brewers might not be friends of Cantillon.
Cantillon’s lambics are all available in the United States.
De Cam (Blender)
Production: 100 hectoliters
Beers: Young and Old Lambic, Old Gueuze, Millennium Gueuze (all traditional lambics)
William Van Herreweghen, a brewing engineer and production director at the large Palm Brewery in Belgium, began a sideline business as a “gueuzesteker” (gueuze blender) in 1997. His barrels are made from discarded fermentation barrels from the famous Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic.
Van Herreweghen buys his wort from the Boon, Girardin and Lindemans breweries. He’s also in partnership with blender Armand Debelder of Drie Fonteinen, where the two installed a small microbrewery in 1998 to produce some of the wort needed to make their finished beers. The first lambic and gueuze sold under the De Cam label came onto the market in 1999.
De Cam’s lambics are not available in the United States.
De Keersmaeker Brewery
Production: 42,000 hectoliters
Beers: (under the Mort Subite and Eylenbosch labels) Lambic, Witte Lambic, Gueuze and Old (Fond) Gueuze, Krieklambic, Framboise, Cassis en Perzik (peach), Mort Subite
Jean-Baptist De Keersmaeker began brewing in 1869 and his great-grandson, Andre, runs the brewery today. Andre’s father, Hubert, expanded the brewery in the 1950s, using the name Den Hert. He brewed a pilsner, Kob Pils, as well as ales and lambics.
Andre turned to complete lambic production in the 1960s. He bought the famous Brussels café, Mort Subite, in 1970, and renamed his gueuze after it. In 1989 he bought the Eylenbosch Brewery. When Andre’s brother, Paul, sold his shares in the family business to Paul Maes, it eventually led to the De Keersmaeker Brewery becoming part of the Alken-Maes brewing group, which is today owned by the British brewing giant, Scottish & Newcastle.
De Keersmaeker’s lambics are not available in the United States.