De Troch Brewery
Production: 4,000 hectoliters
Beers: (under the Chapeau label) Gueuze, Old Gueuze, Christmas Gueuze, Faro, Kriek, Framboise, Fraise (strawberry), Mirabelle (plum), Abricot (apricot), Tropical (banana), Exotic (pineapple), Peche (peach), Lemon, B12 Energy Beer (3.5 percent ABV; banana, vitamins, caffeine)
The De Troch family began farming in Wambeek in the 1700s, with Joannes Franciscus and Theresia Cortvriendt De Troch. The family farm and brewery passed to their son, Josephus Petrus De Troch and his wife, Maria Anna Van Custem, in 1830 and to their daughter, Petronella, in 1851. Just to keep things in the family, Petronella married her cousin, Egidius De Troch, in 1857. Egidius enlarged the farm and became a successful local politician, rising to mayor in 1885. His son, Ludovicus, took over the family business in 1889, and was also a town mayor, holding that office until 1933. Ludovicus’s son, Ludovicus Albertus, inherited the business in 1936, and he married Maria Louisa Van den Moortel.
Ludovicus Albertus became mayor in 1938 and held the office until 1978. Ludovicus Albertus and Maria Louisa had no children, and when he retired in 1974, the brewery was taken over by the current owner, Jos Raes, the son of Raymond Raes and Magdalena De Troch, sister of Ludovicus Albertus. Jos’s oldest son, Pauwel, assists him in the brewery.
In the 1980s, the De Troch brewery began producing a variety of fruit lambics based on exotic fruits never before used in lambic production. Sales are good, but De Troch takes some heat from traditional lambic brewers and aficionados.
France is a large export market for De Troch, but when the French found the brewery name difficult to pronounce, Raes came up with the brand name, Chapeau, for his beers. Besides being easily pronounced by the peoples of other countries, the word has additional meanings in Belgium. Chapeau is a popular dice game, employing a cup for the dice and a cover that resembles a hat (chapeau, in French). The word has entered the Flemish language as a term meaning something good or positive that one has done: “You’ve just won the lottery. You’ve made a chapeau!”
Most of De Troch’s lambics are available in the United States.
Drie Fonteinen (Brewery and Blender)
Production: 700 hectoliters
Beers: Young and Old Lambic, Krieklambic, Faro, Old Gueuze, Old Kriek, Framboos, Milleniumgueuze (all traditional lambics)
The popular Drie Fonteinen restaurant in Beersel dates to 1887, when it was a café and a lambic blending business. In 1953, husband and wife Gaston and Raymonde Debelder left farming and bought Drie Fonteinen from Jean-Baptiste Denaeyer, the mayor of Beersel, who was also known as the best lambic brewer in the town. Gaston Debelder learned blending from Denaeyer and passed the skill to his sons, Armand and Guido. In 1982, the sons took over the business and they continue to operate the restaurant with their wives, Lieve and Trees.
Several years ago, Armand, the former chef at Drie Fonteinen, left the kitchen to the women, the restaurant operations to his brother, and passionately immersed himself in lambic production. After years of blending, he is now a brewer, having installed a small microbrewery in 1998 on the restaurant premises with his partner, William Van Herreweghen of De Cam. (The equipment was previously used in a test brewery for the giant international brewer, Interbrew.) Debelder continues to buy wort from the Boon, Girardin and Lindemans breweries, and he ages and blends his lambics both at his premises and at a second space that he and Van Herreweghen rent for this purpose.
Debelder absolutely loves producing lambics: “Finally, what I’m doing now, I’m doing like a free man. That’s very important for me. I’m 50 years old now, so it’s now or never. My dream is making an open brewery so everybody can see what I’m doing.”
Drie Fonteinen’s lambics are not available in the States, but Debelder has promised one importer that he’ll send a shipment “when I’m ready. My promise is better than any contract I could have signed.”
Production: 4,000 hectoliters
Beers: Lambic, Gueuze, Old Gueuze, Framboise, Kriek, Kriekenlambic, Ulricher Lager (pilsner)
The father and son team at Girardin―Louis, Paul and Jan―do not readily accept visitors or join in camaraderie with their fellow lambic brewers and blenders. Their lambics enjoy a positive reputation in Belgium and the blenders De Cam, Drie Fonteinen and Hanssens are happy to buy Girardin wort, but the family goes its own way.
The Girardin family bought a brewery from a local nobleman in 1882 (brewing had been ongoing here since 1845), and 119 years later, the same family owns the business. Besides supplying wort to blenders, Girardin also sells wort to cafés and individuals. The family continues to farm, growing wheat for their lambics.
Girardin’s lambics are not available in the United States, and the common thought among other lambic producers is that the Girardin family would probably have no interest in talking to an importer.