Production: 500 hectoliters
Beers: Old Gueuze, Old Kriek, Old Beitje (strawberry), all traditional lambics
Hanssens dates back to 1896 when Bartholomè Hanssens, the mayor of Dworp, bought a dairy farm and rebuilt it as the Sint-Antonius Brewery. Rather than brew lambics like the other brewers in town, Bartholomè brewed a brown table beer. During World War I, the Germans took all the copper from the brewery (as they did with almost every brewery in Belgium). After the war, like many other dispossessed lambic brewers, Bartholomè made a decision not to rebuild his brewery, but instead to become a blender.
Bartholomè’s son, Theo, took over the business in 1929, and in 1974 his son, Jean, assumed ownership. When Jean retired in 1997, neither his son nor daughter was interested in continuing in the family business. At the last minute, however, just before Jean was about to close down the business, his daughter, Sidy, decided to step in.
Today, Sidy (who also works as a legal secretary in Brussels) and her husband, John (an air traffic controller at Belgium’s international airport), are the blenders of Hanssens lambics. They buy their wort from the Boon, Girardin, Lindemans and Timmermans breweries.
Sidy and John added a new lambic to their portfolio in 1999. Old Beitje is a strawberry lambic. They are currently experimenting with a lambic blended with an English mead.
Sidy and John live in a house at the front of the property that is the original brewery from Bartholomè’s days. Avid animal lovers, they keep horses, chickens, ducks, birds, dogs and cats on the property, as well as aquariums of fresh and saltwater fish in their house.
All three of the Hanssens lambics are available in the United States.
Production: 30,000 hectoliters
Beers: Lambic, Kriek, Gueuze, Old Gueuze Cuvee Renè, Framboise, Pecheresse (peach), Cassis, Faro, Tea Beer
Lindemans is the largest independent lambic brewery in Belgium, and the largest exporter of lambic to the United States, beginning sales in 1978. Kriek is the big seller in Belgium, but framboise heads the list in the United States.
The Lindemans family has farmed in Vlezenbeek since 1809. By 1829 Judocus Lindemans had begun lambic brewing, and by 1930 lambic production had overtaken farming for the family.
In 1991 Lindemans built a new building on the family property adjacent to the old brewing building to house a used German brew house they purchased. They immediately increased production from 50 liters to 150 liters per brew. Even though they built a new coolship in the new building, they continue to pump one-third of each brew across to the old coolship―just in case they need some of the yeasts and bacteria hanging around in the old timbers.
Unlike other lambic producers, Lindemans doesn’t use wood barrels for fermenting and aging. Considering the cost and upkeep of these barrels too expensive, they instead use lined steel tanks in which they place quantities of raw oak chips.
Lindemans continued farming wheat, barley and hops until the late 1960s, but finally gave up this activity. Lambic production became too successful to have time for the farm.
The brewery’s need for fruit is so great that by the early 1970s Belgian farmers could no longer meet it. Lindemans took Schaerbeek cherry plantings to Hungary and Romania, and contracted with farmers there to grow exclusively for the brewery. This arrangement continues today, and now includes raspberries, peaches and cassis.
A German firm, Bayernwald, collects the harvested fruit and deep-freezes it in a plant north of Munich. When Lindemans needs fruit, they place an order with Bayernwald, who unfreeze, press and crush the fruits (in the case of cherries, they add in 10 to 20 percent of the cherrystones), and immediately truck it to the brewery in containers of 1,000 liters. This just-in-time ordering system allows for fresh cherry juice to arrive in Vlezenbeek less than 48 hours after the order is placed.
Today, Lindemans is headed by brothers Renè and Nestor Lindemans (Renè is the brewer; Nestor handles the business) and their sons, Geert and Dirk. Geert, Renè’s son, is a brewer and Dirk, Nestor’s son, handles business matters. Like fathers, like sons.
Most Lindemans lambics are available in the United States.