Brasserie Belle Vue

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Website : http://www.ab-inbev.be/fr_BE/belle-vue.html (French)

Phone: +32 024 12 44 11

Address: Bergensesteenweg 144 Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, 1600

Overview

Brasserie Belle-Vue is an industrial-sized brewery located in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw just outside of the Brussels Capital Region. Currently under the AB-InBev umbrella, Brasserie Belle Vue no longer produces any spontaneously fermented lambic, and its products are all sweetened.

History

Brasserie Belle-Vue has a long and sometimes controversial history of innovation, takeover, and survival among the lambic brewers and blenders. It was founded in 1913, by a café blender named Philémon Vandenstock (1886 – 1945). The owner of a bar in Brussels, Vandenstock, along with his wife, bought wort from various lambic breweries in the city and began blending fondgeuze for the establishment. Shortly after they began their blending business, World War I broke out leaving few resources to continue. Finally, in 1927, the Belle-Vue Café in Anderlecht became available. Vandenstock purchased the building as an outlet for his lambics; serving five other cafes in the area while also selling directly to customers. From 1927 onward, the blendery would market itself under the Belle-Vue name with a mention to Ph. Vandenstock usually visible somewhere on the branding.[1]

The business flourished under Philémon, leading to the first brewery acquisition by Belle-Vue in 1943: Vos-Kina, a lambic brewery located in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. The acquisition of the brewery came at a difficult time in Europe’s history, right in the middle of World War II. While many breweries were struggling through the war, Belle-Vue was growing. Now able to brew his own lambic, Vandenstock also brought his son Constant Vandenstock and his son-in-law Octave Collin Vandenstock into the business to help manage.[1] Sadly, Philémon was arrested by the occupying Nazi forces in 1944 and sent to the Neuengamme concentration camp where he remained until it was liberated in May of 1945. He died just one week after the camp’s liberation.

The journey of Belle-Vue’s slide into non-traditional lambic started immediately after the death of Philémon when his son Constant took over the business. Until then, Belle-Vue was producing only traditional fondgeuze; however, like many other lambic breweries at the time, Constant began to use artificial flavorings to adapt to the changing palates of Belgian lambic drinkers. Belle-Vue began sweetening, filtering, pasteurizing, and carbonating its gueuze so that it could be consumed more like a traditional European pale lager rather than a traditional lambic. Belle-Vue also was one of the first, if not the first, lambic breweries to move away from using the traditional 75cl bottles to using capped 25cl bottles. This provided an easy “one bottle for one glass”[1] strategy and did away with specialty corkscrews needed for opening the larger bottles.

The journey to the top of the lambic world for Belle-Vue began in the 1949-1950 season when Belle-Vue began to send lambic across the country and into France and the Netherlands. Belle-Vue, who was at the time the only lambic brewery with filtered and pasteurized gueuze, managed to escape the heatwave that resulted in exploding bottles for the majority of the lambic brewers and blenders that season. Business was so good that the brewery went on to two more takeovers, taking over the Louis & Emile De Coster lambic brewery in 1952 and Timmermans in 1955.

Constant, who was always involved with the football leagues in Belgium and Europe brought his son, Roger, as well as Roger’s cousin Philipe, into the business in 1962. In 1969, Belle-Vue acquired two more breweries: De Boeck and Goossens, known together as Brasseries Unies (United Breweries). These two breweries together had already acquired Brasseries Brasserie de la Couronne (De Kroon), Espagne, De Coster-Heymans, and Vandenkerckhoven. Again in 1970 Belle-Vue acquired Brabrux, which had already acquired other well known lambic breweries De Keersmaeker, Vaan Haelen-Coche, Bécasse-Steppé, and Vandenperre. At this point, Belle-Vue controlled approximately 75% of the lambic market. De Neve was also taken over by Belle-Vue in 1975, which is now a set of luxury apartments in the old brewery building.[1]

Belle-Vue was riding a wave of success that very few lambic breweries were achieving at the time, but to do this Belle-Vue needed the help of one brewery still bigger than them in Belgium: Artois. Belle-Vue partnered with Artois to help expand its brand in the export market. The cost of this was a 43% minority share for Artois in Belle-Vue, with Constant still remaining in charge of Belle-Vue. When Artois merged with Piedboeuf (most recognized as the brewer of Jupiler) in 1988 to create Interbrew, it effectively put an end to the Vandenstock family stake in Belle-Vue.

Today, Brasserie Belle-Vue exists under the AB-InBev umbrella and consistently puts out non-traditional, sweetened lambics for the masses. No longer producing a traditional lambic or gueuze, the final true-to-style Belle-Vue product was the Belle-Vue Sélection Lambic released in 1999. Belle-Vue beers are now produced at the brewery in St. Pieters-Leeuw located just outside the Brussels Capital Region in Flemish Brabant.[2] Belle-Vue is not a member of HORAL.

Brewing Process

Belle Vue does not follow traditional lambic brewing processes. Instead, Belle Vue uses a process called the DKZ method (DK - De Keersmaeker, Z - Zuun) for spontaneously fermenting its lambic. This process abandons the coolship and instead uses a two step process where the lambic is first cooled using a traditional heat exchanger and then non-sterile, compressed air is pushed into the tanks. This introduces the local microorganisms to the wort. Belle Vue also blends old lambic back into the tanks at this time to further ensure that the young wort is inoculated.

The royal proclamation of 1993 declares that to be called a lambic or gueuze, a beer must only contain a small proportion of authentic lambic beer in it. As such, Belle Vue next blends in fruit juices and other beer with the traditional lambic to create the final product.

Beers

Gueuze

Fruit

Breweriana

Videos

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Jef Van den Steen, Geuze & Kriek: The Secret of Lambic Beer, 2012
  2. Jeff Sparrow, Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition, 2005