3 Fonteinen invests 25 million into expansion; Armand Debelder leaves the brewery

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by MrSwingKing, Oct 26, 2019.

  1. MrSwingKing

    MrSwingKing Initiate (39) Aug 13, 2017 Denmark

    Cut from an email sent through the 3F newsletter:

    From 2013 up until now...

    We find ourselves in the year 2013. Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen is spread out over four locations. A quarter of our time is spent on transporting wort, lambic, bottles, containers and pallets loaded with beer ready to ship between those four locations.

    In October 2015, four years ago, the first barrel was moved to Lot and in 2018 we completed our relocation. Why did it take so long? When you think about it, it’s only logical. Foeders and barrels that are full to the brim must stay in one place! This did not stop us from purchasing new barrels, both large and small, and continuing to brew lambic that is now maturing in our new Lot premises.

    The numbers speak for themselves. Our stores of oak-matured lambic grew from 4,000 hl in 2013 to 8,000 hl in 2018. Over the same period the volume of bottled lambic beer increased from 1,250hl to 3,000 hl. We like to give our beers all the time they need; on average it takes over 2½ years to turn the initial brew into a lambic beer that is ready to age in the bottle and to drink another 6 months later.

    From September 2016 we have extended a warm welcome to our visitors in the completely renewed lambik-O-droom in Lot.

    In 2013 we had four full-time members of staff. Their number has now grown to 18.

    Don’t think for one moment that we want to work faster or skip a step or two. Remember, we are just as headstrong as Gaston and Armand. We pay homage to the tradition of lambic brewing and aim for quality, always in a natural way and without making compromises.

    ... the next step !

    Let’s go back in time for a bit. We have only just started operating from our new base, when we are given the opportunity to purchase a plot of land next to the current building in Lot.

    Early 2017 we – Armand, Michaël and Werner – outline our shared long term vision. We hire a firm of architects to give shape to our many ideas.

    The result? The definitive design that we are proud to present to you:
    We hope that our home base in Lot will turn into a pilgrimage spot for all (lambic) beer aficionados. We want to create something grand and beautiful but want to stay true to the spirit of 3 Fonteinen. Anything we do, is done properly

    Click here to download the official press release.
    This is what the new lambik-O-droom will look like:
    • barrel room: our current premises will only be used as a storage space for barrels and foeders. This increases our capacity by 4,000hl (from 8,000hl to 12,000hl), an expansion comparable with the 2013 – 2019 period. We have the year 2027 in mind for the closure of the warehouse. In the meantime, we allow time all the time it needs. A storage space of 12,000hl allows us to mature a large proportion of our lambic for far longer than three years; 4 and 5 years or even longer. Our small barrel room in Laarheide, close to the brewery, is home to several barrels that are seven years old.
    • a second brewery. Just to make things clear: we will continue to brew at Beersel and at the same time, we will build a second, equivalent brewery in our Lot location. We decided against one single, large automated brewery. From now on we will brew in parallel at two sites where our brewers continue to watch over the kettles. We are not in the business of producing standard lambic wort and lambic beers. In contrast, we want the micro-climate of Beersel and Lot to shine through in the aroma and taste of our beers. In the winter season, there is a temperature difference of 1 to 2°C between our Beersel brewery – located in the village centre at an altitude of a few tens of metres – and Lot – only 75 metres away from the river Senne. The wind direction and its speed also differ between the two locations.
    • a logistics hall for bottling and labelling. This will also house the warm chamber for our beers that mature in the bottle for a long period of time (at least six to nine months, or an entire year for the Golden Blend, Zenne y Frontera, Schaarbeekse Kriek etc.). In addition, this building will serve as the warehouse for our strategic stock of bottles that are laid down for many years (vintage bottles). The supply of ingredients and materials and the transport of finished bottles will also be carried out from this location.
    • a new lambik-O-droom: this central area which will connect all the buildings will consist of:
      • a tasting room, roughly twice the size of the current lambik-O-droom
      • a new shop
      • a choice of meeting rooms (10 – 30 people) aimed at small businesses and groups who want to combine business and pleasure
      • a multi-function room accommodating up to 150 guests, with a separate kitchen and the possibility to expand outdoors, for receptions and weddings for example.
      • a central dome constructed without the use of pillars – a typical design feature of Robbrecht en Daem architecten – connecting the buildings that can host a range of activities such as local farmers’ markets, art exhibitions (the ‘Nachtlichten’ by Felix De Boeck for example), intimate concerts and, why not… a beer festival.
    The lambik-O-droom offers views towards the barrel hall (as it does today). The tasting room affords a panorama of the brewery and the park. Finally, a caveau / cellar will occupy a side wall of the building, from floor to ceiling. Several hundreds of thousands will be stored here to age for a very long time.

    Two aspects in particular enhance the experience:
    • Glass in hand, visitors can take a stroll from the lambik-O-droom towards a platform in the barrel hall from which they can view all our wooden barrels. Our guests can also take a high and dry walk towards the brewery, watch the brewers at work, walk the length of the cooling basins and see the bottling plant and labelling machinery in operation.
    • Most of the site – for which building permission has been granted, by the way – will be converted to parkland. We are planning to plant a multitude of trees, shrubs and other vegetation to attract a diverse range of wild fauna and flora. We envisage the planting of around one hundred wild Schaarbeekse ‘kriekelaars’, the typical local sour cherry variety. We have reserved a particularly sunny spot for our beehives. During opening hours, everyone is welcome to enjoy our park. Just come along and stroll along the paths of this special little part of the Senne Valley. In fact, most of our grounds consists of wet meadows, the type of marshy grassland on which Brussels was built. In winter, parts of the park come under the natural flood plain of the river Senne.
    The architect partnership of Robbrecht en Daem is responsible for the design. They won us over by suggesting various elements that are a close fit with our vision and dedication to quality but also make a perfect match with our headstrong attitude and our respect for time and tradition:
    • The experience area is an extension of the village centre. The logistics element and the pressure of traffic are diverted towards the zone for small and medium enterprises. In this way we aim to ease the traffic pressure on the village of Lot.
    • The roof of every single building serves a purpose all of its own; the roof of the logistics hall will provide parking, the barrel room will be covered in solar panels and the top of both the brewery and the lambik-O-droom will be transformed into a green roof garden with plenty of space for strolling around the herb beds and beehives.
    • Despite the fact that we can build up to 12 metres, we will build a lot lower than that - on a “human scale” – so that all buildings will still be visible from the road.
    • The façade will show the aspect of the layers of earth that have accumulated over the years. The front of the building will be shaped in layered concrete. The line structure serves to emphasise the extended character of the building with, as its eye-catching centre, the experience area.
    Finally, we would like to highlight the two main pillars that support our vision of the future:
    • to re-instate the link between land and beer: we wish to procure as many of our ingredients from local suppliers, the way it used to be done, so we have engaged in the following projects:
      • our grain network already comprises of 11 farmers in and around the Pajottenland region. The latest harvest yielded 120 tonnes of barley and wheat which we acquired for further processing. We take charge of the cleaning, sorting, storage and malting (barley) into usable grains.
      • There are 70 families who provide us with wild ‘Schaarbeekse krieken year on year. We are also running a propagation programme based on shoots from the roots of genuinely wild ‘Schaarbeekse kriekelaars’, the local variety of cherry tree. Within the next ten years, we aim to distribute 2,000 to 3,000 trees amongst the numerous enthusiasts who want to sell their krieken cherries back to us.
      • The ancient Coigneau hop variety, low in bitterness and used fresh by lambic brewers up until the 1950s, has been re-introduced to the fields of hop growers supportive to our cause. Within a few years we hope to use it in our brewing as a different option from our aged hop.
      • We want to see more fruit grown in our Pajottenland, the way it used to be; already, most raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and peaches are now once again cultivated in our own country. Most of this fruit is grown organically.
    • We want to offer visiting beer lovers the opportunity to discover our lovely Pajottenland and the valley of the Senne. We are planning to build on our co-operation with local cafés and restaurants, B&Bs, hotels and organisations promoting the culture, nature and historic treasures of this green region on the verge of Brussels.
    Finally, we will have you know that we will continue as ‘lambikstekers’. In other words, we will carry on blending lambic even though we are able to cover 100% of our own requirements when it comes to lambic wort. 3 Fonteinen has always been a ‘geuzestekerij’ and we will continue to blend far into the future.

    Also, we are unable to produce standard type of lambic wort or assemble a geuze as every single blend is different. We continue to set ourselves a challenge by working with the broadest possible palette of aromas and flavours, ranging from young to old and very lambic.

    Our vision of the future is marked out by the tradition of lambic. We hope to promote the relevance of lambic culture and inspire the makers of Belgian quality beers. To be continued… without a doubt!

    If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, there is only one address: info@3fonteinen.be.

    See you soon!"
  2. thuey

    thuey Aspirant (282) Nov 13, 2015 California

    Wow that's huge news (both on the expansion and Armand leaving). Weird that no one has commented, considering how highly regarded they are.
    volta, tobelerone and GeauxTigers13 like this.
  3. AndrewK

    AndrewK Aspirant (274) Oct 20, 2006 California

    I don’t see where it says Armand is leaving the company?
    FBarber and unlikelyspiderperson like this.
  4. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (2,312) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    That's because this has been buried in the Europe subforum up until now. Here's the original thread:


    Here's a more detailed article on all of this:

  5. AndrewK

    AndrewK Aspirant (274) Oct 20, 2006 California

    So more that he is retiring due to poor health. “Leaving the brewery” makes it seem like it wasn’t amicable.
    officerbill likes this.