Werner Van Obberghen, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen’s business manager, updates us on the lambic brewer’s status and strategy during the year of Covid and handling growing stocks.
On the good side, there’s going to be more “golden blends” available next year! 3 Fonteinen is also continuing its strategy of sourcing supplies from local farmers and family gardens.
Van Obberghen works alongside head brewer Michaël Blancquaert to run as the modern day 3 Fonteinen as partners and co-owners with Armand in line with a plan laid out together.
Armand has stepped a little away from the business with the assurance it is in good hands (see the Beer Idiots interview with Debelder: House of Armand) and is currently recovering from cancer.
Armand brought Blancquaert on in 2010 and in 2013 Van Obberghen joined them to help plan the consolidation of some operations at the site in Lot, including the barrel ageing areas, which were expanded. He stayed on.
In an interview with the Beer Idiots during Open Beer Days at the “Lambik-O-droom” site in Lot (see video above), an Obberghen describes the strategy during the onset of Covid, the “hold” on the ambitious showcase building they were planning to build (see Beer Idiots article: Number 2 for 3 Fonteinen, the jump-start to opening the online webshop, and the continuing engagement with local farmers and families for their ingredients.
Van Obberghen describes this part of the strategy as going “deeper into the traditional history of lambic”. For the 2019 and 2020 harvests 3 Fonteinen has been working with 15 cereal farmers to source barley and wheat in the Pajottenland.
He explains that 3 Fonteinen currently has a 8,000 hl inventory of lambic in barrels and normal outputs 3000 hl in bottles a year. With 2000 hl currently in the warm room, he expects to reduce brewing output over the next two years.
3 Fonteinen’s commitment to sustaining the network has included actively trying to find new customers in the brewing world for them to offset a reduced demand.
He also expects beer lovers will discover more “golden blends” available in the next season as the lambic in the barrels ages more. For example, the Oude Geuze Golden Blend (season 18|19) Blend No. 91 is made with 4-year-old lambic that accounts for 25% of volume, with the rest made up of a combination of 1, 2, and 3-year-old lambics.
The programme for the local sourcing of more Schaerbeek cherries continues with 75 families. This year 3 Fonteinen is spreading the love, by giving away 100 of their first root cuttings to anyone with a garden as long as they can track the trees.
These are not the standard cherry trees, which are grafted on rootstocks of plum or regular cherry trees. These are a wild variant, a “sulky root-shot, low-stemmed” bushy type of tree. Because of its wild growth the tree must be harvested manually.
In 5-7 years 3 Fonteinen hopes to buy the the sour cherries from you, as they do with the 75 other households.
Another example is the the Terf beer, which was brewed to support a community of young farmers in Pajottenland who take a sustainable approach to agriculture.
Van Obberghen also talks how he first met Debelder, an encounter when he had his second gueuze on a terrace at the age of 17, leading up to a growing friendship over the years.
Van Obberghen wrote his Business Engineering Masters dissertation on traditional lambic producers (titled Lambic beers – Biotechnological study, market & financial analysis, econometric study), and describes Armand as the only one who was willing to open up about his operations.
In fact, Armand was at the same testing his own ideas with his future protégé on how to bring traditional lambic and gueuze styles to new heights.
In the interview Van Obberghen describes the strategy during the onset of Covid, the “hold” on the ambitious showcase building they were planning to build, and remaining on course with their continuing engagement with local farmers and families for ingredients.
Van Obberghen’s background is in management consultancy.