The lambic and geuze brewer currently produces 3,000 hectolitres of beer per year at its existing brewery near Beersel, and is now co-owned by Armand Debelder, the original family owner, Michaël Blancquaert and Werner Van Obberghen.
Brewer Michaël Blancquaert says in a press release: “We stay true to our traditions. Every drop of lambik we produce stays here for about 2.5 years before being further processed. Thus, we need a lot of space to stock our brewage.”
The site in Lot will have new barrel warehouse, allowing the stock in hand to expand from 8,000 to 12,000 hectolitres. The brewer says the whole work on the building will be completed by 2027 . With 12,000 hl in stock, the brewery can let a large part of the lambic mature 3, 4 or 5 years and more. There are currently a few barrels of 7-year-old lambic in the small Laarheide warehouse near the brewery.
Scale it up
The building will have offices, and a new logistics hall for bottling and labeling, alongside the new brewery, built on the same scale as the original one in Beersel.
Like the site in Beersel, which attracts 10,000 visitors a year, it will also have a tasting room, which they label ‘Lambik-O-Droom’. It will be twice as large as the current one.
There will be a new store, meeting rooms for small businesses and groups, and a multipurpose room that can accommodate up to 150 people with a separate kitchen and a possibility of extension to the outside for receptions and weddings.
A pillar-free 30-metre concrete cupola will connect the buildings – a characteristic feature of architects Robbrecht and Daem. The brewer plans to organise activities, such as markets for local producers, art exhibitions, small concerts and beer festivals. Under the dome a boardwalk will provide visitors with a view of the brewery in operation and the ageing barrels.
A cellar under the whole lot will be used to store several hundred thousand bottles.
The different micro-climate conditions between the two sites means more variety in taste of their brews. In winter, between the Beersel brewery – located in the center of the village a few dozen meters above sea level – and the brewery in Lot – 75 meters from the Senne, there is a temperature difference of 1 to 2 ° C. The direction and speed of the wind are also different.
“On average, the temperature between both sites varies from around 2 °C on nights between October and April, which is the brewing period for us,” says Blancquaert.
In building this second brewery, 3 Fonteinen says it is going against experts’ advice to build a single large automated brewery hall. Debelder says: “We cannot make a standardised lambik or geuze. Because of the natural cooling process, every brewage is different by the time morning comes. Plus: a brewer should brew, not look at little warning lights and see if they’re still green.”
Around the new buildings, the former industrial site will be repurposed as a park, with twenty bee colonies and about 100 wild Schaarbeekse cherry trees. The sour cherries will be used to make kriek.
“Everyone is welcome in the park during opening hours,” the brewer says. “You can simply walk around this part of the Senne Valley. Our lands are mostly muddy, the kind of marshland on which Brussels – Broekzele (broek means swamp in Dutch) – is built. In winter, the park becomes partly a natural flood zone for the Senne.”
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen currently consists of 18 staff and says it is re-establishing the bond between small breweries, mills, bakers etc. and local farmers, says Van Obberghen.
“Hardly 4% of the grains used by Belgian brewers are grown in Belgium. We want to change that,” he says. “This summer, we collected over 130 tonnes of Pajot grains from more than ten local farmers. That’s just enough to cover our own brewing needs.”
The brewer has set up a grain network of 11 farmers in and around the Pajottenland region, and is working with farmers and other brewers to search for old Belgian varieties of wheat and barley. It is also sourcing the local Coigneau variety of hops in the region, as well as several types of fruit, mostly raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and peaches, and in particular the Schaarbeekse kriek, a breed of sour cherries that is used for the typical kriek lambic.
As these sour cherries are not commercially grown, 3 Fonteinen has a network of 70 families with shrubs and trees in their backyards, who sell their annual harvest to the brewery. In the meantime, the brewer has started a breeding programme of wild Schaarbeekse cherry shoots, with the aim of distributing 2000 to 3000 trees in 10 years among those who wish to sell their cherries.
The Coigneau hop, a bit bitter, was used until the 1950s by lambic brewers, has been replanted by some hop farmers. 3 Fonteinen hopes to be able to use it and alternate it with their current hop in a few years.
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen has come a long way since 2013, when it had four staff and four different sites. The brewer consolidated its brewing operations at Lot (Beersel) from October 2015 to 2018. Its stock of lambic in oak barrels has grown from 4,000 hl en 2013 to 8,000 hl in 2018. Over the same period its bottled beers went from 1,250 hl to 3,000 hl. In September 2016 it opened its tasting room, Lambik-O-Droom.
See our video interview with Armand Debelder in May 2019
Images of the current site