Home About Beer Shorts: Growfunding for bars, the rise of beer firms, and Trappists

Shorts: Growfunding for bars, the rise of beer firms, and Trappists

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Bars in Brussels have launched a joint platform, Growfunding, to raise money to keep themselves afloat. If you donate, you’ll get a bottle of limited edition Zuur, a new beer from Cantillon and En Stoemelings. The gift is partially financed by the Brussels-Capital region.

Last month we reported that Au Daringman had already conducted funding raising on the  platform. So far owner Martine Peeters, the bar’s owner, has raised about €17,200 of her €12,000 target. Speaking to a local newspaper, Het Journaal, she says the money will help her pay the rent for the next six months. The bar will be holding a live streaming concert as part of the ongoing fundraising on 28 February.

In total there are 27 bars crowdfunding on the platform. Le Coq has raised €14,400, while Cafe Les Brasseurs has raised €14,700. Another success is Cafe Monk with €14,408 raised so far. Other bars include L’Archiduc, La Fleur en Papier Doré and Le Barboteur.

Growfunding describes itself as a Belgian platform for civic crowdfunding. “We bring people and resources together and support projects that make our society stronger and more sustainable.” 

Starting in 2014 the platform has raised €1,836,000 for 220 projects: social profit organisations, businesses and philanthropy. They take 10% of the funds raised to support the platform, with Flanders and Brussels co-financing its general operations. The Brussels-Capital Region co-finances Growfunding’s support for social and circular start-ups in Brussels.

Brussels had injected €300,000 into the project focusing on bars and cafes. 

The rise and fall of Belgian brewers

Belgium registered a total of 377 brewers and 265 beer firms (those without their own installations) in 2020, according to stats produced by Zythos. 

Beer firms are booming, much to the dismay of the true believers. However, they can take comfort in the fact that yesterday’s beer firms or gypsy brewers are today’s brewers.

That might be true in theory though as many beer companies closed down in 2020 and the number has grown only slightly since 2019. The total number of beer companies actually fell at some point during 2020, Zythos reported.

There were 39 new breweries and 4 closures in 2019, while in 2020 there were 20 closures and 58 new brewers. It looks like there is a lot of second-hand brewing equipment on sale in Belgium.

Zythos reported that it is becoming increasingly difficult to track the large increase in new breweries as they are mainly hobby brewers who made to transition to microbrewing or becoming legal due to their output. 

 

Brewery for beer firms

It is no surprise therefore that contract brewers like BeerSelect are thriving.

BeerSelect, based in Ghent, was founded by three Flemish students in 2019 and it is now going to expand to three times its size to cater for the growing number of people using the facilities to brew.

According to De Tijd, the founders said they have already approaching  maximum capacity.

BeerSelect was founded by Wout Meuleman, Miel Bonduelle and Kasper Peeters, who had established an online store from which they sold beer to 2,000 customers.

They decided to start their own brewery and cater for those who did not have one.

BeerSelect brews 250 recipes from about hundred beer firms according to the newspaper. Some are individuals who want their own private mark, others are commercial companies, mostly small scale.

They can brew as low as 2,000 litres.

These include Brasserie Vandekelder from Brussels and Tietje from Ghent. BeerSelect has a current turnover of €1.8 million.

After the expansion, BeerSelect will be able to produce 30,000 hl of beer annually, compared to 8,000 now, according to the newspaper, while reporting that the company received €6 million in funding for the expansion. 

De Tijd reports that the investors include the Harvest Fund, which includes Bart Van Vooren (ex-Le Pain Quotidien), Pieter Vanermen, Jan Ruysschaert (Vigo) and Piet Van Waes. Some entrepreneurs associated with the incubator The Birdhouse are also shareholders.

One less Trappist

Achel beer has lost its Trappist designation as the last brother left the Achelse Kluis monastery in the Limburg province of Belgium. The beer will still be brewed under the supervision of the monks in Westmalle, where the monk decided to move.

The Westmalle monks, who founded the abbey in Achel, said they will still continue to brew Achel beer and are expanding production there by investing in a newer and larger brewhouse.

With the loss, there are now five Trappist beers in Belgium and nine outside the country. Belgium still has Westvleteren, Westmalle, Orval, Chimay, and Rochefort. There are two in the Netherlands, and one each in Austria, Italy, the UK, France, Spain and the United States.

Home delivery for Westvleteren

In other Trappist news, the monks of Westvleteren have added a home delivery service for their beers. The price is about €70 for one case delivered if you win their online lottery during the times they offer their beers.

The famous beer is brewed by the Saint-Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren, with the motto “We brew to live. We do not live to brew.” 

In keeping with the monks’ ethic, they only sell to private customers by selling only at certain periods of the week. Previously one had to phone in at a specific time and if you got through you provided your car licence number then showed up at the allotted time.

“The reason why we only want to sell to private consumers is that we want to give everyone as much as possible a fair chance to buy our beers at the correct price,” they state on their website.

Now this is done online. They still maintain their pickup sales for two cases of beer, but have started the pilot project of home delivery of one case of beer. They stated the pilot project to “contribute to an even wider and fairer distribution of our beers”, they say.  Home delivery by courier service is only to customers who live in Belgium. One case of Trappist Westvleteren 12 costs €69.70 plus deposit for the bottles. The beer is shipped in a cardboard crate not the traditional wooden one.

 Godfried, prior of the abbey told local media that about half of their Belgian clientele lives in West and East Flanders. “The other customers from Belgium often have to come from a lot further away to pick up their order. That is why we have been thinking about a broader range of customers within a working group for some time now,” he said.

A case of the same beer for pickup costs €46.40 plus a deposit for the wooden crate and the bottles (an additional €15). Two weeks ago, I preferred to make the round trip of about 4 hours, as I picked up two crates and did an interview with a local hop farmer and brewer in the area. More on that soon!

Top beers on UnTapped

Back to frivolity, with UnTappd listing of the top 10 beers checked in by drinkers to the app in 2020. It’s quite surprising but perhaps not given the wide variety of drinkers on the platform. I always thought of the social drinking app as a haven for the craft beer nerd crowd, but Guinness, Corona, Heineken, Miller Lite and Stella dominate the listing, so there goes that assumption.

Untappd’s Top 10 Beers of 2020

  • Guinness Draught — Guinness
  • Punk IPA — BrewDog
  • Corona Extra — Grupo Modelo
  • IPA – Lagunitas Brewing Company
  • Heineken — Heineken
  • Elvis Juice — BrewDog
  • Tripel Karmeliet — Brouwerij Bosteels
  • Miller Lite — Miller Brewing Co.
  • Stella Artois — Stella Artois
  • Hazy Little Thing — Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

You can also find the top styles (guess which one is #1 will you?). The most checked in city is London, another surprise.

Toer de Geuze postponed

While other festivals have been more hopefully that they will be allowed to host beer drinkers this year, the Toer de Geuze has decided to postpone until 2022. The edition next year will be held 30 April to 1 May 2022.

One can’t blame anyone for not taking a chance. 

Meanwhile Hof ten Dormaal has cancelled Leuven Innovation Beerfestival for 2021 stating that there was too much uncertainty over re-openings and travel restrictions to hold the incredible festival.

Everyone who still has a ticket for the 2020 edition will be automatically reimbursed.

De Rulles celebrates 20 years

La Brasserie artisanale de Rulles is celebrating 20 years of brewing.

Grégory Verhelst, who the Beer Idiots interviewed in 2019, told a Belgian publication that he has so far lost 40% in income in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Rather than opening an e-shop, as he considers home deliveries as unsustainable, he continues to look after a farm he bought three years ago. The farm allows him to avoid long journeys, stay local, use local raw materials and try to be as organic as is possible, he told the publication. His optimal brewing volume is 3,500 hl a year he said.

Big in Brussels

Finally the Beer Idiots can report that they are deemed to be among the 13 ‘stars’ of Brussels beer. Thanks to Eoghan Walsh and Brussels Beer City for asking us to pick a star (we chose the three guys behind Swafff! and who individually own Malt Attacks!, Le Barboteur and Dynamo. We also thank Cedric Jamar – presentor, guide and speaker, for including the Beer Idiots as among the stars. 
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