Video: Denys Van Elewyck, co-founder of En Stoemelings, discusses the strategy of the Brussels-based brewer during the Covid-19 lockdown and the relative success in selling beers directly to drinkers.
Denys Van Elewyck and Samuel Languy launched Brasserie En Stoemelings in 2014 and with their brewing prowess were able to scale up by moving three years ago from a small space in Brussels’ Marolles district to a larger one in the city’s Laeken district.
The two have known each other since the age of 11. Van Elewyck was trained as an archeologist but was interested in the craft of brewing, while Languy was a video game producer.
The “En Stoemelings” name came about as they had secretly been selling their first underground brews from a basement. The name is Brussels dialect for “in secret” or “under the table”.
At the time, only Cantillon and Brasserie De La Senne were brewing in the city. Brasserie De La Senne, which launched in 2003, was the inspiration for the wave of craft brewers that currently exist Brussels.
En Stoemelings is based now at a Greenbizz.brussels building, which hosts a number of sustainable businesses. In the same building is No Science, another craft brewer. Across the road is La Source, another craft brewer. La Senne is a 15 minute walk away.
When the two started they were brewing 300 hl a year. Before the pandemic hit the world they were brewing 1600 hl a year. They currently have a capacity of 2500 hl a year and employ another 6 people.
Before Covid-19 struck, they were selling about 90% of their beer to bars and restaurants in Brussels, Van Elewyck said.
During the first lockdown in March, they reacted by essentially shutting down the business, then launched a home delivery service in partnership with a bicycle delivery company. The six employees were employed again after three weeks.
“We didn’t know what to do with the beers,” Van Elewyck reflected. “We started calling friends and it escalated so quickly that we asked a bike delivery firm to help us and we managed to make an e-shop and now we have a steady business.”
Through their online sales shop they are also selling beers from six other breweries as part of a package. This package has been very popular.
“As the world is changing you have to tag along, otherwise you will be left at the side,” Van Elewyck said. “That’s what we did with the e-shop and what the other breweries are doing.”
He added: “It does not mean it is going really well for us. We cannot compensate only with the e-shop.”
Once the restrictions end they hope they can continue with home deliveries and supplying the bars and restaurants.