Grimbergen has unveiled an innovative new brewery inside the famous Grimbergen Abbey, near Brussels.
Father Karel Stautemas, provisor at the abbey, with master brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon. Photographs: Grimbergen Brewery
The project brings brewing back to where it all started, when the abbey was founded nearly 900 years ago.
It’s also the first time in 200 years that beers have been brewed inside the walls of the abbey, with beer-making ceasing after the building was destroyed during the French Revolution.
The Abbey Brewery will serve as an innovation hub, combining brewing traditions drawn from the ancient books of the abbey’s library with new and innovative techniques to craft unique limited-edition batches of exceptional premium beers.
To celebrate, Grimbergen has released three new brews: Magnum Opus Brut Beer, Ignis Quadruple, and Astrum Pale Ale.
Cees ‘t Hart, chief executive of Carlsberg Group, global licensee of Grimbergen, said: “It is a treat to be here at the beginning of Grimbergen’s next chapter and to experience what we believe will enrich the future of Belgian beer.
“Grimbergen is at the very heart of our growing portfolio of craft and speciality beer and it is contributing to the strong double-digit growth we’re seeing in the category.
“The new Abbey Brewery is an important step for us in continuing to develop our speciality brews to meet growing worldwide demand. We believe this beautiful Abbey Brewery will take us, and beer drinkers around the world, on an incredible journey of flavour discovery.”
Father Karel and Marc-Antoine outside the abbey
The Abbey Brewery was built in a close partnership between the Grimbergen Abbey and Carlsberg Group. Father Karel Stautemas, provisor at the abbey, was instrumental in building the new facility and has joined the brewing team as abbey brewer. When covid allows, he will complete his brewing qualifications, allowing him and his fellow fathers to continue the legacy of generations of Fathers before him.
Father Karel said: “The new microbrewery is a place to reignite past traditions. Just like our symbol, the phoenix, we always have the strength to rise again, but to add fresh thinking, too. We want to combine our experience, nearly nine centuries of it, with innovation, in pursuit of the most delicious and unique new brews. I think that the microbrewery allows us to do that, to explore and experiment with styles and ingredients in a really exciting way.”
Father Karel combines his day-to-day monastic life with the running of the Abbey Brewery, supporting master brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon, who has also been heavily involved in bringing the new brewery to life.
Marc-Antoine is a 28-year-old brewing wunderkind from France, who began brewing in his parents’ garage and has since gone on to study both wine-making and brewing. He said: “We are now brewing beer in the abbey for the first time again in over 200 years, a great celebration for the fathers, for the Grimbergen community, and for all those who love Grimbergen beer.
“We are setting a marker for Belgian beers worldwide. The new brewery allows us to craft batches of delicious beers inspired by new and old brewing techniques to create brand-new sensory experiences. These new brews will provide fans of Grimbergen and others with the chance to journey through amazing new tastes and flavours that could only be conceived in the unique surrounds of Grimbergen Abbey.”
The brewery features an on-site bar and restaurant, giving visitors the opportunity to savour the rich brews and pair them with dishes from the restaurant Fenikshof. Later this year, Grimbergen will also open a brewery experience centre that will give visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves into the rich heritage of Grimbergen and the magic behind its innovation.