For the first time in over 225 years, fans of the Belgian beer brand Grimbergen will be able to drink their beers on-site at the Abbey where the beer was first brewed in 1128. That is due to a unique joint venture project between Carlsberg (the global licensee of Grimbergen) and the Fathers of Grimbergen Abbey that resulted in a state-of-the-art Abbey Brewery.
The 10,000 square foot facility is designed to allow the brand room to explore new flavors and recipes, which fits into Carlsberg’s overall growth plans. “Grimbergen is at the very heart of our growing portfolio of craft and specialty beer, and it is contributing to the strong double-digit growth we’re seeing in the category,” said Cees ‘t Hart, CEO of Carlsberg Group. “The new Abbey Brewery is an important step for us in continuing to develop our specialty 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.”
When the Abbey was disbanded and ultimately destroyed during the French Revolution, brewing ceased on-site by the Fathers for the third time in its history. Twice before, it was destroyed during periods of unrest but bounced back. The Revolution left lasting scars. Dormant for centuries, the brand was reborn in the middle of the twentieth century when the Abbey licensed out its name to a local Belgium brewery. The brand grew in popularity and eventually was acquired by Carlsberg, the fourth largest beer maker globally. Today, you can find Grimbergen beers across the globe, but something was missing for the Fathers of the Abbey. They wanted to bring their beer back home.
Digging through their extensive library, they discovered ancient recipes and instructions on how to craft beers from the monks of the past. The fifteen brothers that make up the monastic community inside its walls met and decided to dedicate themselves to brewing beer again.
“Interest in beer continues to grow, especially beers with great stories, whether Belgium beers, craft beers, or just great tasting beers. So, with the continued strong growth of Grimbergen around the world, it felt like it was the right time to bring brewing back home, back to the Abbey,” says Father Karel Stautemas, the Abbey Brewer. “The new Abbey Brewery is a hub of innovation, so it gives us a place to combine 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.”
An on-site restaurant and visitor center were built to supplement their endeavor further to create an experience for visitors similar to one they would find at other Belgian Abbey brewhouses and craft beer breweries. All of the money that the Fathers make from the new entity will contribute to the running costs of the Abbey, the ongoing maintenance of the buildings, the community work of the Fathers, and helping other Norbertine Abbeys in South Africa and Brazil, and supporting other charity work.
To get things off smoothly, the brewery brought in Master Brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon from France. He has been involved with the project from day one and has stayed on to oversee the brewing process as the Fathers ramp things up. The first three beers produced at the new brewhouse are Grimbergen Magnus Opus Brut Beer, Grimbergen Ignis Quadruple, and Grimbergen Astrum Pale Ale. They will be served on-site and offered in limited distribution in France, Italy, Belgium, and Denmark.
As the global beer industry continues to look for new and exciting items to roll out to the public, it seems like the team at Carlsburg only had to look to the past to find a new way forward.