3 Fonteinen: New brewery, same great beers

Published on October 1, 2013.

“Michael became co-manager of the brewery a year ago, and I intend to impart my knowledge of lambic brewing and blending to him. That has been my ultimate dream for years, to pass my knowledge on to the next generation. In fact, it is Michael that gave me the energy to start brewing here again.” Armand remarked, happily. “I want to give my knowledge and experience to the next generation. That’s the most beautiful thing that can happen to me now!” he exclaimed.

As to Michael, Armand said: “He has his ideas about the future of lambic brewing and blending, and he will possibly be even more fanatical than me. He’s also a responsible young man, making good decisions. Even when he makes a mistake, he is very honest about it. He is also always with a smile.” It seems the next generation of 3 Fonteinen will be in good hands!

When I visited 3 Fonteinen again on April 20, the day before Tour de Geuze 2013, Armand and Michael had brewed seven batches of beer. I tasted the fifth batch, which was brewed on February 5th. First, though, Armand told me: You can taste it, but only if you promise not to describe it as a lambic. It’s too young to be called a lambic right now. It’s still dominated by the wheat, like a German Hefeweizen. The brettanomyces have not fully developed in it yet. But they will.”

PPhoto of glass of 3 Fonteinen Lambic
Photo: a glass of lambic from the new brewery, with just a few months in a barrel.

I found this, um….young, spontaneously fermented, barrel-aged brew to be very thirst quenching, and with great potential. (See? I didn’t call it lambic. Yet.)

Photograph of Brouwerij Brewery 3 Fonteinen brewery brewhouse lambic geuze gueuze spontaneous fermentation

As to the new brewery, Armand told me they brew with the classic lambic method, as he did before from 1999 to 2009. But there are definitely some high-tech features in the new brewery, such as a control panel where the mixing speed of the mash tun and temperature of the boiling kettle can be controlled. “This is important in a lambic brewery,” Armand commented. “Also important is the length of time the wort is boiled. It should be boiled for a minimum of four hours, and really for five or six if you plan to age the lambic for a year or more. In fact, my lambic became better after I was sure I could boil it for a long time,” he added.

Photo of 3 Fonteinen brewery control

Photo of 3 Fonteinen brewery control panel

Armand uses hop pellets in his lambics, as they are easier to store. The spent grain will be driven to a local farmer, who will likely feed it to livestock. Happy cows, as they say in Belgium!!

Armand and Michael weren’t only working on the brewery the first week of December: “We blended and bottled 7,000 liters of lambic this week, from other lambic brewers,” Armand remarked.

Photo of barrels at 3 Fonteinen

As before, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen will continue to buy and blend wort from several lambic brewers, such as Boon, Girardin, and Lindemans. “We’ll have some brews that will be composed of only our ‘brewed-on-site’ lambics, and others that will be blends of lambics from these other breweries, sometimes with our lambic. That gives us a lot of possibilities,” Armand commented.

I do, sadly, have some bad news for those that have enjoyed 3 Fonteinen-lambic infused beers in the past: “We will no longer sell our lambics to other breweries, or do collaborations with other breweries. Our lambics will be for our products, only,” Armand stated. This means that beers like the excellent Tuverbol, from Brouwerij Loterbol, will need a new source of lambic. But it also means more 3 Fonteinen lambic will be available for blending by Armand and Michael. More lambic=more geuze, kriek, and more. You know the old saying: you win some, you lose some.

Photo of Vlaams Carbonade at 3 Fonteinen restaurant

You can always drink straight 3 Fonteinen lambic on draft at Brasserie/Restaurant 3 Fonteinen next door, as well as the faro and kriekenlambic. You might as well have a meal too, as the food is very good and reasonably priced.

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