3 Fonteinen: New brewery, same great beers

New brewery officially christened on March 23, 2013

In March 2011, I mentioned on the pages of my blog, belgianbeerspecialist.blogspot.com, that 3 Fonteinen was likely to brew again, sometime in the near future. Brewer/blender Armand Debelder didn’t give me a specific time frame, and I’ve been waiting patiently for the day to come.

Photo of 3 Fonteinen sign in front of brewery

When I visited Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen again on 8 December 2012, I knew the time was near. “We closed the LambikODroom café in April, and later moved the beer shop to this same space,” Armand told me, as we sipped an Armand 4 Oude Geuze in the new shop. “Then, we started preparing the area where the shop has been for a brewery installation. It was mostly finished by sometime in November,” he added.

3 Fonteinen Brewery Lambic Geuze Spontaneous Fermentation
Photo: Brewer/blender Armand Debelder of 3 Fonteinen at the new mash tun.

The Belgian-built brewery consists of a mash tun that doubles as a mash filter: “The custom-built filter at the bottom of the mash tun is in fact the most expensive piece of equipment in the new brewery,” Armand remarked, smiling.

“In fact, I am very excited about our new brewery. I have a very good feeling about it. It’s more expensive than I wanted, but it’s a fine brew plant,” he added.

The new brewery was built and installed by Kris Vermoesen of Welding and Piping NV of Mechelen, which specializes in the custom-manufacture and installation of breweries in Europe. Vermoesen has installed new brewhouses at De Koninck, Haacht, Orval and Rodenbach, among others, so he is considered one of the best at his trade. He founded Welding and Piping and started building new breweries after years of experience in performing brewery installations.

The new mash tun has a capacity of 40 hectoliters (about 34 US barrels.) The boiling kettle is also in a 40 hl size, and the double-decker koelschip (coolship) has four 1,000 hl vessels, two each on the top and bottom, so total capacity is again 40 hl.

Photo of coolship at 3 Fonteinen

“It’s cheaper to have four vessels in the 1,000 liter size each than one 40 hl coolship, and it takes up less horizontal space. I can’t make any significant changes to the building itself as all the old buildings in the city of Beersel are protected by the government,” Armand commented. “I might have liked to have put the coolship in on the roof, but it had to be put here. Hence, having it built on two levels saves a lot of space and allows it to fit in this room.”

Of course, as with any new brewery, it needed to be “dialed-in.” Armand and shareholder/assistant brewer/co-manager Michael Blancquaert brewed several test batches before they knew exactly what to expect from the new installation.

Photo of Armand Debelder and Michael Blancquaert 3 Fonteinen
Photo: Armand Debelder and Michael Blancquaert

Yes, I did say that Michael Blancquaert, aged 28, is now a shareholder in 3 Fonteinen, as of January 1st, 2012: “Michael has five years to pay me for 50% of the shares of the brewery, and we have agreed on a certain share price that will not change between now and then,” Armand told me.

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