Bierhuis Oud Beersel reopens in Beersel

The much loved and much missed Bierhuis Oud Beersel cafe and brewery taproom had a soft reopening on January 8 and 9, 2022. Originally named “In ‘t Bierhuis Oud Beersel” the cafe opened in 1934, and was closed in 2002.

Bierhuis Oud Beersel as it appeared in 2001. Photo courtesy Johan “Wanne” Madalijns.

Here is a brief history of the Bierhuis, from Gert Christiaens, owner and master blender of Oud Beersel: “Bierhuis Oud Beersel dates back to 1934 when the farm and cart shed on the new brewery site were transformed into a bar by Edigius Vandervelden. His daughter, Marie-Therese, took over the bar and ran it until 1988. Then her son, Danny Draps, took over the bar and managed it until its closure at the end of 2002.”

The restored Bierhuis Oud Beersel in January 2022. Photo courtesy Cliff Lucas.
A close up of the center of the restored facade of the building, 2022. Photo courtesy Johan “Wanne” Madalijns.

Gert continued: “In 2003, the building was sold and became a flower shop. It was at that time that I contacted Henri Vandervelden to help out. Managing a bar without the certainty of taking over the brewery and being able to build it up again was too much of an undertaking, as my main goal was safeguarding the beers. In 2017, the opportunity arose to purchase the building, as the flower shop was closing down. This time, I did not hesitate, and acquired the building with the scope of reviving the old bar of the brewery, Bierhuis Oud Beersel.”

Gert Christiaens of Oud Beersel inside Bierhuis Oud Beersel. Photo courtesy Cliff Lucas.
Gert Christiaens of Oud Beersel.

I discussed the renovation and planned reopening of the Bierhuis with Gert during a visit in August 2018, in this previous article here and during several additional visits since then, including one in September 2021. You can see many photos and some videos inside and outside the cafe before its renovation in the article linked above, as well as details about the new bag in box lambics from Oud Beersel.

Gert Christiaens is also President of HORAL, The High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers. The organization describes its aims as: “The main objective of the association is the promotion of traditional lambic beers, in particular Oude Geuze and Oude Kriek. The association also takes initiatives to protect these beers. Every two years, HORAL organizes the Toer de Geuze, the open brewery day of the Pajottenland and the Senne valley.”

Image courtesy HORAL.

The next edition of the Toer de Geuze will be April 30 and May 1st, 2022. Normally, the event takes place only in odd numbered years, but since the 2021 Toer was cancelled due to the pandemic, it will be held in 2022.

(For anyone interested in a guided tour of Oud Beersel, including a visit to Bierhuis Oud Beersel, as well as many other places, and Toer de Geuze itself, BelgianBeerme! Beer Tours is hosting the “Wild & Spontaneous Beer Tour of Belgium” from April 25-May 2, 2022. See here for more details.)

For more information about tourism in the Province of Flemish Brabant, see their website here.

As you can see, Gert is a very busy and influential man in the world of Belgian lambic beer. One of his personal and professional objectives since purchasing the old Bierhuis has been to renovate and restore it. During my 2018 visit to the cafe, he remarked: “As you can see, the original bar and ceramic taps, and the wood paneled walls, still exist. So what we will do here at In ‘t Bierhuis Oud Beersel will be along the same concept as we do with our beers and packaging: a mix of old and young. While we are a historic brewery, dating originally to 1882, I am young and forward thinking.”

Gert has also had valuable help since early 2007 from a group called “De Geuzen van Oud Beersel” a non-profit organization of beer lovers that want to help educate consumers of lambic, as well as to help promote and protect Oud Beersel’s heritage and lambic itself. This group has been giving guided tours of the brewery for many years, and also organizes lambic blending workshops. From their website: “We are a group of enthusiasts who promote the lambic beers and protect their traditions. Each month, the members meet each other for instructive but pleasant activities, ranging from seminars on the history of lambic beers, to blending our own geuze. In ‘The Geuzes of Old Beersel”, our active members participate in working groups, working as the guides for brewery visits, the curators of the museum, and helping hands on our activities and those of brewery “Oud Beersel.” Visitors discover the wonderful world of spontaneous fermentation and members get actively involved with the ins and outs of a dynamic lambic brewery.” Here is their Facebook page.

The famous, colorful facade of the cafe was lovingly restored to its original colors by a young artist from Brussels, Ascril Parait (ascril_parait on Instagram.)

Here, Johan “Wanne” Madalijns, the first customer of the renovated Bierhuis Oud Beersel, pours on Oud Beersel Oude Geuze in January 2022. Photo courtesy Cliff Lucas.

The first patron to be served a lambic in the cafe on Thursday, January 6, was Johan “Wanne” Madalijns, President of De Lambikstoempers, the premier lambic beer appreciation and promotion club in Belgium’s lambic country. Gert remarked: “Wanne was one of the last customers of the old Bierhuis in 2002, and I felt it was only right that he be the first customer served at the newly renovated Bierhuis Oud Beersel, being such a devoted lambic lover.” The beer: an Oud Beersel Oud Geuze.

The first customer and first beer served at the reopened Bierhuis were very appropriate, for sure!

Another photo of the top half of the facade of Bierhuis Oud Beersel, January 2022. Photo courtesy Cliff Lucas.

The opening days and hours for the Bierhuis are as follows: Thursdays and Fridays from 2 pm to 10 pm; Saturdays from 10 am to 10 pm; and Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. The cafe is open for business! Later in the second half of February, Bierhuis Oud Beersel should be fully operational, when the kitchen opens. Gert says: “We will begin serving plates of food, probably by the second half of February. The choices will be limited to two warm dishes, some snacks and some cold sandwiches. Also, please note that, while we will have some food options available, we will not be a restaurant.”

The original two tap ceramic beer tower at Bierhuis Oud Beersel, now back in use after twenty years. Photo courtesy Johan “Wanne” Madalijns.
The new tap system at Bierhuis Oud Beersel has 12 tap lines. Photo courtesy Johan “Wanne” Madalijns

There are 12 taps pouring Oud Beersel beers, and coolers with many different bottles. “The idea is to have an inviting place for anyone who wants to come and drink a lambic or geuze,” Gert commented.

One of the things that used to be an important part of the original Bierhuis, an old round table, has been restored, and returned to a place a prominence within the new Bierhuis. The circular table was made from parts of old foeders (huge oak barrels that once contained lambic) that had been dismantled. You can see a video of the table as it was in 2018, below. The table had been inside the home of former Oud Beersel brewer and owner Henri Vandervelden, next door. Gert helped Henri Vandervelden take it out of the original Bierhuis before it was sold in 2003.

The now restored circular table inside the renovated Bierhuis Oud Beersel. The table was built using parts of old foeders. Photo courtesy Johan “Wanne” Madalijns.
The now restored circular table inside the renovated Bierhuis Oud Beersel. The table was built using parts of old foeders. Photo courtesy Johan “Wanne” Madalijns.

Also in keeping with the history of the Bierhuis, the back room of the cafe is named “Vandervelden” after Henri Vandervelden. “I also had a special ventilation system added, as well as Wi-Fi and charging stations for mobile phones and electric bicycles. Once again, a blend of old and new,” Gert told me.

The Bierhuis also has a patio outside the back of the building for warm weather enjoyment.

Additionally, you will be able to hear recordings of the much missed Mortier organ that used to be at the cafe. The organ has been in the hands of a private collector in the USA since the cafe was sold in 2003. These organs are usually known as “dance organs” and there is even a recent book about the Mortier organs which you can read about here.

Gert had this to say about the reopening of the Bierhuis: “The opening of Bierhuis Oud Beersel is an important milestone for Oud Beersel, and for lambic lovers. During the next years, we will further invest in the visitor experience at Oud Beersel and in the region together with other breweries and our tourism partners. It’s all about sharing our passion for these wonderful beers and enjoying life at its fullest.”

One of the reasons that the Bierhuis has 12 taps and lots of cooler space is that Gert has been quite busy the last few years in creating new lambics. When I visited Oud Beersel with a small group in September of 2021, Gert let us taste a number of new and experimental lambic brews, all of which we really enjoyed.

Oud Beersel Winter Lambiek. Photo courtesy Cliff Lucas.

The Winter Lambic is a real treat. I highly recommend seeking it out.

An Oud Beersel lambic on a table adjacent to a field of Schaarbeekse cherries behind the brewery in September 2021.
Gert Christiaens of Oud Beersel serving a special whisky barrel aged lambic in September 2021. It was delicious!

I highly recommend a visit to the renovated Bierhuis Oud Beersel!

A row of foeders at Oud Beersel in 2021.
The emblem of Oud Beersel is displayed on a sign between a row of foeders. You can see the emblem throughout the Oud Beersel complex, and also on the facade of the renovated Bierhuis.

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