Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck
The Beginning – Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck is named after the famous fortress that also graces the brewery’s logo. Once the stronghold of the Count of Flanders, Robrecht de Fries, the castle was converted into a luxurious country mansion in 1736.
In 1986 it was acquired by the Van Honsebrouck family, who have been brewing in Ingelmunster since 1900. However, the roots of the Van Honsebrouck family go back far beyond the beginning of the 20th century.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 1950s that the brewery acquired its present form when Luc Van Honsebrouck took up the reins of the company. In his own unconventional way he gave the brewery a new commercial focus and a direction for its products.
Within a few years the brewery was flourishing as never before, Luc Van Honsebrouck had made his name and was a serious player in the brewing world.
In the 1970s a ‘geuzenoorlog’ broke out in Belgian football. Van Honsebrouck with its St Louis fruit beers was the main sponsor of Club Brugge. Their arch rivals Anderlecht, from Brussels, were backed by the Vanderstock family and their Belle Vue beer. Sparks flew on the terraces and in nearby cafés. “If the Brusselaars claim that geuze cannot be made in Ingelmunster, no doubt it will be banned,” Luc Van Honsebrouck said.
These days Luc’s son Xavier has been leading the company for several years and, just like his Dad, he has ambitious plans.
In 1900 the brewery was located on the outskirts of Ingelmunster; nowadays it is to be found right in the heart of the town. Expansion within Ingelmunster is simply impossible and thus, within a few years, a brand new brewery will arise in the nearby village of Emelgem, part of the municipality of Izegem. The brewery will be built with the latest requirements of the modern brewer very much in mind, guided by Xavier’s personal vision.
The current brewery’s capacity is around 10,000,000 litres, the plans include an expansion to 15,000,000 litres.
Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck is a member of the Belgian Family Brewers.
The association only accepts as its members Belgian, family-owned breweries that have been brewing beer in Belgium for at least half a century. This group of 20 historical and independent family breweries truly provide added value to the identity and authenticity of Belgian beer brewing. Combined they represent more than 1500 years of brewing experience.
When Luc Van Honsebrouck joined the brewery in 1953, its products included brown table beer, export beer, pils and old brown (an oudbruin, later named Bacchus). The Bacchus turned out to be a great success, which prompted the brewery to focus on specialty beers to the exclusion of everything else.
In 1957 Van Honsebrouck purchased their first lambiek yeast from Van Halen Frères in Ukkel. This particular type of yeast, or wort, was produced in a cooling basin where it collects wild bacteria from the air.
The following day, the mixture would be driven to Ingelmunster, where it would be added to the casks or foeders in which the Bacchus was maturing. Thus, the Bacchus would ripen while mixing with local wort.
By transferring this small, precious yeast culture from cask to cask, the brewer managed to produce enough lambiek to start up geuze and kriek production.
The bacteria doesn’t just fall out of the air, but they are never far away. They exist all around the brewery and with the Van Haelen wort present for many years a micro-climate is created. And so the Gueuze St Louis was born, followed by a kriek and a raspberry beer. Van Honsebrouck was to offer draught gueuze in time.
After Luc Van Honsebrouck bought Ingelmunster Castle he launched the popular Kasteel. The idea of brewing a gastronomic beer came to him after tasting aged 'Kasteel'.
Its touches of port and Madeira inspired him to create Cuvée du Château, a beer that is reminiscent of Liefmans or Rodenbach, enriched with touches of port. It’s one to enjoy in front of an open fire. Current CEO Xavier Van Honsebrouck sums up the philosophy: ‘We give our beers all the time they need. We are not a beer factory. You wouldn’t make a Flemish Stew in a pressure cooker, would you?”
The 1980's saw a change in the Belgian beer market, with an increased demand for heavier, blond beers. In response, Van Honsebrouck launched, among other new beers, the Brigand, a very malty, strong and heavy beer.
Nowadays, Luc’s son Xavier Van Honsebrouck - the seventh generation of the family to brew - follows in his father’s idiosyncratic footsteps in his own special way.
The brewery now offers a range of close to 20 different beers. Xavier, in co-operation with brewmaster Hans Mehuis, is already responsible for a number of new brews, such as the Kasteel Hoppy and the Passchendaele, a beer created specifically to commemorate the notorious WWI battle.
The story of the Van Honsebrouck beer dynasty starts in 1811 with the birth of Amandus Van Honsebrouck. He was a farmer who expanded his farm with a dairy, distillery and brewery. He even became mayor of Werken in West Flanders, then just a village of a few hundred souls.
When Amandus died suddenly in 1865 his son Emile Van Honsebrouck (1844 – 1929) took over, first as a brewer and later on also as Mayor of Werken.
After a number of failed attempts, Emile and his wife Louise De Poorter settled on the edge of Louise’s home town of Ingelmunster to set up the Sint Jozef brewery. Louise was the driving force behind the brewery until her favourite son Paul and his older brother Ernest took over the reins in 1922.
The brothers were responsible for the first steps towards the expansion of the brewery from a small family affair to something bigger. In 1930 they began the building of a four-storey new home, which opened in 1939 with a new brewing hall, tank storage and bottling plant. Ernest never married and when Paul’s health started to suffer his eldest son Luc (b 1930) put forward a proposition. Luc promised to gain his brewer’s qualifications to ensure the continuation of the brewery.
By the time Luc graduated he had already gained a wealth of practical experience in breweries like the Kupperbrauerei in Germany and had all the necessary expertise and discipline to take over the business.
In 1953 he made his first steps into the brewery business. In the same year, he also broke with tradition by concentrating on specialty beers rather than trying to compete with the large pilsner breweries. What is more, Luc abandoned pils brewing completely and, in the middle of the 1950s, he changed the company name to Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck. At the end of the day, Luc was the man who made a great success of the family firm.
His vision contributed to the flourishing of a brewery which is now an important landmark on the crowded Belgian beer landscape.
After 55 years, aged 78, Luc decided that enough was enough and it was time for a new broom and some new blood. On the first of January 2009, Luc’s son Xavier (b 1967) took over the brewery.
He has his father’s knack for trend-setting and a commitment to a vision; he’s another innovator who doesn’t necessarily follow tradition. Xavier, with his wife Lindsey Herman, has four children (two sets of twins!), so the next generation of this Belgian brewing dynasty from West Flanders is now assured.
- Kasteel Donker
- Kasteel Hoppy
- Kasteel Tripel
- Kasteel Blond
- Cuvée du Chateau
- Kasteel Rouge
- St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition
- St. Louis Premium Gueuze
- St. Louis Kriek Lambic
- St. Louis Premium Kriek
- St. Louis Premium Framboise
- St. Louis Premium Peche
- Bacchus Kriekenbier
- Bacchus Frambozenbier
At present, unfortunately, there’s nothing to visit. From an operational point of view it is hard to open up the brewery to visitors without interrupting the brewing process. After all, this is still a breweries main activity.
This is unless, of course, your name is Crown Prince Philippe (who recently became King Philippe of Belgium), who honoured the brewery with his presence in the spring of 2013.
The castle used to be open to visitors, but after a destructive fire in September 2001 this is no longer possible, although you can view its impressive exterior.
But don’t be too disappointed. The future is definitely looking rosy. Xavier Van Honsebrouck is hopeful that by 2017 he will be able to open the doors of a brand new brewing complex designed as a modern 21st century castle. The new site will have space for a visitors’ centre. This project, costing around €30 million, will no doubt be enthusiastically supported by the local community.
Ingelmunster is a community of just over 11,000 inhabitants in the south of the province of West Flanders and is part of the Leieland tourist region. This green, forested town is situated on the banks of the river Mandel. The area offers a good choice of overnight accommodation and there are a number of walking trails and cycling routes.
Ieper (Ypres) and many other WWI memorials and battlefield sites can be reached within an hour. Ingelmunster is also host to the annual Labadoux folk festival, which takes place on the first weekend in May.
Ingelmunster is sometimes called the Brigandsgemeente or “Town of the Brigands”, in remembrance of Brigands Sunday on 28 October, 1798, the day of the repression of the Brigands’ Revolt by the French during the so-called Boerenkrijg, or Peasants’ War.
Ingelmunster is also where French pilot Roland Garros crashed his plane during World War I.
He survived the crash only to die later on in the war and the French paid homage to their aviation pioneer and war hero by naming their national tennis championship after him.
Getting There & Around
Ingelmunster is relatively easy to reach with public transport. The train ride from Brussels takes just under two hours. There is a good road network; from Calais you can expect to drive for one-and-a-half hours, after which it is another half-an-hour’s journey to Bruges.
It does exist, but public transport is perhaps not the most efficient way to travel to and between any West Flemish cities and villages. So, if you are planning to do some touring, a car is the best option.
Once you have arrived at your destination and checked in, you can leave the car parked up; the scenery is nice enough to enjoy at a slower pace, certainly in summertime.
There are also several opportunities to discover the area by bike or on a scooter; guides can be booked for a varied selection of themed walks too.
Many of these are of course are related to WWI but there are also a couple of beer orientated tours. West Flanders historically is the hops province of Belgium so there is more than enough too see, taste and experience. See our relevant city guides for more information on the subject.
Gastronomy, Food & More Beer
Ingelmunster is located in the province of West Flanders, which has historic Bruges as its capital. The province excels when it comes to gastronomy and breweries and the density of Michelin stars is impressive. The Sint-Sixtus brewery of Westvleteren, St. Bernardus and the Struise Brouwers are just a few of the breweries in the vicinity and two of Belgium's three starred Michelin restaurants are also located in the province.
As this is the only Belgian coastal province, with a strong agricultural heritage, you’ll find a rich selection of regional products and specialities being served in local restaurants.
You are sure to find places selling the brews of Van Honsebrouck to enjoy with your meal. As some of their brews (Cuvée du Chateau for example) have been conceived and developed as gastronomic/culinary beers, some chefs also use them in certain recipes, such as 'Stoofvlees' (Flemish Stew), one of Belgium's undisputed and most popular national dishes.
You can contact the tourism information office in Ingelmunster at:
Telephone: Tel: +32 (0) 51 33 74 46
West Flanders, Belgium
+32 (0) 51 33 51 60
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