3 Fonteinen, Beersel

The founding of 3 Fonteinen dates back to 1883 when Jacobus Vanderlinden and his wife Joanna Brillens opened an inn with a beer blending business on the side in the town of Beersel, now Hoogstraat 13, Beersel (currently “De Drie Bronnen”, renamded after Gaston and Raymonde moved out).

The inn and café changed hands several times over the years until finally coming into the possession of Jean-Baptiste Denaeyer Vanderlinden, son of Jacobus, who also became the mayor of the town of Beersel. Vanderlindend was widely considered to be the best lambic blender in town. In 1953, Gaston Debelder, along with his wife Raymonde, purchased the building, and named the business “3 Fonteinen”.

In 1961 the Debelder family buys a property on the Beersel church square. The building was demolished, but the warehouse underneath was preserved. The bottles were being stored underneath the building in the caveaus (hand-dug by Gaston), where bottling operations took place as well. The bar experienced vast popularity in the 60s and 70s. Working with his two sons, Armand and Guido, the inn, café, and lambic blending business continued to be successful, though 3 Fonteinen continued to experience the same ups and downs that every lambic brewery experienced in the last half of the twentieth century.

Gaston eventually handed the business over to his two sons full-time in 1982. Armand became the head blender (and eventually brewer), while his brother Guido managed the café and restaurant. By the 1990s the lack in popularity of lambic had reduced the number of lambic brewers available on the wholesale market to just three: Girardin, Lindemans, and Boon.

Until 1998, 3 Fonteinen was strictly a blendery. In 1998, Armand leased a computerized brewing system and had it installed, becoming the first new lambic brewery in decades, with his first batch brewed on December 16, 1999. In the meantime, Armand would save up for his own installation. Many banks were unwilling to fund Armand’s venture to buy the necessary equipment. To help facilitate the purchase, Armand and his brother split the business, with Guido taking the restaurant café and Armand running the brewery.

As Armand entered his warehouse in Essenbeek on May 16, 2009, he was met with a blast of hot air that signified a massive failure of the climate control mechanism. The "Thermostat Incident," as it would come to be called, was the result of a faulty thermostat causing the hot air blower to not turn off. As a result, the temperature had risen to as high as 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) essentially cooking over 80,000 bottles of lambic and causing some of them to explode. 

This huge financial loss of a year’s worth of product, coupled with the fact that the ten-year brewing equipment lease was about to run out, caused Armand to rethink the future of 3 Fonteinen. The remaining capital invested in his own brewing system had to be divested to meet other financial obligations of the brewery. Armand’s last official brew of the pre-Thermostat Incident era was in March of 2009.

Not all was lost, however; and the remaining bottles of Oude Geuze that had not been damaged beyond repair were distilled into an eau de vie called Armand’Spirit. This, along with the sale of special blends of Armand's remaining pre-incident lambics, has helped to re-secure 3 Fonteinen’s future.

In 2012, the brewery installed a 40-hectoliter brewing system. The question of a successor to Armand is often brought up. Previously, Michael Blancquaert was working with Armand as an apprentice and took over brewing operations in 2015.

In 2015, 3 Fonteinen signed paperwork to purchase a new warehouse facility in the city of Lot, near Beersel. That same year, barrels, and foeders began to be filled in the Lot facility. On Thursday September 1st, 2016, the 3 Fonteinen Lamik-O-Droom officially opened to the public for 3 Fonteinen Open Beer Days. This new facility currently houses barrels and foeders of lambic, the bottling and labeling line, as well as all of the conditioning bottles. In addition to the production facility, the Lambik-O-Droom houses a full tasting room including current, vintage, and specialty bottles and a retail shop.


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