The family Boelens, whose brewery is based in the village of Belsele, has been brewing beer since the mid 1800’s, in the Waasland region of Belgium. This is the agricultural area southwest of Antwerp, on the west side of the Scheld River.
The Germans dismantled the brewery in the beginning of WW I in 1915, but Henry Boelens was allowed to keep his bottling installation. After the war, as many local beer merchants did, beer was bought in tanks from larger breweries, bottled in-house and sold under their own name. The style of beer handled this way was mostly the low alcohol (2 %) table beer, consumed by both young and old. The beer merchant was the supplier of the most important beverage in his area, serving all pubs but also delivering cases of beer door to door on a weekly run.
After WW II the number of Belgian brewers was again decimated, independent bottling installations were destroyed, and the remaining breweries became strong enough that they could force their brands on the beer merchants. This caused these merchants to grow into distributors of both beer and other beverages. From the 1950’s on, modern American marketing techniques created regional and national brands.
Kris Boelens, today’s owner and brewer at Brewery Boelens, took over the beer distributorship from his dad in 1980. During the 1970’s and 1980’s a revival for new and authentic beers emerged. Kris started to put the family’s old brewery back together and upgraded it with some stainless steel tanks, as legislation in Belgium and in Europe guarantees a hygienic brewing process. It was in 1993 that Kris started brewing BIEKEN, his first commercial specialty beer. It was an ale sweetened with honey, following an old family recipe. Bieken is now a well sought after beer in many places around the world. The production is less than 2,000 barrels a year, which makes it a real boutique beer, “hand-made”.Share: