Girardin

Country: Belgium

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Girardin is a family-owned brewery in Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle, Belgium. The brewery was founded in 1845 and has been owned and operated by the Girardin family since 1882. The brewery specializes in lambic beers.

History

Brouwerij Girardin is a small family-owned lambic brewery in the village of Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle located approximately 11 kilometers from the Brussels city center. The brewery sits on a farm established in 1845 as part of the estate of a nobleman. It was purchased by Franciscus-Alexius Girardin in 1882. Initially the intent of the Girardin family was to farm for subsistence, while brewing as a secondary means of income. Little is known about the brewery’s history between 1882 and the time of World War I. Francisus-Alexius was very involved with the local Catholic church, and when the occupying army advanced through Belgium his small brewery was shut down. However, he continued to be able to brew at another small brewery that was permitted to stay in operation. Brewing operations resumed on the farm after World War I. Franciscus-Alexius was also involved in local politics where he was the mayor of Sint-Ulriks-Kappelle from 1904 until 1927, three years before his death.

Unused vintage Girdardin caps

One of Franciscus-Alexius’ suriving sons, Jean-Baptiste, took over the farm-brewery business around 1930. Just like today, the Girardin farm grew its own barley and wheat on the grounds of the farm, in addition to beets. Though the wheat could be used immediately, the barley had to be sent away to be malted and then returned. Jean-Baptiste also followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming the mayor of the town in 1938 and remaining in office until 1958. Today, Brouwerij Girardin is well known for supplying lambic wort to many of the other well known blenders in the Pajottenland. This was also the case in the 1950’s when Girardin was turning over wort to other cafés and blenders to make gueuze.

Jean-Baptiste’s son, Louis Girardin, continued his father’s work of both farming and brewing, taking over in 1962. Louis, while still a farmer, began to favor the brewing aspect of the Girardin name and set forth modernizing the brewery in an attempt to stay viable. He replaced old coal burners with oil burners and purchased several malt silos for large-scale storage on-site eliminating the need for frequent malt deliveries. By the late 1970’s, Girardin’s traditional business model of selling wort to beer blenders in wooden barrels began to decline as a number of cafés began to close their doors. Out of necessity, Louis purchased two bottling lines and began producing bottled beer for the first time in the brewery’s history. Starting out with just gueuze, the lineup later expanded to include kriek, framboise, and faro.

During the late 1980’s up through the new millennium, the brewery continued to invest in new equipment, training for Louis’s two sons Jan and Paul, and between 1990 and 1993, a new brewing hall with more new-to-the-brewery equipment. Brewing has never ceased at Girardin, even during expansion and renovation, and now includes a lager-style beer called Ulricher. The brewery is currently under its fourth generation of ownership by the Girardin family after the sudden death of Louis Girardin in September of 2000. The current generation, Louis’ daughter Marina along with Jan and Paul, joined the business after finishing school. Sadly, Jan Girardin, who was the delivery/supply manager for the brewery, passed away in August 2012.

With the resurgence of lambic culture in Belgium, Brouwerj Girardin has been able to get back to its roots by bottling and distributing its beer as well as supplying wort to other blenders. Girardin is a main supplier of wort to lambic blenders, including 3 Fonteinen, De Cam, and Hanssens as well as many private consumers and experimental blenders, including Neill and Ross who blended Girardin lambic with blackberries to produce Shot in the Dark. Armand Debelder of 3 Fonteinen has been quoted as referring to Girardin as the Chateau d’Yquem of lambic producers, considering it to have some of the greatest “lasting properties” of lambics available for blending. The brewery joined HORAL in 2004. The future seems to be bright for the brewery. A potential fifth generation, three daughters and one son all born to Paul Girardin, may someday carry on the Girardin name in the lambic world.

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