When I first started out with this series of blog posts and considered which breweries to visit, there was one brewery at the very top of my list: Brasserie de Fagnes. Not only because I am a big fan of their blonde beer, but also because this brewery is different from any other Belgian brewery. They brew a different beer every … week. Literally every week, their brewmaster brews a different beer with local, seasonal ingredients, 52 beers per year in total.
Then why did I wait until now to go there? Well, because the brewery is located in a remote but beautiful part of Belgium, only a few kilometers away from the French border, and I wanted go there when the weather was nice and hot, to fully enjoy the beautiful nature and take a long big walk in the nearby Forest de Nismes.
When I arrived at the Brewery on Saturday morning, I was impressed by its size. There are three different parking lots and the pub/restaurant of the brewery has place for more than two hundred people. Inside there is a small museum with old brewery equipment from the 19th Century, which comes from an old brewery in nearby Chimay.
We met with Frederic Adant, the founder and owner of the brewery, who enthusiastically explains his own background and the history of the brewery: “I am business man, and together with my wife I run three businesses: this brewery, and beer wholesale business and a food import business. Both my wife and I come from a family with a brewing background. Our grandparents had a brewery, which they had to close after the Second World War. That is why, twenty years ago, I started with this Brewery, Brasserie des Fagnes.”
“We started out in 1994, and since 1998 we are on this location. Before we bought this building, it used to be nightclub. Although the place is quite big, on Sundays it is packed. It’s really amazing actually, we are in the middle of the countryside and yet so many people find their way to here. People from Flanders sometimes think of Wallonia as a rural and inactive region, but did you know that we employ 80 people here (25 regular contracts and 55 students who help out in weekend and holidays)?”
Another thing that makes Brasserie des Fagnes unique is that visitors can watch the brewers at work. The brewery is located at one side of the building, and is totally one with the pub/restaurant. “We really want to be close to our customers and we want them to see the brewing process. That is why we deliberately brew from Wednesday until Sunday when we have most visitors. From the lager tanks there is a copper pipe which runs over the heads of the guests, leading the ‘beer of the week’ straight to the taps at the bar”, explains Frederic. While we were there, the beer of the week was ‘pear with mirabelle’, and the beers from the weeks before were amongst others an apple beer, a honey beer, a saison, a white beer and a 4 grain beer.
Besides their unique weekly beers, Brasserie des Fagnes also has five beers that they brew all year long:
- Super des Fagnes Blonde, a delicious blonde beer with a flavor which reminds me a bit of La Chouffe and an ABV of 7.5%;
- Super des Fagnes Brune, a typical brown beer with and an ABV of 7.5%;
- Super des Fagnes Griottes, a very sweet and fruity beer based on a local cherry type called ‘griotte’ with and an ABV of 4.8%;
- Super des Fagnes Scotch , a dark scotch ale with a flavor of roasted malts and ABV of 7.5%;
- and last but not least Chevetogne, the brewery’s latest beer and apparently already a big success. This blonde beer with an ABV of 6.2% is not brewed under their own name but is uses the name of a nearby natural reserve to which it donates part of the revenue of the beer sale.
“Brasserie des Fagnes is growing exponentially the last few years”, Frederic explains, “We currently brew 1,000 hl per year here in Mariembourg. Some time ago, we considered expanding, but that would reduce the coziness of this place. That is why we are now outsourcing most of the brewing to Brasserie du Bocq (Brewer of amongst others the Gauloise beers and Triple Moine). They brew some 7 to 8,000 hl per year for us. Their brewmaster used to work for us here, so I am sure that our recipes are in good hands."
Brewery des Fagnes is open from Tuesday to Sunday and every day during school holidays. It is really a great place to visit and both their beers and the food they serve are delicious.