Visit to the FEYS BREWERY, a conversion project

FIABCI Business Meetings,
2 December 2012, Roesbrugge

‘best kept secrets about Belgian Beer’ and the case presentation ‘Sustainable Converting and Renovation of the historical brewery’:  a short report after the visit.

The luxury bus with VIP from almost 10 different countries inclusive FIABCI President elect Flavio Gonzaga left the foggy Brussels behind and found a wonderful sunshine towards the Belgian coastline. Specific information about the 150 past years of the FEYS brewery was shared while driving into FLANDERS FIELDS where the First World War was fought the hardest.

At the brewery, 2 km from the French border we met Mr. Pierre Feys, 3rd generation brewer and  Mr. Warmenbol, an architect : both men together with Hendrik Nelde putting all so much passion and love into these old bricks. Bricks with a past and a story to be told, when everything started in the late 1700 importing salt from Poland and producing vinegar for the greater regional market. We’re not talking Belgium, as it didn’t exist at the time of the construction of some parts of the building…

After 47 years of beer- production being closed down, the unique Maltery and Brewery FEYS gets now a prosperous future.  One of the top 10 worlds’ best brewers wants to link his name and expertise to the FEYS past and brew the new beer!

We cannot get any better tour guide, as Mr. Feys played here as a child, grew up understanding the challenge of only producing highest quality beers, and unfortunately seeing the world beer monopolists taking the market without sharing…

Luckily, times are changing as regional diversity and artisanal quality become consumers’ first choice. The potential of the international market , the 8 million expected visitors for  WW1 remembrance  and a wonderful story behind the success in the past gives Mr. Nelde and a team of 20 volunteers  all ingredients for a successful future. The international contacts as the handwritten beer recipes of Pierre Feys’ grandfather will  help for sure!

The tour ended with some anecdotes that would only be shared with other brewers, if shared at all. We do all agree that this FEYS story needs to be continued, and we started at the other side of the street: more than 150 different beers can be tasted.

The expose of the architect about what could be made of the whole project was designed for a London based investor just before the crises. Saying it all, now creativity was found and a think- tank in operation. Within the possibilities, adding to the beer producing process a beer- bar & food with a terrace, but also a place to work and come together (congress center), and a place to sleep (hotel). Some cultural/economic activities as a museum, artisanal chocolate, honey and bread or cheese production should be possible.

Only positive reactions from all over, the people responsible for heritage buildings included! And Mr. Nelde dreaming of making it a ‘Sustainability Inspiration Center’  to have new techniques tested before implementation: after the Green now a real Blue Economy coming towards us…?

A wonderful lunch after the expose of the architect made some a little tired, and the bus brought us to the city of Ghent, where a promenade and the look on many renovated buildings closed our day.

Still wondering why everybody said that they’ll be back.

For the region, the creativity,  the brewery or the rich history? Or would it be the beer that will be the main magnet?  Mr. Feys words: you better talk instead of Facebook. Check that one!

To be continued …