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Meet the winner: Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen

Top Brewers in the World 3rd place: Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen
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Photo by Joe Stange

Photo by Joe Stange

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen
Beersel, Belgium

3 Fonteinen is a family business. Belgian national treasure Armand Debelder began his career as a lambic blender, following in his father’s footsteps in Beersel, just south of Brussels.

In 1999, he followed ambitious instincts and began brewing his own lambic, giving him greater control over the building blocks for his Oude Geuze and Kriek. All agree—most importantly, him—that the products achieved new levels of sublimity.

Then in 2009 came what Debelder calls simply “de Catastrofe,” when a thermostat busted and left much of his stock in ruins, while he lost his brewhouse to a stricken budget and bad lease agreement.

Dispirited, he might’ve quit. But an outpouring of support from friends, fans and loyal customers helped to convince Debelder and wife Lydie Hulpiau that plenty of people were ready to pay special prices for special products—fund-raising the old-fashioned way. They began by distilling that ruined lambic into a premium spirit, and continued with a series of sought-after seasonal gueuzes—the Armand’4 beers. More recently, the sherry-cask-matured Zenne y Frontera has roused curiosity and geek-lust.

Now 3 Fonteinen is back on steady footing and looking to grow further. It built a new brewhouse complete with unusual double-decker coolship. And there are plans to open an “experience center” in Lot, the next town over, to be a showcase for the brewing, blending and tasting of lambic.

Meanwhile, the future of 3 Fonteinen appears secure. Debelder has no children of his own, but he hired young brewer Michael Blanquaert—“the son I never had,” Debelder says—to carry on the tradition.

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