When you drive into Leuven, your senses are immediately heightened. One of the things you see is the Stella Artois brewery (which also makes Jupiler and Leffe). But what hits you most is the amazing aroma of the beer being brewed. It’s a smell of yeast which reminds me of my childhood back in Malta. Living only a few kilometres away from one of the only breweries in Malta, we would get a whiff of the beer being brewed everytime the wind blew in our direction.
The history of Stella Artois dates back to 1366. It was in this year that the original Den Hoorn brewery was founded. This brewery laid the foundation for the taste and standard of this Belgian beer and the symbol of the Den Hoorn Brewery is still displayed on the beer’s label.
At a visit to the Stella Artois brewery recently we not only got a glimpse of the factory but also a look at its history.
When the University of Leuven was founded in 1425 it not only brought knowledge to the city but it added to the know how of brewing beer which had been discovered earlier by accident.
Sebastian Artois decided to buy the brewery in 1717 after being admitted to the Leuven Brewer’s Guild as Brew Master in 1708.
The company at the time needed to have access to ingredients and for this reason a canal leading to the brewery was built. It is still called the ‘brewer’s canal’
Stella Artois was brewered for the first time in 1926 and it was a ‘pils’ beer which was a copy of the Czech version. The war had a major impact on the brewery because the canal could no longer be used so the brewery could not get its hands on the right ingredients.
But business picked up after the second world war and in the 1950, the De Hoorn brewery (which is now a bar) could no longer keep up with the demand so the new factory was build.
What is interesting is the fact that the company has now started making use of the canal again in a bid to reduce emissions.
Buy a Lady a Drink Campaign
Mathieu Snoeks of Stella Artois told Food and Wine Gazette that the company is also working to help people get access to clean water worldwide. They have teamed up with Water.org in a project to help women in particular. “With our Buy a Lady a Drink campaign, we are selling specially made beer glasses with the proceeds going to facilitate investments in systems that provide clean water.”
Currently there are 750 million people in the world who have no access to clean water. This crisis affects women disproportionately who walk a combined 200 million hours a day to get clean water for their families. “One glass we sell enables a family to get access to clean water for five years thanks to investments in clean water systems. “There are three glasses which we sell for six euros each and all the revenues go into this project.” Mr Snoeks said.
He said the company is also investing heavily in converting heat generated into energy that is then used to cool down. “Because of hygiene, we tend to use a lot of water. But we are continuously investing to decrease the usage of water.”
The water used to make Stella Artois comes from around 40 wells. The water is treated to ensure that it has the same taste. The yeast they used is stored in two locations in Leuven to ensure that if something happens, they will still have access to the yeast which gives the beer its unique flavour.