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    Brew capacity more than doubled for a wider range of products

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    To be able to produce top-fermented beers in addition to lambic, Lindemans had Steinecker build a new greenfield brewery.
    • Geert Lindemans is the sixth-generation head of the eponymous family-owned brewery. Today, Lindemans is the biggest lambic producer in Belgium.

    The Belgian specialty brewery Lindemans has more than doubled its capacities with a recently installed brewhouse from Steinecker. In a brand-new greenfield brewery, the company intends to produce a wider range of beers, including both top-fermented types and special blends based on spontaneously fermented beers, like the traditional lambic for which Lindemans is actually best known.

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    Exactly 200 years ago, in 1822, the Lindemans family decided to use some of the grain harvested on their fields in summer to brew beer in winter. Back then, that was not unusual – many smallholdings baked their own bread or brewed their own beer. However, the Lindemans’ beers proved ever more popular as time went by, and approximately 150 years later, the descendants gave up farming altogether and concentrated on the beer business. And so, a family of farmers became a family of brewers.

    Today, Geert Lindemans is the sixth-generation head of the eponymous brewery, which is also the biggest production plant for lambic in Belgium. There are only nine breweries left in the Zenne area that brew this special type of beer.

    The colourful world of fruit beers

    Lambic is a spontaneously fermented beer that is also used as the base for many other beer types, like gueuze, for example. That is made by combining mostly-one-year-old, not fully fermented lambic and older lambic (two to three years old). The blend is then bottled for a second fermentation.

    Lambic can likewise be the basic ingredient in fruit beers like kriek (sour cherry), framboise (raspberry), cassis (currant), and pecheresse (peach). Or it is simply mixed with candy sugar Lindemans also experiments with basil, elderflowers and ginger as further ingredients.

    Read more about how lambic is produced and the fermentation process involved at the end of this article.

    “We had no product to fill the gap between sour and sweet-tasting beers”

    Lindemans brews around 120,000 hectolitres of lambic per year, significantly more than any other lambic brewery. About three-quarters of the output is exported – mainly to France, China and the USA. With this sales volume, the family-owned company had come up against the capacity limits of its tradition-steeped brewery in the small village of Vlezenbeek.

    Image 30988
    The family-owned company had come up against the capacity limits of its tradition-steeped brewery in the small village of Vlezenbeek.

    What’s more, the proprietor Geert Lindemans has been cherishing visions of expanding the portfolio. He explains: “With lambic and gueuze, we’re catering for sour and with our fruit beers for sweet taste preferences. So far, we have not had a beer to cover the gap between the two. We intended to change that, and so we decided to build a new greenfield brewery.” It will be tasked with brewing mainly top-fermented and high-strength beers, plus blends of top-fermented and spontaneously fermented beers.

    New brewery for an annual output of 200,000 hectolitres

    To this end, Lindemans erected a new brewery in Ruisbroek, around ten kilometres away from the existing premises. This new production facility has been dimensioned for a capacity of 200,000 hectolitres, which is nearly twice as much as that of the brewery in Vlezenbeek. For the time being, only the brewhouse and two fermentation and maturation cellars have been installed, with the bottling line to follow later.

    Steinecker won the contract to install all of the process-engineering equipment needed for producing top-fermented beers, including the brewhouse, plus installation and piping of the fermentation and maturation cellar accommodating ten 1,000-hectolitre and six 160-hectolitre cylindro-conical tanks, all of which were provided by Lindemans itself. The layout also offers space for subsequent expansion.

    Image 30989
    Steinecker installed as well the equipment needed for producing top-fermented beers, including the installation and piping of the fermentation and maturation cellar accommodating ten 1,000-hectolitre and six 160-hectolitre cylindro-conical tanks, all of which were provided by Lindemans itself.

    Showcase brewhouse

    The new brewhouse has been designed to produce 125 hectolitres of hot wort per brew. Beers with an original gravity of 15 to 16 degrees Plato in the hot wort are brewed using the high-gravity process.

    With up to twelve brews a day, the brewhouse can thus be used to optimum effect. It includes:

    • Two ShakesBeer mash tuns
    • Pegasus C lauter tun
    • Two hop-supply vessels
    • Wort copper with external boiler
    • Vapour condenser and energy storage system
    • Whirlpool
    • Wort cooler

    Steinecker also installed the yeast propagator with three propagation tanks, three yeast storage tanks and a waste-yeast tank, plus the CIP system and the complete mash-liquor system.

    It was clear to Geert Lindemans from the very beginning that safe production demands total separation of pure-cultured yeast and wild yeast. He thinks that the risk of top-fermented beers being cross-infected with wild yeast would otherwise be too high. Consequently, lambic continues to be spontaneously fermented exclusively at the old premises while the new brewery handles only top-fermenting yeast. However, a separate maturation cellar with non-cylindro-conical tanks has been installed, which serves for secondary fermentation of lambics and fruit beers and for blending them.

    The brewing line can work both with the infusion and the decoction process. It is also able to use the turbid-mash process, which is typical for lambic. “We can do so much more here than in the old brewhouse,” says a gratified Geert Lindemans. “In Vlezenbeek, we’ve got only two kettles and a coolship and need six hours for a brew. In Ruisbroek, we can process various sorts of unmalted grain in a second mash tun, and separate the hot break with a whirlpool. Here, we can pitch a new brew every two hours and use all types of malt and unmalted grain for brewing without any problems,” explains the brewery’s boss.

    Lindemans sees significant progress in terms of energy and water consumption, too. “Steinecker’s vapour condenser and energy storage system substantially reduce the amount of energy needed per hectolitre. Moreover, we use the weak wort for the next mash, thus saving on fresh water,” he says.

    Image 30860
    Steinecker’s vapour condenser and energy storage system substantially reduce the amount of energy needed per hectolitre.

    New beer temple

    “We’ve opted for Steinecker because we realised straight away in the project’s quotation phase that their people can draw upon a vast fund of experience, offering the right technology for everything,” says Geert Lindemans. “Since we want to make the new facility a showcase brewery, it was important to ensure that the brewhouse manufacturer delivers spot-on work because the brewhouse is in fact any brewery’s heart,” he continues with enthusiasm, describing his vision: “We’d like to use the outdoor space in front of it to host events like concerts, all accompanied by good beer, of course.”

    But Lindemans had some obstacles to overcome before he could produce his first brew: “Steinecker met the deadline for building the new brewhouse despite difficult circumstances. We had to contend with delays in construction work on the one hand and with pandemic-related restrictions on the other.”

    In 2022, the Lindemans brewery will be celebrating its 200th anniversary. The new brewery will open its doors to visitors towards the end of that year, after landscaping has been completed as well. Belgium will then have a new beer temple just outside Brussels.

    Unravelling the mystery of the lambic-maker’s craft

    Lambic – a Belgian beer rarity

    Though Geert Lindemans does not let us in on the secret of the unique formula used to make lambic, he does give the Krones magazine some insights into the nature of lambic brewing.

    In order to start spontaneous fermentation, the hot wort (100 degrees Celsius) is not cooled in the brewhouse but is in the evening passed into an open coolship for cooling it down to approximately 15 degrees Celsius. Since the nights have to be really cold for that, Lindemans brews its beers only from mid-October till early May and in the remaining months of the year just runs its filling operation. Next morning, the cold wort is then pitched for fermentation without adding any further ingredients.

    Multi-stage fermentation process

    Now fermentation proper starts, comprising five different phases and at Lindemans lasting at least one year. The next fermentation stage will only be initiated when the pH-value and sugar and alcohol contents measured show that the wort is ready for it. No cultured yeasts are used for lambic fermentation, only wild yeasts and other micro-organisms from the surrounding air, with large fans helping to encourage their absorption. To quote Geert Lindemans: “This has always been an agricultural area, and that is why the brettanomyces strain has survived so well in the region’s air.”

    However, this process does not offer the brewer many options to intervene. If fermentation with brettanomyces bruxellensis takes its time and there is a risk of taste impairment, all the brewers can do is blend the batch concerned with the content of another tank where spontaneous fermentation is already in full swing. Since lambic is fermented in a pressureless process, this beer type does not contain any carbon dioxide to speak of.

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