One of our greatest joys from our most recent trip to Belgium this was meeting the Dilewyns family and witnessing the progress in the construction of their brewery— the newest one in Belgium. It opened to great fanfare in Dendermonde in May 2011. Why? Theirs are some of the very best beers being brewed in Belgium today.
The driving force behind the brewery is the dynamic, utterly winning, indefatigable, straight-talking Anne-Catherine Dilewyns. Barely twenty-four, Anne-Catherine possesses a rare maturity and fierce determination beyond her years. Aside from teaching herself to brew, Anne-Catherine taught herself Italian to communicate with the Italian crew that installed the brewery equipment. Her beer was named “beer of the month” in Holland at a consortium of 41 bars, and in order to make this opportunity as productive as possible, she visited every single cafe to introduce herself—in four days. New breweries in Belgium are few and far between, making her pluck and optimism especially bold and inspiring. Having built a brewery ourselves (Ommegang), Don and I can relate.
Anne-Catherine comes by her entrepreneurial brewing skills honestly. In 1875, Anna-Coletta Wauman (Anne-Catherine’s great great grandmother and mother of eleven children) turned a former benzine oil factory into a brewery. It operated in Dendermonde until WWII, when the brew kettles were confiscated. Anne-Catherine has Wauman’s passport, which lists her occupation as “Brew Master.”
It wouldn’t be fair to suggest that only Anne-Catherine deserves praise. The beer recipes are created by her dad, Vincent Dilewyns. Vincent took up home brewing as a hobby in 1999. Anne-Catherine urged her dad to move from home- brewer to commercial brewer status, and Vicaris Generaal was the first of his beers to be released commercially. Vicaris Tripel followed shortly thereafter. The origin of the celebrated Vicardin Tripel & Girardin Gueuze is a little less straightforward.
Saveur editor Betsy Andrews recently featured the brave and very dynamic Anne-Catherine in her article on The Northern Renaissance of Brewing in Belgium today. She observes that the Belgian brewing scene is the most exciting it has been in 50 years, and that the 25 year-old founder of one of Belgium’s newest breweries & most critically acclaimed beers, Vicaris Tripel Geuze, is one of the movement’s brightest lights.