On the morning of January 6, fire engines were called to Hof ten Dormaal. The brewery was on fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt which is fortunate since 3 generations live about 30 feet from the brewery in the family farmhouse. The two buildings are separated by a small courtyard. When all was said and done, the brewery was completely destroyed; the brewery and bottling equipment were severely damaged; the stocks in the warm room were ruined; and the barrels containing the brewery’s barrel-aged beers were trashed. The fire has been ruled accidental.
Hof ten Dormaal is one of the new generation of Belgian craft breweries, operating since 2009. André Janssens decided to add a the brewery to the family farm after another tragedy. André had suffered a stoke which affected the area of his brain that allowed him to do math which ended his career as an accountant. Feeling depressed at the untimely ending of his career, he took time to visit America to figure out his next step in life. While in Montana, he stumbled upon a defunct brewery. He’d found his answer.
He purchased the equipment and had it shipped to the farm in Tildonk, Belgium. Taking advantage of his family farm, he planted barley and hops for his new brewhouse. Along with the main ingredients, he grows many of the special ingredients as well. You should look for their fantastic Wit Goud which uses estate-grown chicory root (endive). Additionally, the farm grows rapeseed oil which is used to heat the brewery. Hof ten Dormaal managed to be 99% self-sustaining. André’s two sons even live and work on the family farm/brewery. Dries does a lot of the farming while Jef does a lot of the brewing work.
Today; André, Dries, and Jef and the rest of Janssens are digging through the rubble of their family business trying to figure out the future. Undoubtedly, they have insurance and hopefully they’ll be able to rebuild the brewery and keep their family dream alive.
The Janssens graciously welcomed me into their home and brewery last November when I was in Belgium. I sat at the family’s kitchen table and drank beers with my friend Kevin (Belgian Beer Geek) and André as he told us his story and proudly shared his creations with us. Not all of them were hits (although the vast majority were), but André was always happy with the results because even if they didn’t turn out the way he wanted them to; they provided valuable feedback on his experimentation. André and his sons are making some great beers and pushing the boundaries of Belgian styles and techniques to find their own place in Belgium’s renowned brewing culture. They deserve to keep brewing.
Even though there probably is insurance, everyone knows how insurance companies can delay things, and the check never covers what was actually lost. One of the family’s friends has set up a crowd funding site to help raise some money for the Janssens and Hof ten Dormaal brewery. You should follow the link and give a donation, even a small donation will go a long way to helping good people get back on their feet. If you see one of their beers, buy it. They’re great tasting Belgian farmhouse ales brewed on a family owned farm. When you buy their beers, you help keep their name alive and money flowing through the distribution chain and back to Hof ten Dormaal.
In the United States, Hof ten Dormaal is imported by 12% Imports. You can visit their website to find out what states their beers are sold in and where you can buy the beers of Hof ten Dormaal. Currently, you can buy bottles of Hof ten Dormaal Blond, Amber, Dark, Zure van Tildonk (a sour), Saison (newly introduced in the US), and a variety of barrel-aged offerings.