Our story starts with young Frank Boon travelling through Belgium to discover the local speciality beers. Frank soon became very fond of the Gueuze and Lambic beers from his own region. Inspired by one of the last Gueuze blenders René De Vits, he started to blend Gueuze himself in a small cellar in Halle, determined to revive this rich tradition.
René De Vits saw little future in Gueuze beer, but Frank Boon developed a great passion for this local beer style. Frank worked hard to take over the business from René. In 1975, Frank became an independent Gueuze blender, which marked the start of the Boon Brewery.
Gueuze beer is not brewed, but is a blend of Lambic beers of different ages. When Frank successfully created the perfect marriage between the best Lambic beers, a very special Old Gueuze was born: the Mariage Parfait.
After Frank Boon had taken over René De Vits’ Gueuze blending hall, he moved the activities to Hondzocht, a hamlet that is part of Lembeek. This location was a conscious choice, as the word 'Lambic' originated in Lembeek. In the following years, the stock of Lambic beers rose again.
More and more Lambic breweries were still closing their doors, so the future of Gueuze was not yet assured. That is why Frank Boon started to build his own brewing hall at a new site in the centre of Lembeek. He had the means to do so after selling the beer business he had also been running up until then.
The first brew of the new brewing hall was completed in the autumn of 1990. The new factory had been built using second-hand equipment from older breweries, as new equipment was still unaffordable. It was the first time in more than 40 years that a new Lambic brewing hall had been built. It is one of the key moments that earned Frank Boon his nickname as the saviour of Gueuze beers.
The label for Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) was awarded to the Boon Brewery's Oude Geuze and Oude Kriek. Not every Gueuze or Kriek beer can call itself 'old'. To earn this title, the beer must be high quality and made according to the traditional recipe and authentic methods with bottle conditioning.
The stock capacity was expanded to meet increasing demand. 19 large foeders – large oak barrels – with a capacity of 6,500 to 8,000 litres were installed in a second foeder store. In the existing store, the old barrels were replaced by other foeders to complement the 17 foeders already in place.
After the establishment of a third foeder store, the Boon Brewery owned no less than 130 foeders. The largest foeder now had a capacity of no less than 12,500 litres. At that time, the brewery already has a stock of almost 1 million litres of Lambic maturing in oak barrels.
In 2012, Frank Boon had been working as a Gueuze brewer for 40 years, but wasn’t thinking of retiring yet. However, he did assure his succession by asking his oldest son Jos Boon to join him at the brewery. Jos had graduated as a bio-engineer specialising in brewing and malting from KU Leuven university.
Lambic beer was selling more quickly than it could be brewed, so a new brewing hall was urgently needed. The new brewing hall opened in April 2013 and more than tripled the brewery's capacity. It is fully automatic, consumes 70% less energy and was specially designed to brew Lambic beers the traditional way.
The Oude Geuze Boon VAT 44 Monoblend was released on the occasion of the opening of the new brewing hall. It was a blend of 90% Lambic from foeder no 44 and 10% young Lambic. This unique Oude Geuze was the start of a whole series of Monoblends each using Lambic from a different oak barrel.
On average, the oak barrels or foeders in which the Lambic matures need a thorough overhaul every 15 years. As this calls for specific craftsmanship, the Boon Brewery set up its own coopers’ workshop. This workshop is unique in Belgium: chief cooper Frank Boon, his son Jos and the trained coopers team are the only people in the country who can maintain foeders exactly the way it should be done according to the conventional methods.
Oude Geuze Boon Black Label was launched on the occasion of the Boon Brewery's 40th anniversary. The Black Label was a real masterpiece: this exclusive beer had a very dry finish thanks to a special selection of Lambics with the highest levels of fermentation. The first two editions were called 'Limited Edition' and 'Second Edition', but the later ones were simply referred to with a number.
The Boon Brewery became even more of a family business when Karel Boon, son of Frank and brother of Jos, also started working there full time. Karel had studied Applied Economics at KU Leuven university and had already gained experience at another brewery. Like Jos, he had grown up right next to the brewery, where he had often lent a hand. That is how his passion and ambition to help run the business grew.
The fourth foeder store located on the other bank of the Zenne was put into service. It housed about 40 huge foeders, each with a 4-metre diameter and a capacity of around 25,000 litres. The Boon Brewery now had 161 oak foeders for storing and maturing 2.1 million litres of Lambic.
The Boon Brewery joined the Belgian Family Brewers, an association that promotes historic, independent family breweries that add value to the identity and authenticity of Belgian brewing methods. It gives authentic Belgian beers a chance to distinguish themselves from other beers in the best possible way.
For the first time since 1989, Oude Kriek was again made with Schaarbeek cherries.
This Kriek variety owes its name to the market of Schaarbeek where cherries used to be sold to the Lambic brewers. The annual harvest is limited, so the Schaarbeek cherries are only a fraction of the 300 tonnes of cherries that the Boon Brewery uses each year.
Frank Boon retired on 1 January 2021. Although his sons Jos and Karel took the helm – or rather the mash paddle, Frank remains involved in his life's work, the result of years of dedication and carefully acquired expertise. He still keeps an eye on production and continues to share his unique knowledge with Jos and Karel. He will continue his position as chief cooper, as his craftsmanship in that field is also unique.
10 Belgian oak logs were purchased to maintain the foeders. The trees are 250 years old and can only ever be cut down for sustainable purposes. The oak wood is used to maintain all the brewer's foeders to make sure they reach an age of 200 years. It is one of the Boon Brewery's ways to give deeper meaning to the concept of long-term thinking.