LIESHOUT/STEENHUFFEL - Since 2016 the Palm, De Hoorn and Rodenbach breweries have been owned by Bavaria, a Dutch-based brewer. Two years after the takeover, Bavaria has been re-named Swinkels Family Brewers (SFB) to emphasise its position as an independent family brewery. Swinkels Family Brewers is the umbrella name for six breweries, two malt works and 26 brands overall. Jan-Renier Swinkels, CEO, proudly states that one of the largest family businesses in Europe has roots that go back 300 years.
So, how are Palm and Rodenbach doing? Palm, Cornet and Rodenbach are part of the Swinkels Family Brewers international family which comprises eight brands. The new owner is investing in infrastructure, innovation and in the brand portfolio.
There will always be pils (Bavaria) but the emphasis is increasingly on premium. Rodenbach Vintage and the Caractère Rouge spring to mind as well as the re-launch of Rodenbach Alexander and the introduction of the Rodenbach FruitAge (re-named from Rodenbach Rosso).
Palm is busy diversifying and has added the hoppier Palm Hop Select to its familiar Palm Royale and Dobbel Palm assortment. Brugge Tripel has much in common with the zesty triples that used to be the hallmark of the city of Bruges. Steenbrugge falls into the category of abbey beers.
Microbrewery De Hoorn is located in the grounds of the Palm brewery. On this site the brewers are experimenting to their heart’s content with hops, herbs, wood and fruit.
Every year the brewery markets eight niche beers under the Arthur’s Legacy brand. Jan: “This approach has borne fruit."
"Once again our Belgian brands are enjoying growth in their own country (+0.2% in 2017), Rodenbach is doing remarkably well in its home market (+12%) and Cornet is driving our exports (+7.2%)”.
Beer as well as wine
Today’s beer drinkers are discovering the almost endless varieties of their familiar barley juice. Thirst-quenchers are making way for a glass of beer full of taste and character with its own back story. Modern beer consumers choose their beer depending on the occasion.
Stronger beers make a great fit for those moments when you really want to taste your beer and an alcohol-free beer is ordered when the situation demands. Also, there is a stronger emphasis on health and moderate alcohol consumption. Across the globe, light specialty beers including the so-called session beers are gaining ground. Swinkels Family Brewers strives to have a suitable beer for every occasion.
Beer in gastronomy, as a valued addition to wine, is a prime example. It is not a question of either/or, rather, you could opt for one and the other. It is perfectly possible to choose either one depending on the occasion, the season or just based on what’s on the menu.
Beer makes for a perfect accompaniment to many different dishes as it is so exquisitely varied and contains so many different aromas. Another great advantage is that beer has a lower alcohol content than wine which means that your chosen dish does not fade into the background. Beer fits perfectly into a lighter way of cooking that does not suffer from a multitude of tastes.
Innovate but only when it is needed
Jan-Renier Swinkels: “The beer world never stands still and we see this now more than ever. But, the classics remain eternally popular. Belgium is not very good at blowing its own trumpet. We produce a huge array of beers, ranging from utterly traditional to wildly innovative.
In recent years at Palm and Rodenbach the focus has been on innovation. Our De Hoorn microbrewery is a genuine innovation lab, where we carry out experiments without putting any blinkers on.
This is where the Cornet saw the light. We always aim to create balanced beers.
Daring, I won’t deny that, but we never lose sight of our DNA. There is not much point in provoking just to be provocative. The focus has to be on taste and balance.” After all, Belgian beer is a quality benchmark. You have to respect its origin, roots and heritage, the brewer concludes.