From the 7th century, monks drink beer, which has become a popular beverage. At Villers-la-Ville in 1146, monks built an immense abbey and the roman-style brewery was finished in the 13th century.
Religious wars and the French Revolution took their toll and many abbeys were destroyed. This when the brewers guilds were created in order to ensure the quality of the product and brewing traditions.
In the 14th and 15th century, the numbers of brewery grow steadily. Drinking beer was recommended, as the brewing process killed pathogene germs causing epidemics like cholera and plague.
The Renaissance in the 16th century was the golden age of the brewers. Their corporation were very whealthy as the “Maison des Brasseurs” on the Grand-Place in Brussels still shows today.
During the 17th century a lot of different beers and breweries thrive. Because conversation processes didn’t exist, every village had its own brewery.
The French Revolution, late 18th century put an end to the brewers’ guilds an destroyed many abbeys. With the arrival of Napoleon, brewing activities took up again and became a true industry.
Thanks to the disoveries by Louis Pasteur (pasteurization), the brewers found a new élan. Thanks to Louis Pasteur, the quality and taste of beer was dramatically improved.
Around 1900, Belgium counts 3223 breweries and Barsserie Wielemans in Brussels was considered to be the largest in Europe. It was the Grande Brasserie at Koekelberg who brewed the first low fermentation beer (lager) in 1886.
After WWI, only 2013 breweries remain, due lack of manpower and raw material. The economic crisis of the thirties and WWII further reduce the number of breweries and in 1946, only 755 are still working.
After WWII, the small breweries close down or are absorbed by larger companies. In 1983 as few as 143 are still operational.
Nowadays, beer brewing has two mainstreams : mergers between international trusts and on a local basis, the development of small and medium breweries which produce a quality product closely related to region.
Today, a hundred breweries in Belgium offer more than 500 different beers. Cheers !