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Specialty beer out of a can

Fries, waffles, chocolate, beer. I have to admit that my last year’s visit to Bruges, Belgium, was not exactly the healthiest, at least in terms of food: one culinary highlight followed another. And no matter what delicacy it is: The Belgians attach great importance to genuine handicraft. But according to Xavier Vanhonsebrouck the specialty beers of his Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck are not what you would call a type of craft beer: “Craft beer is now on everyone’s lips, but for us here in Belgium these hand-crafted brews are not really anything new. Our specialty beers have a long tradition behind them, essentially they’re in a way the grandparents of the present-day craft beer.” And so it’s hardly surprising that these tradition-steeped Belgian beers are also benefiting from the ongoing upturn, and their worldwide popularity is rising.

To be able to meet the high demand for his beers in the future as well, Xavier knew that more bottling capacity will be needed. That’s why in 2019, he made a decision with a strong statement: For the first time, Vanhonsebrouck filled its traditional products in cans – a novelty for the Belgian specialty beer market. For this purpose, the brewery invested in a compact line from Krones.

“I believe that the future of beer packages in general lies in the can,” says Xavier Vanhonsebrouck. “It’s like a small keg, and doesn’t let any light through, which crucially improves the quality of the beer. In terms of transportation, too, the can scores highly, because it can be space-savingly packed in trays or cartons. And instead of three truckloads for glass bottles you only need one truck for the same amount of beer in cans.”

Focus on sustainability

He sees the most significant advantage, however, when it comes to sustainability: “In our operations, the can is a non-returnable package. So no water is required for cleaning it, and it can be 100 per cent recycled,” he explains. This high proportion is owed to Vanhonsebrouck’s well-thought-out packaging concept: in the end-of-the-line packaging, the handle is integrated directly into the carton design, and can be unfolded with a single manipulation. The carton itself, moreover, is made of recycled paper, which can, of course, be subsequently recovered.

For the container dress, too, Vanhonsebrouck has ensured a combination of cost-efficiency and sustainability: when sizeable quantities of beer are being canned, the brewery uses preprinted cans. Only in the case of small batch sizes are blank containers fitted with sleeve labels by our Krones Sleevematic M. These in their turn likewise meet the brewery’s stringent ecological stipulations: for instance, thanks to a perforation, the sleeves can be very easily separated from the can – and thus the aluminium.

Compact canning line

In Vanhonsebrouck’s so-called Bierkasteel in the small Belgian town of Izegem, a new Krones compact line, which handles up to 17,000 containers an hour, started production in 2019. And since even for Krones small canning lines like the one at Vanhonsebrouck are not exactly on the agenda every day, we decided to pay the brewery a visit for a story in our Krones magazine.

The first technical highlight is likewise the heart of the line: a small Craftmate C can filler, followed by a LinaFlex Compact pasteuriser. Both machines are based on the technology of their bigger siblings, but their small footprints make them ideal candidates for a use in compact lines.

Granted: At first I was skeptical about the specialty beer out of a can – but apparently only because I wasn’t familiar with the conventions of drinking Belgian beers: “Because no matter whether it’s from the barrel, from the bottle or from the can – before drinking, we always pour it into a suitable glass without exception,” Xavier explained to me. And I was really grateful for the tip he gave me as I am now perfectly prepared for my next trip to Belgium.

You want to know more about Vanhonsebrouck? Then watch our Youtube video about the brewery:


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