Our history

Historiek Brouwerij Sterkens

Brouwerij Sterkens has a particularly rich and very tasteful history. In 1651, the Sterkens family began to brew their own beer out of interest. In that time, they were local farmers with small amount of money to brew some quantities. As they were brewing, they wrote down every single detail of the recipes they made and the way they produced the beer. These notes were given from father to son, for generations on. When the family noticed that brewing beer gradually got more priority than working on the farm, they chose to professionalize the brewery and to fill out more quality beers. The delicious and spicy St. Sebastiaan and St. Paul beers were well appreciated in Belgium, what led to the fact that Brouwerij Sterkens was one of the first breweries who went abroad for exportation. Meanwhile, other new beers were produced in Meer and the Hoogstraten Poorter and Bokrijks slowly began to sell.

The current 14th generation of Brouwerij Sterkens have ensured that the beers of Sterkens are appreciated in more than 30 countries on all 5 continents. The Sterkens family is looking to the near future with a lot of enthousiasm and confidence, without forgetting the past. After all, Brouwerij Sterkens is still bottling their beers in distinctive and exceptional packaging. The Hoogstraten Poorter, Bokrijks, St. Sebastiaan and St. Pauls beers give the brewery its unique image.

Brouwerij Sterkens still remains to brew traditional and characteristic abbey beers for all you beer lovers around the globe. We still do that with great passion and skill.

1651

The story of Brouwerij Sterkens begins a few centuries back. Recent genealogical studies show that in 1651 the Sterkens family is already being noticed as a brewing family in Meer (Hoogstraten), a small and cosy village in the north of Belgium. Gerardus Sterkens and his wife Adriana Grootens live together with their 6 children in a small house downtown ‘Meir’, as Meer is called in that area. Gerardus gradually develops a love for beer and slowly starts to brew some table beer. During all phases of experimentation, Gerardus writes down carefully his experiences and original recipes.

1731

According to the book ‘Meir (in de Kempen)’, dating from 1912, there was a prayer book of 1731 which was already speaking about the brewing family of Frans Sterkens. Frans Sterkens and his wife Adriana Leijs gave birth to 10 children and they built a nice, small farming company. The farm provided the family in its essential and basic necessities; winning vegetables, breeding cattle and baking bread. In addition, Frans continues the tradition of his grandfather Gerardus. In that way, the brewery of the Sterkens family keeps producing beers. For brewing, Frans uses the original and old family recipes.

At the end of the 18th era, the French Revolution suddenly errupts. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands were controlled by the French and many religious people had to flee that time. One of those religious man, was Father Paul. Paul, an enthousiastic brewer of beer, would not let the French take his original recipe. While running away, Paul was able to save his traditional recipe and he, not accidentally, knocked at the door of the Sterkens family in Meer. He transferred his recipe to Paul and ran off. During thoses ages, the Sterkens family had already developed a good and reputable brewing name. Frans added a couple of own ingredients to the basic recipe and a new, refreshing, tasty beer was born. The new beer was given the name ‘St. Paul’, in honour of Father Paul.

1836

The recipes of the lovely beers of Sterkens remain in the family and each time they are transferred from father to son. Documents from 1836 are indicating that the Sterkens family began to increase its brewing production. These documents contain for example an act of familial distribution of their agricultural properties. During that time, the family possessed a home, a brew house, a shed that served as a beer warehouse, a barn with cattle and two gardens and meadows of 66 acres. However, brewing beer was still being combined with running a small farm.

1860

At the request of the guild of Meer, an inn with extra tavern was opened next to the brewery in the village center of Meer. This inn served as the home of the guild and was named St. Sebastiaan, after the Saint of the Archers. Not only people of the guild found their way to this tavern, but people of the whole region travelled to Meer too to taste the lovely beer of the brewery. Therefore, the family of Sterkens decides to brew a new craft beer called ‘St. Sebastiaan’, named after their inn.

1920

In 1920, Brouwerij Sterkens decides to professionalize their craft brewery. The equipment needed to be renewed and renovated. However, the copper kettle and the giant wooden tub filter were still used. For brewing the beer, the family used its own fresh groundwater and its own home grown corn. The family insists that their beers are still being brewed according to the old traditions, recipes and habits.

The beers of the Sterkens family were bottled in ceramic jugs. In that time, it was common to bottle beverages in that way. The St. Sebastiaan got more popular and people were buying it more frequently. Sterkens uses the following slogan; ‘Sterkens, brewers of the ceramic bottled beers’. Moreover, Brouwerij Sterkens still bottles a couple of their beers in the remarkable ceramic jars, even though most of them also have a version in glass. Despite the variants in glass, the brewery is still worldwide being recognized by its iconic bottling.

1957

After the Second World War, Brouwerij Sterkens is growing very fast. In 1957, a new beer, the ‘Ster Ale’, is being brewed. This amber coloured beer is particularly popular in Hoogstraten and its surroundings. Gradually, whole Flanders, is able to enjoy the ‘Sterreke’, as it is called in the region of Meer. Like any brewery in that time, Brouwerij Sterkens begins to produce other beverages too. They launch the Aster Lemonade for example. Today, a refreshing lager, the Ster Pils, is being brewed, a crisp nod to the popular, amber Ster Ale.

Because of the popularity of the Ster Ale, the touristic department of the city of Hoogstraten asks the brewery to produce a typical, local beer for Hoogstraten, that can be launched as the ‘Official beer of Hoogstraten’. Therefore, the family uses an old, traditional recipe and a few months later, the first bottles of Hoogstraten Poorter are being filled. This beer is bottled in the iconic ceramic jars too. On demand of the Bokrijk Domain, Brouwerij Sterkens begins to brew a new, craft beer. Thanks to their authentic image of a quality brewing company, they launch the Bokrijks.

The family gradually begins to see that the brewing production takes the upper hand. They are not longer only brewing for their own needs, but above all to let others enjoy their wonderful and tasty beers. Brewing beer is now more important than working on the farm. Now, we can officialy speak of Brouwerij Sterkens.

1986

In 1986, the brewery definitely takes the big step abroad. Due to the perfect location of the brewery close to the Dutch border, Brouwerij Sterkens quickly gets approached for export. Not only they conquer the Danish, Dutch, English, Swiss and Italian market, but Brouwerij Sterkens is one of the very first to export to the United States of America, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. In June 1987, they ship the first container for export to the USA, fully loaded with 10.000 ceramic bottles of St. Sebastiaan. Meanwhile, the beers of Sterkens find their way to Japan and Taiwain too. They even establish a subsidiary brewery in the US.

2008

Due to the growth of Brouwerij Sterkens and the big markets abroad, Brouwerij Sterkens cannot longer hold the capacity of their site in Meer. The entire production site is being sold and a few of the major brewing equipments are getting a new home. Since 2008, Brouwerij Sterkens let their beers brew at other fellow colleague brewers, but they still brew according to the old traditions and own recipes. Brouwerij Sterkens moved its offices to the Transportation zone in Meer (Hazeldonk) and they start a collaboration with Bierparadijs, a large and well-known liquor dealer / speciality beer shop who owns sufficient storage capacity to stock a lot of beers. They stock the beers of Sterkens and distribute them worldwide. Meanwhile, St. Paul Triple and St. Paul Special are being honoured at the Hong Kong International Beer Awards and the St. Paul Triple wins a prestigious award at the World Beer Championchips in Chicago.

2015

The 14th generation of the Sterkens family ensures that 95% of the beers are being sent abroad. Not only abroad, but all Belgian Beer lovers too do appreciate the authentic, tasteful beers of Brouwerij Sterkens. At the Brussels Beer Challenge of 2015, the new St. Paul White wins the bronze medal in the category ‘White Beer’. A recognition of years of hard work regarding to brew delicious, traditional Belgian abbey beers.

Brouwerij Sterkens can look back on a very rich history. However, the brewery is looking forward to the future with a lot of confidence and enthousiasm. The tasteful beers are indeed appreciated far beyond our borders. Worldwide, the traditionally brewed beers are sold in over 30 countries spread over all 5 continents. And that’s our goal, to let people all over the world enjoy our wide range of delicious Belgian ales, brewed with traditional recipes and habbits.