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Historic Beer Birthday: Constant Vanden Stock

Today is the birthday of Constant Vanden Stock (June 13, 1914-April 19, 2008). While he was best known for his exploits in football/soccer, he also ran his family’s business, Belle-Vue Brewery. That brewery was founded by his father, Philémon Vandenstock, in 1913. Constant’s father was captured by the Nazis in World War 2, and was sent to a concentration camp, but died one week after being released in 1945. After the war, Constant re-opened the brewery and continued to run it until the business was effectively acquired by Interbrew, now AB-InBev, in 1988.

Constant on his 90th birthday.

This biography is from his Wikipedia page.

Constant Vanden Stock was the president and a player of Belgian football club R.S.C. Anderlecht. The stadium of this club is named after him. Constant Vanden Stock also served as coach of the Belgium national football team from 1958 to 1968. He is the father of another club president, Roger Vanden Stock. He is also behind the bribery of referee Emilio Guruceta Muro to throw the UEFA cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in 1984. Vanden Stock managed the family brewery Belle-Vue, famous for its Kriek and Lambic, until he sold it to beer giant Interbrew, now InBev.

This tribute to Vanden Stock is from the 10th anniversary of his death in 2008, published by the RSCA in Belgium in 2018.

Son of brewer Philémon Vanden Stock and his wife Marie,  Constant Vanden Stock was born in Anderlecht on June 13, 1914, just before the start of the First World War. Ten years later, he began to play for the Mauve and Blancs, where he played only 52 matches in the first team between 1933 in 1938 due to serious injuries. He then joined the ranks of the neighbors of the Union Saint-Gilloise. Five years later, he put an end to his sports career and he focused on the development of Belle-Vue, his father’s brewery.

In the early 1950s, Constant Vanden Stock occupied a very first position at Sporting. He was there for three years responsible for recruiting young people. Constant was also the cadet and school coach. After a short stint as president of La Forestoise, he was appointed to the selection committee of URBSFA. Two years later, he became the only national team coach. Albert Roosens, the Anderlecht president at the time, wanted to bring him back to the RSCA, but Constant nevertheless chose the role of technical director at the Club Brugeois. A year later, in 1969, he returned to the capital, however. Constant became a member of management and also vice-president there, before finally taking over the helm as president in 1971.

It was the start of a long and successful period. In twenty-five years of presidency, Constant Vanden Stock managed to add many trophies to the prize list of our club. He celebrated ten Belgian champion titles, seven Belgian Cups, two Cup Winners’ Cups, a UEFA Cup and two European Super Cups. In addition, the old Émile Versé stadium was completely renovated between 1983 and 1991 to become a football stadium with boxes and  business seats , a great novelty. The enclosure was logically renamed the Constant Vanden Stock stadium to pay tribute to his work.

In 1996, Constant Vanden Stock decided to pass the baton to his son Roger, but he remained, at 82, obviously very attached to his club, as honorary president. In 2005, Constant’s health began to deteriorate, with balance problems which were followed by a heart attack. Constant Vanden Stock died on April 19, 2008, just before the centenary of his club, at the age of 93 years. Rest in peace, Mr. Constant.

This thorough history of Brasserie Belle Vue is from the website Lambic.Info:

Brasserie Belle-Vue has a long and sometimes controversial history of innovation, takeover, and survival among the lambic brewers and blenders. It was founded in 1913, by a café blender named Philémon Vandenstock (1886 – 1945). The owner of a bar in Brussels, Vandenstock, along with his wife, bought wort from various lambic breweries in the city and began blending fondgeuze for the establishment. Shortly after they began their blending business, World War I broke out leaving few resources to continue. Finally, in 1927, the Belle-Vue Café in Anderlecht became available. Vandenstock purchased the building as an outlet for his lambics; serving five other cafes in the area while also selling directly to customers. From 1927 onward, the blendery would market itself under the Belle-Vue name with a mention to Ph. Vandenstock usually visible somewhere on the branding.

The business flourished under Philémon, leading to the first brewery acquisition by Belle-Vue in 1943: Vos-Kina, a lambic brewery located in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. The acquisition of the brewery came at a difficult time in Europe’s history, right in the middle of World War II. While many breweries were struggling through the war, Belle-Vue was growing. Now able to brew his own lambic, Vandenstock also brought his son Constant Vandenstock and his son-in-law Octave Collin Vandenstock into the business to help manage.[1] Sadly, Philémon was arrested by the occupying Nazi forces in 1944 and sent to the Neuengamme concentration camp where he remained until it was liberated in May of 1945. He died just one week after the camp’s liberation.

The journey of Belle-Vue’s slide into non-traditional lambic started immediately after the death of Philémon when his son Constant took over the business. Until then, Belle-Vue was producing only traditional fondgeuze; however, like many other lambic breweries at the time, Constant began to use artificial flavorings to adapt to the changing palates of Belgian lambic drinkers. Belle-Vue began sweetening, filtering, pasteurizing, and carbonating its gueuze so that it could be consumed more like a traditional European pale lager rather than a traditional lambic. Belle-Vue also was one of the first, if not the first, lambic breweries to move away from using the traditional 75cl bottles to using capped 25cl bottles. This provided an easy “one bottle for one glass” strategy and did away with specialty corkscrews needed for opening the larger bottles.

The journey to the top of the lambic world for Belle-Vue began in the 1949-1950 season when Belle-Vue began to send lambic across the country and into France and the Netherlands. Belle-Vue, who was at the time the only lambic brewery with filtered and pasteurized gueuze, managed to escape the heatwave that resulted in exploding bottles for the majority of the lambic brewers and blenders that season. Business was so good that the brewery went on to two more takeovers, taking over the Louis & Emile De Coster lambic brewery in 1952 and Timmermans in 1955.

Constant, who was always involved with the football leagues in Belgium and Europe brought his son, Roger, as well as Roger’s cousin Philipe, into the business in 1962. In 1969, Belle-Vue acquired two more breweries: De Boeck and Goossens, known together as Brasseries Unies (United Breweries). These two breweries together had already acquired Brasseries Brasserie de la Couronne (De Kroon), Espagne, De Coster-Heymans, and Vandenkerckhoven. Again in 1970 Belle-Vue acquired Brabrux, which had already acquired other well known lambic breweries De Keersmaeker, Vaan Haelen-Coche, Bécasse-Steppé, and Vandenperre. At this point, Belle-Vue controlled approximately 75% of the lambic market. De Neve was also taken over by Belle-Vue in 1975, which is now a set of luxury apartments in the old brewery building.

Belle-Vue was riding a wave of success that very few lambic breweries were achieving at the time, but to do this Belle-Vue needed the help of one brewery still bigger than them in Belgium: Artois. Belle-Vue partnered with Artois to help expand its brand in the export market. The cost of this was a 43% minority share for Artois in Belle-Vue, with Constant still remaining in charge of Belle-Vue. When Artois merged with Piedboeuf (most recognized as the brewer of Jupiler) in 1988 to create Interbrew, it effectively put an end to the Vandenstock family stake in Belle-Vue.

Today, Brasserie Belle-Vue exists under the AB-InBev umbrella and consistently puts out non-traditional, sweetened lambics for the masses. No longer producing a traditional lambic or gueuze, the final true-to-style Belle-Vue product was the Belle-Vue Sélection Lambic released in 1999. Belle-Vue beers are now produced at the brewery in St. Pieters-Leeuw located just outside the Brussels Capital Region in Flemish Brabant. Belle-Vue is not a member of HORAL.

Eoghan Walsh also has a nice overview of the legacy of the lambic brewery entitled “Monsieur Constant // How one brewer defined beer and football in Brussels for the 20th century.”

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