Palm Breweries

The history of PALM Breweries goes back to 1686. At that time Theodoor Cornet, estate manager of Diepensteyn Castle, was the proprietor of an inn opposite the church in Steenhuffel. He brewed beer and distilled jenever there for his guests, also brewing a heavier “Counts’ beer” for the Lords of Diepensteyn, Counts of Maldeghem-Steenhuffel. In 1747, Anne Cornet converted it into a small top-fermentation village brewery, selling beer to the inhabitants of the village. She dubbed her brewery Den Hoorn, most probably after the Dutch translation of her French surname Cornet. Later, the brewery was taken over by Jean-Baptiste De Mesmaecker, who also became mayor of Steenhuffel.

In 1908, his daughter Henriette De Mesmaecker married Arthur Van Roy, a descendant of a brewing family from Wieze. Arthur kick-started the brewery’s industrial development in order to sell his beers far beyond the borders of the municipality. He also created his own “Spéciale Belge” brew.

Later, after the outbreak of the First World War, De Hoorn Brewery was not spared. In 1914 the brewery was almost completely destroyed by bombing. During reconstruction, it proved impossible to invest in the refrigeration technology necessary for brewing the, increasingly popular, bottom-fermentation pilsner beers. The brewery therefore continued brewing top-fermentation beers out of necessity. In 1929, Arthur Van Roy gave his “Spéciale Belge” the brand name “Spéciale PALM”, as a sign of the victory of top-fermentation beers over bottom-fermentation pilsners. He was convinced that his Spéciale PALM beer offered more aroma and taste than pilsners.

The brewery escaped the Second World War unscathed, and work subsequently began on its expansion. This growth was thanks, in no small way, to the increasing success of “Spéciale PALM”. To celebrate the brewery’s bicentenary in 1947, son Alfred Van Roy released Dobbel PALM, a slightly more rounded festive beer, which has now become the beer for the festive season. After drawing lots during the World Expo 58 in Brussels, Alfred Van Roy was awarded the best place on the Ancienne Belgique market square. Here, he built his imposing PALM-Hof (PALM Court), which gave the brand national publicity. Every time Ancienne Belgique was shown on post cards or via the new medium of television, the PALM Court was always visible. To meet increasing demand, the brewery underwent significant expansion: the presbytery and farm were demolished and rebuilt on the other side of the street.

The brewery continued to grow in the sixties. When the local beer culture staged a comeback in Belgium following the student uprisings and the Flower Power movement in 1968, Alfred Van Roy accordingly became the lead player, posting the highest growth with his Special PALM Brabant-style amber beer. The public increasingly referred to the DE HOORN brewery as the PALM brewery. In 1974, the brewery changed its name to PALM Breweries.

Having no children, Alfred asked his nephew Jan Toye, a descendant of the long-standing Roman brewing family, to continue the family tradition and Alfred’s life’s work. And so, the brewery remained a family business. Under Jan Toye’s management, the brewery continued to grow into a national, and later international, player. In 1980, the Belgian draught horse logo appeared for the first time on labels. It not only symbolises PALM’s Brabant origins, but also illustrates how we get the best from nature, by way of tradition and selection. In the eighties PALM acquired a second growth market when Dutch consumers, in their yearning for a more exuberant life, started to emulate Belgium. Under the slogan “Belgische weelde” (“Belgian Opulence”), PALM went on to become the best-selling specialist beer in the Netherlands. In 1988 PALM acquired Diepensteyn Castle. It was restored to its full glory and rebuilt between 1993 and 1996.

During the nineties, PALM Breweries significantly increased in size. As a cultural project, PALM set up a joint venture in 1990 with the BOON lambic brewery in Lembeek. In 1998, RODENBACH Brewery was taken over. Around the turn of the millennium, PALM faced some difficulties. In Belgium, beer consumption had been decreasing for some time, and specialist beers with relatively low alcohol content were suffering the most. To turn the tide, Jan Toye developed a “multi-niche” strategy, concentrating on authentic thoroughbred beers and exports. His son Matthias has been infected by the passion for family tradition and the brewer’s calling, and since 2011 has represented the next generation of PALM Breweries.

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Palm Breweries