Martin and Samuel Vanlerberghe, brewers of blissPhotography : Photokiff - Text : Julien Damon
One is blond-haired, the other one is brown-haired. One is an agronomist, the other one is a biologist. Martin and Samuel Vanlerberghe are twins, quite different but united in a shared project: developing a traditional micro-brewery in their village of Montagny-Sainte-Félicité.
When they were still students, Martin and Samuel already used to brew, as knowledgeable amateurs, for their friends and family. « Brewing, they say, is an intellectual and agronomic challenge. Producing a quality beer is a complex process, where a thousand factors and a thousand nuances come into play to influence taste. Brewing is first and foremost about imagining, testing, perfecting ».
From amateur passion to entrepreneurial adventure, it takes a lot of bravery to actually go for it. Samuel and Martin seized the opportunity of settling on the family farm by fixing an old barn. Then they had to go through the hassle of buying equipment: they finally managed to buy second-hand machines at a good price on « Le Bon Coin » website from an old brewery in the Vosges region. All in all, they were clever and tenacious enough to leverage resources from local authorities as well as banks and the Internet.
Samuel and Martin master ancient malting secrets, but they also speak about their products, their activities and their development strategy with words that wouldn’t differ much from those of young start-up entrepreneurs in the digital economy.
Production started at the end of 2015. Their objective is to reach an initial level of 350 hectolitres in 2016, then to build up on that to fill up the installed equipment, which has a total capacity of 1200 hectolitres a year.
« Félicité » – that is the name they chose for their beer, which both means “Bliss” and is the name of their village – comes in three recipes, with three flavours: ale, bottled with a blue cap, lager, bottle with a yellow cap, and stout, bottled with an amber cap.
The challenge is now to grow their distribution network, develop their product range and extend the fame of the brand embodied by the clock tower of Sainte-Félicité. Samuel and Martin spend their Saturdays in their shop, their Sundays on markets, their weekdays between the casks, the bottling and capping machines, computers and social networks. You can also see them behind the wheel of their van, flying the colours of the « Félicité », crossing the region for client deliveries.
At twenty-seven years old, the two brothers represent a resolutely modern agriculture, mixing tradition and technology to celebrate taste, warmth, and the pride of the “Made in here” touch. A few years from now, once they can find an ad hoc malting machine, they hope to use the barley from the family land to brew their beer, and then the local loop will be complete, with « Félicité » being truly anchored in its village.