Zinnebir, the popular beer brewed by the Brussels brewery Brasserie de la Senne, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
The beer launched the company and has since become its showcase tipple. Its launch also marked the starting point of the revival of beer brewing in Brussels.
In 2002, Zinnebir was brewed for the first time as part of the Zinneke Parade, which was only in its second edition at the time. Co-owner of the brewery, Bernard Leboucq, had brewed a beer and ran into Yvan De Baets on the parade. De Baets was just about to start his own brewery training.
"It was a real amateur beer," Leboucq says today about his product. "The current recipe owes much more to Yvan's knowledge."
At the end of 2003, the two started a small operation in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, in the outskirts of Brussels. They used other breweries around the capital for a number of years, until they ended up in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean in 2010. At that time, there was only one other brewery in Brussels: Cantillon in Anderlecht. Today, twelve years later, the Brussels region has about fifteen (micro)breweries.
The brewery in Molenbeek moved in 2019 to a new, larger site at Tour & Taxis. Up to 18,000 hectolitres of beer can be brewed there per year. Zinnebir itself still accounts for 35 to 40% of sales.
"We don't invent anything," Leboucq says of their beers. "We're adding to today's flavours, flavours that we know through our grandparents and that had almost disappeared."
For its twentieth anniversary, the brewery promises another big party on 1 October, with several concerts. For that occasion, the owners asked three other breweries to reinvent the Zinnebir. Brasserie de la Mule in Schaerbeek, among others, have taken up the challenge.