Alken-Maes, the Belgian subsidiary of Heineken, announced to close its brewery in Opwijk (Flemish Brabant) this summer.
Limited capacity for its popular Affligem brand, an abbey beer brewed under license of the nearby abbey of Affligem and the need for major investments in order to reach the company’s goal to become CO2 neutral by 2030 ultimately led to the decision to move the production of Affligem beer to other breweries in the group. The beer for Belgium, the Netherlands and a few other countries will now be brewed in Alken (Limburg), and that for France will be moved to France.
The decision was already in sight in late 2020, when Alken-Maes announced it would discontinue the once-popular local amber beer, Op-Ale. Op-Ale, a Special Belge beer brewed with mineral-rich brewing water, light caramel malt and soft aroma hops, has been around since 1935 and was once the crown jewel of the De Smedt Brewery in Opwijk. In 2000, Heineken took over the brewery but put its focus rather on the abbey beer than on the once popular local brand. While Affligem took off and sales have skyrocketed by a staggering 43% since 2018, Op-Ale's popularity has waned over the years.
Production of Affligem has meanwhile reached 200,000 hectoliters per year, the maximum capacity of the Opwijk brewery. When faced with the decision to invest in the rather small and old production site in Opwijk or to transfer production to other more efficient plants of the group, Heineken finally decided to close the brewing site. The 11 employees are offered jobs in other parts of the company.