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Brewing has a long running tradition in the area, starting out in traditional Alms houses, (Communal houses with gardens grouped around a church) These small economically independent entities was where the nuns baked bread, grew vegetables, brewed beer and tended to the sick. ‘
The 'Krankenhuis' – (1471) was the first paper to describe the activity of brewing at the hospice of the Beguinage Mechelen – and reports –“Charles the Bold gave a special privilege exempting taxes and excise duty for beer brewed in the infirmary for the nuns and their agents. Four years ago, in 1467, as many as 900 nuns wanted to welcome Charles the Bold during his visit to the city”.
For over three centuries the Fourquet Beguines manage the brewery in the Beguine this came to an end in 1865.
From 1637 the family of Van Breedam, millers by trade, had a small distillery in 'Molenberg' Blaasveld, that was active up until 1927. The milling section of the business still continues
In 1872, Louis Van Breedam and his sister Anne leave Molenberg and purchased the brewery of Mechelen Beguinage and built one of the first modern breweries In Holland powered with a steam boiler.
At some point in 1904, the brewery changed its name to Het Anker, referring to the historic brewery in Mechelen January Anker.
Leclef Charles (fifth generation Van Breedam) was raised in the Mechelen Brewery. He had a close relationship with his Uncle Michel Van Breedam at Molenberg to Blaasveld where he had preserved the original authenticity of the brewery
In 1990 Charles took over his Uncles Brewery and brought with him a vision of a modernised brewery. After a period of "co-operation" with Riva and John Martin, he decided in 1998 to give new impetus to the brewery. The buildings where restored with major investments to renovate the production equipment and expand the capacity with new beers such as Cuvée van de Keizer, Gouden Carolus Ambrio the Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor, Gouden Carolus Tripel.
This expansion developed further in 2003 towards distilling, however not traditional Dutch gin as in the previous century, but whiskey .In particular a fine single malt whiskey based on the spirit of Gouden Carolus Tripel beer!
As beer and whiskey are both made from cereals. Charles believes that a fine malt whiskey distilled from the mash of Gouden Carolus Tripel is possible. This beer is brewed with pale malts. Today the mash of Gouden Carolus is distilled and then maturing into a whiskey with balanced, clean flavour with various fruit and wood notes.
The Distillery is located at Blaasveld here a modern distillery production line has been built around a pair of traditional pot stills made by Forsythe’s the leading copper smiths in Scotland
The distilled spirit is then transferred into oak barrels and taken to the Brewery in Mechelen and are left to rest in the storage tower. Here the spirit is matured for 3 years under the watchful eye of the brewery staff. The first batch arrived in October 2010 and December 2013 is eagerly awaited for the first bottling of:
Gouden Carolus Single Malt Whisky