Not one, but actually four Choux de Bruxelles this week. The driving forces behind Chez Janine are, after all, two couples, the men of whom are brothers. Two years ago, the idea of starting a bakery-brewery, where bread turns into beer, and beer turns into bread, was in that family context.
- Together with his brother and their partners, he founded the bakery Chez Janine in Vorst
- The name Chez Janine refers to the brother couple’s grandmother
- Excess bread is processed into the beer, while a residual product of beer is used for the bread
Everything about Chez Janine oozes charm. The Vorst bakery is located on Alsembergsesteenweg near Albert, in a corner building that was formerly a laundry and has large windows through which the craft breads and rolls in the shop window are clearly visible. ‘Au fut et au pétrin’ is written on the window, which means something like ‘in the barrel and in the kneading trough’. Because it’s not just any bakery. Beer that contains leftover bread is also sold, while a residual product of beer is used for the bread: the protein-rich grain residue from the brewing process, which is called marc or used grain. A production process could hardly be more circular, but bread and beer have always been complementary to their fermented grains as a basic product.
And speaking of complementarity: it is also a trait of the four that forms the basis of this family business, the pair connected by the brother couple Bertrand and Maxime. “I myself have worked for the European institutions and have experience in the hotel industry. I’m the entrepreneur of the four. My wife Carole has focused on communication for Chez Janine. Maxime is an engineer who retrained as a baker five years ago in Paris and worked there in a number of craft bakeries before coming to Brussels. And his girlfriend Morane is our brewer because she studied biology. ” With this, Morane returns to the beginning, where brewing, like baking, was a household chore performed mainly by women, which led to the English word ‘brewster’ appearing even before the word ‘brewer’. Morane is now one of the few ‘brewers’ in our country.
The four are all French. So what makes them embark on such an unusual adventure in Brussels together? Bertrand: “We wanted to make more sense of our professional lives, do something with people we like, be masters of our production ourselves and do something we love: bread and beer. And we wanted to do that after a local and “craft logic, with a positive impact on the environment. What we do is mainly aimed at food waste, because discarded bread in Brussels accounts for 20 percent of food waste.”
“In addition, there is always something foil in entrepreneurship. We dropped what we were making and laid our pennies next to each other on the table to see what was possible. To me, Brussels is an exemplary region when it comes to supporting projects like ours. In 2020, we have been selected by a sustainable incubator GreenLab, and we are strengthened in our intention because we have won their audience award. “
“In September 2021, with the help of the municipality, we found this place. It could not have been better. Maxime lives a hundred meters from here, and I live down in Vorst Park. Last week, the prestigious Madspildspris was added.” We already have a number of good artisan bakeries, but there is room for more. Demand is also high. We have already expanded our team by five people because we could not keep up with the rhythm. “
However, there is also the next step: a cooperative brewery by Janine together with three other microbreweries in Brussels: the brewery Everse Witloof, which is currently still brewing in Walloon Brabant, DrinkThatBeer from Ixelles and 1B2T (1 beer = 2 tartins) from Schaerbeek … “That network has evolved over the last two years, while microbreweries are fighting on their own in such a competitive environment as the brewing industry. With the Cohop cooperative, we can work and share knowledge in a horizontal way. Together we have now found a place. The Arsenaal place in Etterbeek, and two weeks ago we made our first brew, where we also open a bar to sell our own products according to the principles of the short chain, where customers can see for themselves how they are made, just like here in the bakery. ”
Finally, the sandwich question: how much bread actually goes in the beer, and how much beer goes in the bread? “You could say that one beer contains the equivalent of one slice of bread, and that we use the amount of marc of two beers for one loaf. So far we are not going there for the breads with our trot, but all our bread is back and those from other partners are already in the beer. ” These beers have names like Trompe l’oeil, Rock ‘N Carol and Ka Sa Yé, while Chez Janine refers to Bertrand and Maxime’s grandmother. “In our memories, she symbolizes generosity and sociability, the values that are also reflected when people drink beer or eat bread together.”