The story of St-Feuillien starts in 1873, when Stéphanie Friart founded the brewery in the Belgian town of Le Rœulx. She names the brewery after the Saint Feuillien abbey, located in the village between 1125 and 1796. Interestingly, beer was also being brewed in the abbey, the history of which is closely tied to the legacy of this brewery.
Here in Le Roeulx, the French word ‘confrérie’ reminds us of the traditions of bygone days, loaded as it is with connotations of religion and mystery, referring not only to a guild, but also a friary or a brotherhood. Today, it is used to describe traditional associations formed around goods like food and wine. Now commonplace in Belgium, brewing guilds are associations of beer lovers and professionals whose aim is to promote the products of the region they represent. While today’s brewing guilds were all formed no earlier than the 20th century, some can trace their roots back much further into the past.
The history of the Saint-Feuillien Guild in Le Roeulx has its roots in the 7th century, entwined with the fate of an Irish monk named Foillan (Feuillien in French) who came to the continent to preach the Gospel. In 655, while passing through the charcoal forest that lay on the same land now occupied by the town of Le Roeulx, Foillan and his companions were martyred and decapitated. At the site of his ordeal, close to a large pond with a little island, his disciples built a chapel, which in 1125 was to become a Premonstratensian abbey: Saint-Feuillien Abbey in Le Roeulx. In the 12th century, a château was built nearby, definitively marking out the territory of Le Roeulx. Evoking centuries of precious history and archaeology, this grand residence survives to this day to tell the story of its significant past through its artistic treasures and impressive estate. As for the abbey, it prospered until the French Revolution, when it was condemned by the revolutionaries. The monks had brewed beer there for centuries, and this tradition continues in the present day.
For more than half a century, the Saint-Feuillien Guild has nourished and sustained this vital cultural connection to the region and its land through a variety of activities, such as trips, guided visits, meetings, conferences and food tastings. Furthermore, always with an eye on the outside world, it maintains and celebrates its links with Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and a great many other regions in Belgium. Led by a Grand Master, the guild’s main purpose is to create connections between people and bring them together. This social role is the foundation for these unique traditions, rooted in local and regional history, while the guild’s members are its life force, like the yeast in a beer, continuing the great traditions of the fraternity: “All members are connected to the town of Le Roeulx, all wish to help develop the bonds of friendship between the people of Le Roeulx, all are protectors of the town’s venerable traditions, all are champions of the beers of Saint-Feuillien Abbey both inside and outside the walls of Le Roeulx.” And thus they make a toast as the bell-like sound of their majestic glasses clinking inspires a strong feeling of pride: “À cœur de Rhodien, Bière de Saint-Feuillien!” (“The beers of St-Feuillien, at the heart of Le Roeulx”)