Meet Olivier de Brauwere - the co-founder of Brussels Beer Project

03.08.2018 - Editorial

When summer is spoiling us with hardly bearable heat, a glass of crisp cold beer often comes to the rescue. Deeply rooted in the Belgian culture, beer commonly seems to evoke a rather traditionalist opinion about it. Once a Belgian picks a brand, there’s a high chance they're going to stick with it for many years ahead. But there are people that aren’t afraid of experimenting. Those are the people that run Brussels Beer Project.

Brussels Beer Project is the fruit of Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan’s labour. It’s a local brewery that produces beers with funky names like “Churchill’s Delusion”, “Juice Junky”, and “Miami B**ch” and infuses them with flavours of blueberries and chipotle, and jasmine tea and cigars. The company puts the community first - both the one that’s enjoying their products and the one that’s working on them in the offices. Their love for experiments comes from the desire to be a part of the future rather than following traditions.

Olivier de Brauwere [left] and Sébastien Morvan [right]

When the two creators of the company met, they both had their corporate jobs secured. However, they didn’t plan on it staying that way for too long. In 2012, with both of them approaching their thirties, they decided that it’s now or never - they quit their jobs and set up a brewery in Brussels. They called it a “project” because they believe it’s an ever-evolving venture. This venture seems to be working out just fine as it is celebrating its fifth year this September.

Today we talk to the Belgian counterpart of the duo Olivier de Brauwere. Whenever he talks about work, he emphasizes the importance of the team and the community. He doesn’t have a favourite beer and says his favourite food is the one you can share with others. We actually interrupted his sacred lunchtime to have a chat and he seemed perfectly okay with that. In fact, when talking about his passion project he completely forgot about how hungry he was.

Olivier de Brauwere is very excited about BBP's success so far and is looking forward to expanding

Would you say that you were born an entrepreneur or did you learn it?

It’s a good question. Actually, I don’t know. What I know is that since I was a kid I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I come from a super ‘classic’ family. ‘Classic’ meaning that they are lawyers, bankers, teachers - anything but entrepreneurs. But since I was a kid I wanted to create my own business, be my own boss. I think especially what is driving me is creating a business in line with your values. Shaping the atmosphere, the culture of the company all in line with your ideals.

So, I don’t know if I became an entrepreneur or was there an entrepreneur inside me. I think there’s no one kind of entrepreneurs, you can succeed in many different ways.

The brands aim for the future is to introduce people to more new beer-related experiences

What kind of changes do you expect in the future of your field?

Well, overall, when you look at the number of breweries, I think Belgium has a very competitive landscape. And that number is growing fast. So, I think the trend for the coming 5-6 years will be more and more dynamic projects. And I think that’s a very good thing, as it makes people more sophisticated, more aware of what they’re drinking. They are also not afraid of spending a bit more money for quality and local products.

That ties in with another trend - people are drinking less and less. That is why it is important to produce the highest quality products and not forget about the communication.

What Belgian start-ups do you admire?

I feel that more and more young people in Brussels are becoming entrepreneurs and there are plenty of them which are quite impressive. I think one which I find very nice and inspiring is Thibaud Dehem, the founder of marketing agency 87 seconds. Their basic concept was creating videos in 87 seconds mainly for internal communications. Then they expanded into other videos and marketing services. Now they have offices in Paris, Spain, Geneva, and the Netherlands as well.

I think a part of their success is due to their internal communication, the way the team is managed. Just like us, they have no hierarchy, everyone is an entrepreneur, everyone is respected. I think it’s a nice inspiration, succeeding in a competitive market like that with an original approach.

Smooth team-work and good communication is a part of Brussels Beer Project's DNA

Who is (or was) your mentor?

The question makes me remember the Steve Job’s metaphor about connecting the dots. He said his projects are a series of dots that over time were connected. He’s been learning many things not knowing that at some point these dots will connect and bring something.

That is how I see mentorship. It’s having lots of different discussions with lots of different people from different backgrounds.

What’s on your bucket list?

I used to have a real bucket list when I was younger and, if I remember well, there were a few things on there that I’ve ticked off. One of them was creating my own business. My wife and I also wanted to live at least 3 years outside Belgium and we did that. We also went backpacking across Asia for 6 months - that was on the list. One thing that I didn’t do yet and I for sure want to is jumping with a parachute. It’s an old dream of mine.

There’s a major disadvantage about bucket lists though - it’s focused on end-goals. You focus on things you want to achieve and you miss out on enjoying the journey. Lots of entrepreneurs often raise new objectives and don’t always take the time to enjoy their way there.

So, if I had to, I would put enjoying the moment as the number one thing on my list.

The main challenge after 5 years in the business, according to Olivier, is to keep it fresh by constantly reinventing yourself

What are your guilty pleasures?

Food and drinks. Once a week my wife and I go to a nice restaurant. It’s not always an expensive one either and it’s about enjoying the food, the drinks, and the time together.

What is a problem that you face every day that nobody has fixed yet?

Bike safety. I got into a serious crash a few weeks ago and I hurt my arm. Most of the employees come to the office by bike and most of them have had some sort of accident. And there is no small accident when there’s a bike and a car involved - the cyclists are too vulnerable.

That are decent efforts being made to improve on this - more bike lanes, the drivers are getting used to it as well. If someone could create an airbag for bikes that would soften the fall though, that would be brilliant.

For Olivier, involving the community seems to be the natural way of doing business

Who should we interview next?

87 seconds for sure. Another one maybe is SortList - an online platform that aims to link projects to marketing agencies. It’s like Uber that is a transport company without cars, Airbnb is a hotel platform with no properties - they strive to be the biggest marketing platform with no actual marketing agency.

Brussels Beer Project now has taprooms in Brussels, Paris, and Tokyo. To accomodate them all (and maybe more in the future) they are planning on opening a second brewery in Brussels soon

Visit their taproom at 188, Antoine Dansaert street - 1000 Brussels or look out for a funky name on the beer menu in bars around the country.

Look out for BBP's Wanderlust Craft Beer festival celebrating their 5 year anniversary on September 15th.

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