The experience of generations

Traditionally, many polder farms had a kiln or drying floor where chicory was dried. It was the time of the industrial revolution, and farmers were having a difficult time. A friend of Alexander Dingemans, a customs official, visited many breweries in order to levy excise duties. These breweries were operating at full speed, and he advised Dingemans to produce malt. There were a number of breweries in each village, usually farms that brewed beer chiefly for their personnel who worked the fields.
And so it was that in 1875, Alexander Dingemans (1833 – 1887) began to product malt from barley on his own farm.  Alexander was married to Juliana De Beuckelaer (1840 – 1901), famous for liqueur distillery F.X. De Beuckelaer, maker of “Elixir d’Anvers”.
Initially production amounted to a few hundred kilos per day. The farm labourers were very thirsty, however, and soon production was inadequate. Capacity was systematically increased.
Son Alphons continued the work starting in 1887. There were eleven children, enough for a football team. Seven of his sons worked in the malthouse.
In the malthouse, all the internal transport from steeping tanks to the germination floors and to the kiln was done with wagons and carts. There was no question of mechanisation; it was all done by hand.
Around 1890, a larger steeping house and germination floors were needed. To dry the green malt of the germination floors, a larger kiln was also built. The malt was dried with warm air from coke fires. No fan was used: the warm air naturally circulated through the malt to dry it. On the chimney stood the traditional weathervane.
Mechanisation occurred only around 1905: a steam engine drove the transmission shafts of the diverse machines.
Electrification took place around 1925. A gas-powered generator was installed and existing transmissions were replaced by electric motors.
Gradually industrialisation began to also find its way into the malthouse. The capacity of almost all Belgian malthouses was expanded. The malthouses were located throughout Belgium. The malthouses in Wallonia obtained their barley from the Condroz region and partially from France. The Flemish malthouses purchased their barley from the coastal polders. We obtained our barley from local farmers from the Antwerp polders and Zeeland, where the finest barley in Europe was cultivated.
Gradually the supply of barley shifted to France, and later to the Netherlands, England and Denmark.
Brewers became increasingly demanding. All wanted malt according to their own specifications: more or less colour, degree of solubility… We were a small malthouse, and this was an advantage. Our small size allowed us to produce malt tailored to the brewery. In addition to the traditional Pilsner malt, we also produced Pale Ale, Munich, Aromatic®, Aroma, wheat malt…

Germany occupied Belgium in 1940. Little barley and even less malt was produced. The malthouses, which were well equipped to dry products, took on whatever work they could find. Linseed from torpedoed ships in the Scheldt and the North Sea was dried on the kiln.  Linseed, however, has a high oil content, which caused the kiln in several malthouses – including Dingemans – to burn down.
After the war, many malthouses expanded their production capacity. Malthouse Dingemans also increased its production, still we remained a small player on the market.
In the following years, many malthouses disappeared due to mergers and closings.
In 1949, there were still 96 malthouses active in Belgium
In 1956, there were 50.
In 2011, only 5.
Malthouse Dingemans as family company has been able to weather this decline thanks to its ability to adapt and its small scale. This small scale means we do not have to "mass" produce, but rather are able to tailor production to the brewery.
In 1960, the sons of Louis Dingemans – Walter and Fons – took over the helm. A new steeping house and kiln was built. In the following years, germination boxes, a waste water treatment and silos were built.
Special beers were on the rise, and demand for custom malt for these special beers increased. Our range, however, was incomplete: we produced no roasted malts. In 1990, we installed a roasting drum, which allowed us to produce roasted barley, wheat and their malts, as well as caramel malt and our famous Special B® and Biscuit® malt, for breweries and bakeries. Our product range was now complete.
As chance would have it, a few years later, the two other malthouses that produced special malt – De Wolf Cosijns and Huys – stopped production. Panic in the brewery world: how would they now make their special beers? As sole producer of special malts in Belgium, in 2000 we embarked on the building of a completely new section with a silo complex. In the meantime, a second and third roasting machine had also become operational.
Pilsner malt is still our main activity, but you will find our special malts in almost all special beers.
In the meantime, Karl and Jan Dingemans, the fifth generation, continue the tradition. The decision was taken to also produce diverse malts from organic barley. Further investments and automation also followed.
Starting as farmers with the small-scale production of malt, we are now happy to be known as a family company with as motto: “Malt tailored to the customer”

The Dingemans Family