August 11, 2015 – Belgian Pacific is “just three Belgian guys who want to share the beer culture of Belgium with Monterey,” explains Fabrice Rondia—one of the three. Along with partners Damien Georis and Jonathan Geisler, Rondia is creating a beer tasting room and brewery on Cannery Row where visitors can learn about, experience, and appreciate the quality of Belgian beer.
The three guys are all originally from Belgium though they have been living on the Monterey Peninsula for varying lengths of time. Rondia has been here more than half his life. Having met through mutual friends, the three talked about introducing Belgian beer here and, on a trip back to Belgium, Georis found Leopold 7.
Leopold 7 is brewed by the Brasserie de Marsinne in the small village of Couthuin, Belgium, near to where Rondia’s family lives. “It’s only five minutes away from my grandparents’ house, but my dad and all my family were not aware of it. It was kind of fun for me to let them know about something so close to them.” In the three years since, Leopold 7’s momentum has picked up and their production has doubled.
Rondia, Georis, and Geisler knew that Leopold 7 was selling in Africa, so they began to research the company and considered a Beligum-style craft brewery here to be more sustainable, since no shipping would be needed.
Rondia penned a letter to the brewers, pitching his idea: “I’m passionate, not just to import the beer, but eventually brew it here.” When he and his wife flew to Belgium, the goal of the trip was to ask—can we make your beer? And, after meeting, they put numbers together. “It’s a wonderful match,” Rondia admits.
The name of their brewery/tasting room—Belgian Pacific—is based on the idea of introducing Belgian beer culture to the Pacific coast. They are in the process of opening an eco-brewery on Cannery Row. The concept aligns with what the brewers want. “They are the real craftsman, real artists. They brew just one beer and it takes a lot of patience.” Rondia continued, “It’s a bit like Grandma’s cooking. She has one special dish. You know, if you love her spaghetti and meatballs, she doesn’t need to make anything else.”
It took the Leopold brewers two years to come up with their recipe. Once Belgian Pacific is ready, they will be sending their brewers to Europe to learn directly from Leopold 7. Georis—a winemaker at Georis and Madeleine Wines—says, “My role is to import the beer from Belgium, until the brewery gets going here in Monterey in partnership with the Belgian brewers.”
Leopold 7 was introduced to the California public at the California Beer Fest in Santa Cruz last weekend. Beer lovers raved about its refreshing and unique taste. Rondia thinks that the sunny-hued brew mirrors the essence of Belgium, a façade of tradition but with a contemporary flair. And he embraces the brewery’s practices that make them more sustainable. “It’s pretty remarkable for Belgium,” he explains. “The logo used to have a lot of red and yellow, but those colors contained toxic pigments, so they changed the look to more greens and blues which don’t have the toxins.” Also, there are no paper labels on the bottles, the spent grains are used in compost program, and they are coming up with innovative ways to use less water.
Belgian Pacific will be located at 419 Wave Street—it’s the lot right next to the sculpture of Ed Ricketts. Rondia shares, “I’ve been running on that trail for twenty years and always said, ‘one day, if I could have that place….’ Now I do!” Rondia, Georis, and Geisler acquired the property earlier this year after nine months of negotiation. It’s almost a hundred years old with a lot of Cannery Row era personality and a surprising ocean view since it’s not on the waterfront. “It’s a weird oasis,” he says.
When Belgian Pacific begins brewing, they will proudly advertise their brew as “Belgian-born, but brewed right here.”
An opening date has not yet been set, so for now, you can find Leopold 7 at the Corkscrew Café in Carmel Valley Village, at Casanova restaurant in Carmel, and Rondia just dropped off shipments at Monte Vista Wine & Spirits in Monterey and Surf and Sand in Carmel.