Long before the 18th century, the banks of the Alzette, in the heart of the Grund district, already attracted breweries and tanneries. The first trace of a brewing activity could be tracked back to 1670, but the official date of establishment of what was not yet the Brasserie Funck-Bricher was 1764. It was then owned by the Linden family, where in 1808 one of the daughters, Anne-Catherine, married Henri Funck, from the Michel Funck brewery.
The introduction in Luxembourg of the low fermentation process from Pilsen (Czech Republic), between 1842 and 1854, proved a decisive innovative moment for this industry. This process made it possible to produce a “clear” beer, which tasted better and was therefore favourably accepted by the consumer..
In parallel, the invention of pasteurisation, in 1863, allowed the beer to be kept longer, while the efficiency of the breweries was improved following the gradual installation of steam engines and the arrival of the first artificial cooling units making it possible to brew low fermentation beer all year long.
In the middle of the 19th century, the Grand Duchy counted 35 breweries that produced more than 37,000 hectolitres. Among them, the brewery created in 1845 by Jean-Baptiste Bofferding in Bascharage, which drew water of exceptional purity from its own spring some 317 metres underground, and which acquired its first industrial equipment in 1851.
In 1862, following the marriage between Mathias Funck and Catherine Bricher, the Brasserie Funck in the Grund became once and for all the Brasserie Funck-Bricher.
However, the market was very competitive and readjusted itself naturally. The number of breweries gradually decreased: they were only fifteen at the beginning of the 20th century. Only the larger breweries – which had a maximum of twenty employees – had a fairly rational organisation and were profitable enough to resist ups and downs and maintained a high level of quality.
They also participated in various international competitions to promote their know-how. In 1900, the Grand Prix at the Paris World Fair was awarded to the collective pavilion of the Luxembourg brewers.
The First World War hit the sector hard. The shortage of malt and barley led to regular interruptions in production and the quality was affected. In 1915, Mathias Funck died at the age of 81, a year before his brewery was recognised as a supplier to the Grand-Ducal Court.
Once the armed conflicts were over, beer production got off to a new start, first thanks to the 40,000 American soldiers stationed at the time in the Grand Duchy, and then thanks to exports to Belgium favoured by the new customs agreements with the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union.
Breweries began to modernise their machines and buildings., Between 1927 and 1930, Bofferding invested in a new brewery, a true room of machinesand refrigeration units for making ice. For its part, Funck-Bricher also began its transformation with a new brewing facility (now occupied by … Amazon), a new machine room and new cellars. Victor and Joseph Funck, the owners of the Funck-Bricher brewery, advertised their company as “the most modern in the Grand Duchy”
These efforts paid off: the quality of the Bofferding and Funck-Bricher beers was celebrated on the international scene, with new prizes being won at major world events. Commercial success enabled the companies to get through the economic crises of the 30s without too much damage.
The Second World War broke this momentum, with the confiscations by the German occupier forcing brewers to return to “ancestral” delivery methods, using horse drawn carts, mules or oxen!
The return to normal took almost two decades: it was not until 1963 (471,000 hl) that the national level of production reached before the war (466,000 hl) was exceeded.
Meanwhile, in 1949, after the death of Maria Funck, the last direct descendant of the Brasserie Funck-Bricher, Georges Lentz-Flohr, a cousin, took over the company. Fifteen years later, Funck-Bricher, strong in Luxembourg-city, bought the brewery of Dudelange and began to expand its range. First discussions around the idea of creating a single large multi-brand brewery were not successful.
In 1974, after completing his marketing studies at Miami University in Oxford, Georges Lentz-Flohr’s son, Georges M. Lentz Jr., joined the family business and immediately took charge of a merger project with the objective of achieving a big enough critical size to prevent any hostile takeover by foreign groups.
As a result, the Brasserie nationale was born, bringing together the 8% market share of Funck-Bricher and the 12% of Bofferding. Funck-Bricher gave up its brand to create a substantional volume with a single brand, with Bofferding beer being further brewed in Bascharage, where large sums were invested to automate the process.
In 1986, the Bofferding family retired, and Georges Lentz Senior became the sole owner of the Brasserie nationale. He continued to invest in modernising the production facilities. In 1990, new fermentation and aging tanks brought the total production capacity to 258,000 hectolitres.
Five years later, the brewery received the biggest award in the industry: a “DLG Grand Prix”, which praised its quality, its production methods and the taste of its beer.
At the same time, the Brasserie nationale continued to strengthen the distribution of its products and in 1999, it bought Munhowen, an all-beverage depository, which was founded in 1908. This elevated the company to the top of the market for this sector in the Greater Region, while ensuring greater stability through diversification.
From 2000, the brewery took an ecological approach to reduce energy, mainly thanks to the “Merlin” cooking system in the brewhouse, which also reinforced the quality of the beer. Also thanks to a cleaning process for the fermentation tanks, which reduced the need for water by 70% and halved the amount of cleaning products.
As a result, in 2001, the Brasserie Nationale won a new DLG Grand Prix and, in 2002, won Environmental awards from the FEDIL and the European Commission. In 2004, it absorbed the Brasserie Battin, following the retirement of its two leaders, Marc and Paul Origer, grandsons of the founder.
Today, Georges M. Lentz Jr prepares his succession for his children, who have already proven themselves outside the brewing sector. Isabelle Lentz, returning from Cambodia to renovate and operate a hotel in Luxembourg for five years, was hired by Munhowen in 2011. She is now the Horeca trade marketing manager.
Mathias Lentz, after four years in China, returned to the country in 2015 to take over widespread exports. The succession is now well and truly assured.