Jan Mathys Cornelissen (1811 – 1874)
In the beginning
The history of our brewery dates all the way back to the first half of the nineteenth century. Jan Mathys Cornelissen brewed beer in Gerdingen, just a stone’s throw from Opitter. He was married to Anna Maria Cornelissen and passed along his noble craft to his son, Joseph (Jef) Cornelissen, who established Brouwerij Cornelissen. Jan Mathys Cornelissen was the first of what is now six Cornelissen generations to bear the proud initials JC.
Joseph Cornelissen (1859 – 1950)
The Great War
Jef’s ambition leads to his donning of the mayoral sash of Opitter. But he is no stranger to adversity. The brewery has commercial troubles, and in 1899, his wife dies while giving birth to their eleventh child. More dark clouds fill the skies when the First World War breaks out. Raw materials for his beer are only available in limited quantities. And in 1918, to make matters worse, his two sons, Jaak and Jan, are arrested by the occupying forces and charged with espionage (“Spionage en overbrenging over den draad” or “Espionage and transfer over the Wire of Death”). Jef was sentenced to death, but luckily his punishment was changed to a life sentence of forced labour. When the war ended, Jef was able to avoid finishing this sentence.
Jaak Cornelissen (1890 – 1962)
The beer entrepreneur
Jaak Cornelissen, Jef’s son, took the reins of the brewery, and as an entrepreneur, had some big plans. Some time around 1936, he built a new brewery next to the existing one, focussing on low fermentation beers. The Pax lager has been brewed here since 1937. Jaak also brought figurative life to the brewery, and starting in 1952, he became the popular mayor of Opitter. The many unions and associations that came knocking on his door always got to speak with Jaak, the Brewer.
Jan Cornelissen (1924 – 1979)
World War II
Jan Cornelissen, who worked by the side of his father, Jaak, for many years, continued on with the family brewing tradition. Despite his youth – he was only 16 years old at the time – he took over the family business. His brother Leo also worked in the family business and took care of the administrative side. Together, the brothers also took the first steps toward exportation of the brewery’s products, with their Kronenbier that was intended for the German market.
Josephus Cornelissen (1950)
When he died in 1979, Jan left behind ten children, while his brother remained unmarried. Ultimately, it was Jef Cornelissen, Jan’s oldest son, who took over the brewery after completing his studies at the Brewery School in Ghent. Just like his grandfather Jaak, Jef is infected with the brewer’s bug. Under his leadership, investments were made in modern machinery and new techniques and buildings, although Jef continued to safeguard the family values and traditional brewing methods that have grown this brewery (still called Sint-Jozef) to its current stature.
Jef Cornelissen (1981)
Proud of Cornelissen
Following tradition, Jef Jr., the son of Jef Cornelissen, also stepped into the family business after his studies. Since 2014, Jef Jr. has proudly carried on the family line of “JC”s. Jef’s ambitious plans for the future are built on family values, quality, authenticity and a unique taste experience. It is clear that from now on the brewery will work on a global scale, with an eye to the growing export market in other parts of the world. In the meantime, the old Sint-Jozef name has been replaced by the family name: Brouwerij Cornelissen. And by now, the future has also been assured. Jef’s children, Jacob and Julie – complete with the initials JC – are growing up as the seventh generation of what has become a rich, family history.