Saturday, June 25, 2011

Visiting Brasserie Cantillon

If you like sour ales, chances are that you've at least heard of Cantillon. While I was in Brussels I had the opportunity to visit the brewery. When you first enter right off the streets you get the feeling that you shouldn't be there. You find yourself in a warehouse type building. And it is somewhat dark and there is the constant drone of machinery in the background.

After your eyes adjust to the light and you acclimate yourself to your new surroundings, you kind of shuffle 10 - 15 yards from the door where you are greeted by an attractive middle aged blond haired woman. She efficiently explains that you have signed up for a self guided tour of the brewery, which upon your completion you are entitled to two free beers. She gives you a quick run down of your stops along the way and sends you stumbling off into the brewery.

Once you find the first stop on the tour you start to realize just how cool the place is. The brewery is somewhat old, but very functional. The immediate charm of the dusty brewery starts to rub off on you. You realize that this place brews ale that is spontaneously fermented, so they really can't risk cleaning the brewery head to toe with bleach, because the brewer wants to attract the microbes that are required to inoculate the brew. Their coolship is beautiful and the barrel room even more striking. And the cobwebs, ah yes, the cobwebs. The brewery is full of cobwebs because as the wort cools overnight in the coolship the brewer believes that the spiders catch errant insects lurking around the brewery, therefore keeping those bugs out of the cooling wort.

Their beers are unmatched in terms of quality. The basic gueze is a blend of aged and young lambic, and more importantly it is incredibly quaffable. The Kriek and Framboise, aged with Cherries and Raspberries respectively are not sweet girly beers. These bad boys pack some sour punch and they finish quite dry. As complex as any wine you've ever had. In short, you've got to try them.

The brewer and owner Jean-Pierre Van Roy was a teacher by training. However, his wife was a Miss Cantillon. And her father who was the previous brewer and proprietor asked Van Roy to take over the brewery or he was going to close it. No real option, he took it over. Below is a picture of me and Jean Pierre.

If you've got the time and your in Brussels and you want to see how authentic Belgian sour ale is produced, this is your place!



James said...

Awesome. I'm going to be in Brussels in September and a Cantillon visit is on my agenda. Any other spots in Brussels you enjoyed?

HolzBrew said...


A couple of cool spots were Mort Subite (which based on your picture, it looks like you've been there), Delirium Tremens Monasaterium (very touristy),and Moeder Lambic. I think I enjoyed the beer cafes in Bruges more than Brussels. If you don't already have a copy, Tim Webb's Good Beer Guide to Belgium is a great reference.