Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Weekend in Brussels pt.2 - Cantillion

The walk from the Pissing baby to Brasserie Cantillon is not long, should only take 15 minutes, but it was very cold and we made a few wrong turns so it took us a bit longer then it should. The neighborhood isn’t great, its pretty rough actually, but we are in a large group. The cold made it slow going mostly because we had to stop in 3 bars for a drink and to warm up on the walk, a few Orvals and a Westmalle Triple later and we have arrived.

More after the jump.

Thumbs up!

Unfortunately I suck at my DSLR and had it on the wrong setting so some photos in here didn’t turn out. You enter through those big yellow wooden doors and you are smack dab in the middle of the brewery, to the left there are pallets of grain and to the right there is more storage. While we were there they just got a grain delivery, so a guy was using a pulley system and hoisting bags up through a hole in the ceiling all the way to the 3rd floor about 10 feet infront of the entrance. One bag ripped and spilled all over the floor and people were screaming at eachother, it was chaotic and thoroughly entertaining.

After you walk past the pallets you see the tasting area on the left and a sales counter on the right. So we walk to the counter and the woman introduces the self-guided tour, 6 euros to walk through and 3 samples at the end. She gives you a brief history/run down of what Lambic is and how its produced, hands you a pamphlet and sends you on your way.

There is a long hallway with bottles stacked from floor to ceiling aging, its really impressive.

Hey look, Zwanze 2012!
On the left hand side of the hallway is the bottling line, Jean Van Roy (owner, brewer, blender etc) and his team were slaving away in there as we made our walk. Wish I could have met him.

At the end of the long hallway is the brew house, all original equipment dating back to the 19th century. The brewery is set up in a vertical manner, grain and cheesey hops are stored in the attic, they are then fed into the mill which is above the mash tun. Wort is then pumped back up into the attic and into the coolship to cool naturally overnight while being inoculated by the yerast and bacteria in the cool Brussels air through open window slots. You then you walk through 2 long rooms filled with barrels.
A look at the coolship with the window slots slightly open.

Take note of the maggots, not OSHA compliant I'm sure.
Some folks I was with were really put off by the fact that this place is dirty, really dirty actually. There are cats and spiders everywhere, dirt all over the floors, obviously maggots on the outside of a barrel and black mold on the ceilings. In the States, this place would be shut down. The Van Roy (and many other Lambic producers) believe that these things are not to be disturbed, and that everything living in the brewery contributes to the taste of Cantillon’s lambic. It doesn’t bother me none, this stuff is amazing.

Here is the shoot that they were pulling the grains up, from the top down.

An old bottle filler on the 2nd floor.

We then finished our tour in the tasting room, finally to taste some Lambic right here at Brasserie Cantillon.

The first pour is straight unblended Lambic, 1 year old. It’s a deep yellow, served still out of a pitcher right from the barrel. Its slightly sweet, not overly tart, not particularly pleasing for me but its nice to try the Lambic in its infant stage. Gave me a great appreciation for the need to age Lambic for years.

Then we had a choice of Iris, a Dry Hopped Lambic with Saaz, Kriek (Lambic age with Cherries), and a Gueuze (blend of 1,2,3 yr old Lambic). I had all 3 of course. I've had all but the Iris in the past, but the Gueuze and Kriek are fantastic.

The Iris was really interesting, it seemed a bit darker then the straight Lambic, moderate carbonation with a nice spicy note followed by some funk very nice. The Kriek was my favorite, dry tart and you taste the cherries but not overwhelmingly so. The Gueze was epically good, deep golden color, high carbonation, funky nose with that typical Cantillon aroma, tart and complex just amazing.

By this point most of our group had already left bc they said all the beer tasted like sour milk, more for me I guess. So myself and a few guys stayed and bought a bottle of Zwanze 2012, a lambic aged with Rhubarb. Now I don’t know much about Rhubarb but this was awesome, the aroma was pretty funky with some earthiness, dry and a bit tart. A once in a lifetime beer.

We left after the Zwanze although I could have stayed a while for another bottle but it was pretty cold in the brewery actually. We took a cab to Flagstaff for dinner, a nice French Brasserie with solid food at a decent price. After dinner it was time to visit Delerium café as people were starting to get rowdy.


  1. So jealous. And great job at describing the brewery. This is definitely on my bucket list.

    1. It was an amazing place to visit, I wish we had stayed longer and had a few more bottles. But it was really cold in there. You certainly wont be disappointed when you make it there. Its in the hood though, take a cab or the subway.