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The Beer Circle » Breweries, Cantillon » Brasserie Cantillon — Brussels, Belgium

Brasserie Cantillon — Brussels, Belgium

Cantillon, for me, was one of the great beer Meccas that the world has to offer. Brewing traditional lambics since 1900, the brewery puts out some of the best sour beers on the market. All of Cantillon’s beers are spontaneously fermented, meaning they are open to the air for the brewery’s natural terroir to impart more than 100 years of developed wild yeasts to create its unique flavors. The brewery is the only one left within the city of Brussels.

One happy camper

One happy camper

Cantillon focuses on creating lambics, which are uncarbonated traditional Belgian beers that are typically blended to make gueuze. Gueuze is traditionally a blend of one-, two-, and three-year-old lambics to the brewer’s taste. The blend is then bottled, allowing the beer to ferment an additional time, and naturally carbonate. Adding fruit to lambic (cherries, or kriek, and raspberries, or framboise) is another of Cantillon’s specialties, which I learned both at Churchkey (links to a review of Zwanze Day 2012 and also the beer itself) in DC and Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia.

Last weekend, I was able to make the trip to the hallowed brewery as I stopped in Brussels on my way to Oktoberfest in Munich. I had heard that finding the brewery was half of the fun, and those stories are not wrong. I followed the main road away from the Brussels Midi train station, tracked down an alley, and then down another alley, until I finally found the warehouse that houses the entire operation. For only six Euros, you can take a self-guided tour and get two samples (starting with a young lambic, and then choosing between Kriek or Framboise).

2010 Lou Pepe Kriek in the glass

2010 Lou Pepe Kriek in the glass

The tour takes you through the modest setup, including the bottles, mashtun, coolship, barrels, bottling, and packaging steps. I sort of blew through the tour, because realistically once you’ve taken one brewery tour you’ve taken them all. I had also read Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium on the plane, which went into great detail of the traditional brewing practices of the country, so I had no desire to self guide myself when I could be enjoying delicious Cantillon beer. The one takeaway is that the entire brewing space smells like lambic. It is truly amazing, as if the beer has seeped into every pore and crevice of the wooden walls. It was a welcome aroma that really got my tummy rumbling.

In addition to the two free samples, you can also purchase other beers by the glass or bottle. After tasting my lambic and framboise (the scandalous Rose de Gambrinus), I moved to the Faro (which is a lambic with an added freshly brewed, sweet beer with additional sugars) and then to a bottle of 2010 Lou Pepe Kriek. This bottle I split with some nice fellows from New Jersey who also had made the stop on their way across Belgium before a flight out of the relatively nearby Brussels airport.

I wanted to stay, but my flight had only landed four hours prior and it was time to check in to the hotel and eat something. Perhaps it was the jetlag, but more honestly I believe it was the amazing beer that made this my favorite brewery stop of all time.

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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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