30 December, 2007

The Cantillon Brewery

On our last day in Brussels (28 December), we decided to track down the Cantillon brewery to go on their self guided tour. Since they produce some of my favorite beers and the brewery is so historic, we could not pass up on the chance to visit and taste a few of their spontaneously fermented treats. From our guidebook the brewery looked to be a good 15 or 20 minute walk from the centre of Brussels and since the weather was clear and not too cold outside, we decided to walk it instead of taking the Metro. Well the 15 or 20 minutes turned into more like 30 or more since my expert navigation skills seemed to be left at the bar from the night before. After a few wrong turns, we made it to the brewery and if not for my reading reviews of the brewery before our trip, I would have thought that the brewery was not open as the entrance is very non- descript.

I was very pleased to turn the knob on the front door and to be greeted by a nice crowd of lambic lovers and a nice funky feeling of being inside this historic brewery. The brewery is really a warehouse on a city block and appears to be very original. Upon opening the door you find a tasting area to the left where they pour samples of various beers at the end of the door and they also allow you to purchase a glass of any beer that is currently being sampled. When we visited they were sampling Rose d’ Gambrinus, Lambic, Kriek and Faro. Walk a little further past the tasting area and you find the reception desk and gift shop. The gentleman that greeted us was actually the brewer. He gave us a brief description of the brewing process and then they leave you to the brewery and let you walk through at your own pace. The little booklet they give explains each major room and what happens when they brew but sadly there was no brewing going on this day. Just walking through the brewery was amazing to see how such specialized beer is made.

There are several numbered sections to the tour including the mashing house, room with hop boilers and crushing machine, the granary, cooling tun room, barrel storage, barrel cleaning, the bottling line and the cellar. Going up into the loft for the granary was really cool as it was very very old and funky looking and smelling. The cooling tun area was also cool to visit as that is really where all the magic happens with the making of lambic beer. You can see where the shutters are opened and closed in the roof to let in the wild airborne yeast to help with the fermentation process, spontaneous fermentation that is.

After walking through the entire brewery and taking lots of pictures and videos, we ended up at the tasting bar where we had a few free samples of Cantillon beers including Gueuze, Kriek and Rose de Gambrinus. I also purchased a full glass of the Kriek for a mere €2.

The tasting bar area is very rustic and so is the seating area where you can relax and take in their great beers. There are a handful of odd tables and chairs in the seating area and 2 wood burning stoves that warm the otherwise cold warehouse. While drinking my full glass of Kriek I walked around the tasting area and ran into (no literally) the brewery cat that was walking around and climbing on things. He or she was up on top of a large palate full of Cantillon beer crates. He or she was pretty friendly as you can probably tell from the pictures below.

Overall we probably spent about 2 hours at the brewery and could have spent more time taking in the brewery and drinking their beers but we were on our way to Bruges so we had to leave. We will surely be back for more tours in the future.

Take a look at these funky pictures from the Cantillon brewery

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