23 November, 2008

A Daytrip to Brussels for the Cantillon Quintessence

I got an email a few weeks ago from the Cantillon brewery in Brussels noting that they were having a cool open house tasting event on Saturday, 22 November that included about a dozen of their fine lambic beers, paired with local and regional foods and the kicker of it all was that it was only €15 per person! With todays exchange rates that is only about $20 to taste a full lineup of some of the best beers in the world and beers that are fairly expensive if, or should I say when, you can find them in the U.S. I emailed the brewery a few days later and made a reservation.

We debated about going up Friday night to stay 1 or 2 nights in Brussels but this would be our fifth trip to Brussels in less than 1 year so we opted to take a 8:24 am train from Luxembourg to Brussels which is so convenient and reasonably priced at €58 roundtrip for 2 people at a special weekend rate. We arrived in Brussels about 11:30 am and had only a 5 minute walk to the brewery. When we got there we were greeted by a bit of a line at the door but we were able to pay and have a tasting glass in hand in 5 minutes. The tasting was one from 10 am to 4 pm and for your money you got 10 tickets that were good at each of 10 different stations throughout the entire brewery. At each you got a nice sample of a Cantillon beer and a finger food items, mostly on bread. At a few stations you got to sample 2 beers. In these instances we were able to try to standard fruit lambic like their Kriek and then the premium version with more fruit added like the Lou Pepe Kriek. In most cases we got a little story about the beer we were sampling.

During the tasting we ran into our friend Chris that owns a great bottle shop in Arlon, Belgium, Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon. He was at the Cantillon tasting with about 20 members of his tasting group which meets each month at his shop for different beer tastings. We also got recognized by the Cantillon brewer which was pouring their gueuze so that was cool. We last saw him at Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon a month or so ago doing a tasting at the shop and then we were at Cantillon in September with Ed and Kelli. I guess from seeing a few times in the last 2 months he remembered us which was cool. At the 9th of 10 stands we started talking with the guy pouring Cantillon Iris which was matched with a fantastic peacan tart! When we started to speak English he asked where we were from, we said Philly and he got all happy when we said that. He talked very highly about Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia. This fellow, named Lorenzo, also mentioned that he is good friends with Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head in Delaware. It was a nice end to a great day of tasting.

We left the Cantillon brewery a little after 2pm and walked into town and stopped at the Mannekin Pis frite stand for some lunch. After that we did a little shopping and then stopped at the Delirium Cafe for a drink or 2. Even at this early part of the afternoon the bar was packed but we were lucky to find a table in the back. We sat in the section clearly marked "NO SMOKING" but there were a good 15 people or so smoking in that section so it was pretty much a joke. We left and did more shopping and got caught up in some snow but nothing big. We then hit 1 or 2 more bars before stopping in the evening for a pita in the Greek area of town and then we were on a 8:37 pm train back to Luxembourg and in our apartment by 10 minutes after midnight. It is nice that Brussels is so close and we can do a day trip from there. It was nice to sleep in our own bed and wake up in our own apartment the next morning.

Check out the pictures we took of this cool tasting day!

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