Sunday, February 3, 2013

Brasserie Cantillon (Brussels, Belgium)


To do the tour of Cantillon, I followed the walking directions to the brewery, starting at the Grand Place (Grote Markt).  Nice walk that took me longer than expected to do, but fun to have landmarks pointed and explained on sheets included with the map.  Otherwise, there are metro stops close by the brewery for a faster, less touristy trip to Cantillon.

I walked right by the building until I saw the Cantillon wrapped vehicle that got me to turn around.  After being welcomed, and paying, a brief history of Lambic is explained and the self paced walking tour starts at the end of the hallway.  A booklet explains everything by the numbers.  Not as personable format, but it does allow visitors to show up and learn on a tourists timetable. It seems that they move a lot more people through here as a result, so I'm fine with the solo tour.

I think the best thing about the tour is that the equipment is largely original, according to the booklet, and it feels like a working museum.  Some of the workers seem to have tired of being a tour prop, but that's understandable. The vertical brewing process started with the mash tun on the bottom floor and ended at the coolship on the top floor is worth the price of admission.

Mash tun
Tasting room. With the 6 euro fee for the tour comes two samples. My first sample is 18 month old straight Lambic.   At the beginning of the tour, I was warned that Lambic beer is sour. I suspect tourists must come here and not know what they are getting themselves in for.  In this case, it's less sour than I imagined it would be. Light orange beer with golden highlights in a small tulip glass to focus the nose. Earthy sourness in the nose is light but strengthens in the taste. Not completely dry yet, there is a small amount of sugar left to sweeten the taste.

For the second sample, I chose the gueuze.  Kriek and the framboise Rose de Gambrinus were also options. The gueuze was similar in color to the lambic but a distinctly darker shade. The blending of one, two and three year lambic is apparent in the depth and complexity of the beer. Still sour, but the blended layers make it more drinkable and refreshing.

I ended by paying for a glass of the Faro, which is lambic sweetened with caramel and candied sugar. The sour fights to rise above the caramel sweetness, but loses. The dark caramel color of the beer forecasts its very sweet character. The finish of the beer is both dry and sweet because of the addition of sugar.  Authentic faro is hard to acquire because bottling it is dangerous with the high addition of sugarexcessive carbonation will explode faro bottles if left too long.  Also, person pouring the samples also said the high carbonation will ruin the flavor over time as well.

Glass of Faro in tasting room
Overall, Cantillon is a slightly touristy but interesting tour of a working lambic brewery, cobwebs and all.  I took about 90 minutes for the tour, samples and writing, but most people went through much faster and left quickly after their two samples.  The only brewery tour within the heart of Brussels, Cantillon is well worth the effort.
Coolship for getting those Belgian bugs

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