The Cantillon Brewery of Brussels is known for it’s production of a specific kind of beer called lambics. The brewery has been in business since 1900, occupying the same building in Anderlecht municipality of the Belgian capital.
Cantillon still holds to the principles of natural fermentation, which is the traditional way of brewing lambic, and one that almost all other lambic makers have abandoned, since the process is time-consuming and limits the quantities a brewery is able to produce.
A visit to the Brussels Museum of the Gueuze (as the brewery is called) is a self guided walk around the brewery itself, with an informational guide. The walking tour is easy to follow, and is available Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, and Saturdays from 10 to 5.
As with most of the brewery tours I’ve taken, the process and equipment used for brewing is similar, but Cantillon’s are more traditional. Since Cantillon’s beers are so unique in the beer world, I was especially excited to see the brewery and what made it different.
The first of these rooms was the room containing the cooling tun. It is here, during the cold season, that the beer (in it’s early stages) is exposed to ‘natural’ agents of fermentation. These are naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria which initiate the fermentation process.
Once inoculated with the wild yeasts, the young beer is pumped into oak or chestnut barrels, and the fermentation and maturing process is allowed to take place.
I was also fascinated by the barrel cleaning room. Since Cantillon is one of the few remaining breweries where all of their beers are barreled, it was extremely interesting seeing the attention given to making sure each barrel is thoroughly cleaned between each use.
The lost stop on the tour portion of the experience is the bottling line. The day I was there they were bottling the traditional gueuze. It was remarkable being able to see the inner workings of a brewery I admire so much.
My tour of the Cantillon Brewery was an exceptional experience, one that I would highly recommend to any beer lover visiting Brussels. The ability to see inside of a working brewery isn’t that uncommon, but to see one that holds to it’s traditional ways of brewing, in spite of all the breweries brewing lambics in a quicker, more profitable (although less historically correct) way is part of what makes the visit so rewarding.
Beers & Bars of the Europe 2013 Trip Series: