A visit to Belgium isn’t complete without a tour of a local brewery – or two. For Brussels, this means a trip to the Cantillon Brewery
, the only remaining brewery within the walls of Brussels. However if you’re expecting a traditional ale or hoppy lager you’re in for a surprise, as the Cantillon Brewery is one of only a handful of traditional Lambic breweries still in operation.
|An old crate for bottles of Gueze|
Lambic is a flat beer produces from barley and wheat and fermented with naturally occurring airborne yeasts. In fact, the Cantillon Brewery is one of the only places you can actually see the brewing process, and taste the results from all their hard work. Relying on age old recipes handed down through generations, and original equipment dating back over one hundred years, the Cantillon Brewery produces thousands of barrels this centuries old beverage and its wonderful derivatives each year.
|The whole brewery is a blending of original and new|
|Each area has a description of its use|
However, while the Lambic is unique on its own, it’s also only the beginning, because what the Cantillon Brewery does with it next is truly special.Using fresh fruit, and the sugars produced through further fermentation, the Cantillon Brewery also produces many varieties of a sweeter, sparkling, beverage called Gueze. Often called the champagne of beer (as it’s produced using the same techniques, only using beer instead of wine), Gueze is a sparking beer with a wonderful combination of sweet and sour flavours. In addition to the Gueze, which is aged in former wine and champagne barrels for three years, the brewery also makes fruit-flavoured Guezes using tons of real, fresh raspberries, cherries, and apricots.
|Barrels of Cantillon beers aging for perfect flavour|
|More original equipment – still used today|
As we entered the doors to the Brewery, only a short walk from our hotel, we instantly felt part of the family. The brewery is now on its 4th generation of brew masters from the same family, and everyone is warm and welcoming (not to mention eager to talk about beer). After a thorough introduction to the brewery by one of the employees, emphasizing what sets them apart from their contemporary counterparts, we were allowed to wander through the process using an amazingly descriptive brochure and corresponding numbers.
|Bottles awaiting a fill|
|Bottles age for a long time even after coming out of the barrels|
Nearly one hour later, after wrapping up our self-guided tour of oak barrel filled cellars, hundred year old copper canisters, and creaky wooden staircases, it was time for everyone’s favorite part – sampling the goods! Included in the 6 Euro entry fee was a glass of one of their wonderful beers to be enjoyed in their cozy lounge area complete with wood burning fire. The only hard part was choosing between the four different varieties currently available.
|Our choices – Rose on the left and Gueze on the right|
After careful consideration, we opted for the Gueze and the Rose, a raspberry infused Gueze. The fact that they use 150 kilograms of fresh fruit with just 500 litres of beer is evident once you put it to your lips – this stuff is fantastic.
For more information on the Cantillon Brewery or their selection of beers (including where you can get them across the world), check out their website here. Brewery tours are carried out throughout the day, or you can just stop by for a drink or two.