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Monday 8 March 2010

My visit to Cantillon

The other week I started to write a post about how my new 'thing' was lambic beers. I started to write and then I kept on removing and adding bits and now it seems as if the original feeling of the post is totally gone. I decided to scrap that post for the time being and then I remembered what it was that got me really excited about Lambic in the first place; The Cantillon Brewery.

Me peering into a very scary machine
Some of you may have read about my trip to Brussels. That seems like such a long time ago now. I did lots of great things there and I visited many great watering holes. One place sticks out for me during my trip though and that is the Cantillon Brewery. They claim to be the last traditional brewery in Brussels and they make the love it or hate it style of beer, Lambic. Personally I love Lambic beers and when I say Lambic I mean traditional stuff like Cantillon and not overly sweet Krieks that you can find in almost every French and Belgian bar and in many British supermarkets. Don't get me wrong, there are good krieks out there but probably not in your local Tesco.

Our trip was on foot from the centre of Brussels right out into what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We thought we had got lost but all the street signs still had the right names from my very sketchy written directions. We turned down Rue Ghuede and there it was, Cantillon.

Our welcome was short and sweet and we were let loose to have a look around the brewery on our own. We had chosen to go early and this seemed like it payed off as we were the only two people looking around the brewery at the time when we first arrived. We took our time and peered into every vessel and looked at every piece of machinery going. I dare say we may have even tasted some malt (just dont tell the brewer). It was great to see inside a live working Lambic brewery. Ive seen quite a few 'regular' breweries now but this was the first Lambic one I have seen. Everything was so natural, from the cobwebs that hung from the walls to the Cantillon cat that one day may be as famous as the dog from BrewDog. A little note about the cat, if you do see the cat on your travels around the brewery it is nowhere near as friendly as it looks, just ask my mate. 

Im sure you all know how Lambic is made so there is no point in launching off into a discussion about that but it is fair to say that the whole self guided tour, for a mere €5 was well worth it. At the end of the tour and after having looked at every corner of the brewery we were rewarded with two tasters of the beer that they make. On the day we were there it was their 100% Bio Lambic and then a choice of either Cherry or Raspberry. Natually there being two of us we had one of each fruit beer and swapped to compare. I think Raspberry wins but thats because Im a bit sour that way.


At the end of the tour we bumped into some fellow beer tourists from St Albans CAMRA. Oh joy I thought! They turned out to be very nice guys and we shared a bottle of Saint Lamvinus between the four of us. This lambic is my idea of heaven as it mashes my two favourite drinks, beer and wine. Made with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes it is the perfect blend of beer and wine (I could work in marketing, that honestly did not come from the bottle). After that bottle we all toddled off on our own seperate ways. They were in search of more Lambic and we were in search of Westvleteren (more about that later in the week). 

If you havent been to visit Cantillon I really recommend it. We had a great time. Ive heard that the busier it is the less fun the tour actually is, so maybe visiting off season is a  good idea. Cantillon has really sparked my interest in a style that I never even dreamed that I would like and I would really love to see a UK brewery try their hand at making a Lambic. Go on prove those Belgians that say 'it can only be made in one area' wrong. I want to see a bastardised UK lambic. Anyone else?


  1. I need to head to Brussels soon to do this tour. My parents are going in a couple of weeks and I'm tempted to tell them to go there as it's so cheap!

    And hell yeah, why not have a UK lambic! I'd happily just take a good British beer made with wild yeast that's meant to be there and not just infected.

  2. Snap! There are a few UK breweries trying to make different and new stuff. I for one would like to see one of these beer be a lambic. Why not is what I say?!

    P.s I would recommend the tour, even if they are not big beer geeks it is good fun

  3. This was my first stop when I touched down in Brussels for the first time a couple of years ago. I remember being quite distressed from the flight, all the trekking about, the heat. And like you I thought I was lost in that weird area that the brewery is in - I remember the dozens of strange looking shop fronts that all had identical mannequins in the windows selling knock off designer clothes. I had never been so pleased to see a brewery.

    The beer is incredible, I agree, I'd like to see a UK brewery giving it a shot. Or even a Brettanomyces barrel aged beer, or something.

    (The title image on my blog was taken at Cantillon.)



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