Posted by Lauren
We leave for London this afternoon and I cannot wait to dive into all the Olympics madness. Bring it on, Brits.
This post picks up at after our 5-mile Brussels run. You should probably start at the beginning though! #roadtoLondon
Ah, yes. Cantillon!
Or shall I say, Brasseriet-Brouwerij Cantillon?
The Cantillon Brewery tour was unlike any other brewery tour I have ever been on. I felt like I was touring an old barn rather than a facility that produces 1,450 barrels of beer per year. When we bought our tickets, a lady gave us some pamphlets with detailed information for the self-guided tour. Kyle and I switched off reading the long descriptions and I learned quite a bit along the way!
The Brewing Area – Mashing Tun
Hop Boilers and Crushing Machine
Now’s a good time to summarize for you (mostly for the benefit of my dear friend, Dr. Shev):
- Cantillon was founded in 1900 (I thought it was older based on the state of the facility)
- the family-run business produces .00009% of the beer in Belgium
- they are famous for their Lambic beers (keywords here being Kriek and Geuze)
- CRUCIAL: beers are spontaneously fermented with yeast and bacteria in the air (the wort is naturally infected unlike in most beers where yeast is added manually)
- the beer ages in oak barrels, which are a little fancier than the typical fermentation vessels
- their beers are old! 3 years instead of the the sub-4-month old ones we know and love
- ALSO CRUCIAL: they blend beers of different years prior to bottling. Each 3-year-old batch gets a little 2yr and 1yr mixed in because…
- …the beer is refermented with sugars still in the young beers
Cooling Tun Room (aka where the magic happens!)
This is where the beer absorbs all the bacteria and yeast floating around in the air. Scientists from the Univ. of Leuven studied the organic chemistry of Lambic fermentation and identified 100 strains of yeast, 27 strains of acetic bacteria, and 38 strains of lactic acid bacteria in just one Lambic!!
The beer ferments violently for a little bit (barrels remain capless) and then they mature for almost 3 years. They aren’t tapped off, so they lose 20% of the original liquid during these 3 years. Bye-bye beer.
Next steps include mixing 3yr, 2yr, and 1yr beers into a blend called Gueuze (pron. gooz) or 2yr and fruit and 1yr into a fruit beer blend (ex. sour cherries make Kriek).
Then you bottle!
At this point the bottles sit for 6 months to re-ferment from the sugars in the 1yr mix. Unlike almost all other beers there is no sugar remaining when you drink it!
Have I talked enough about this yet? ;) Our 6€ tour came with a hefty “tasting” of 2 beers.
Round one: unfiltered, pre-blended Lambics
Round two: Kriek (the sour cherry one) and Gueuze (blend of 1, 2, and 3yr Lambics)
For me, the sugar-less beer had a unique taste reminiscent of white wine. All three were very odd, but enjoyable in their own right. The building, with all its cobwebs and rust, produces the most unique beers thanks to the yeasty air.
Raw materials: wheat, malted barley, hops, water, and air! Too cool.
If you remember from one of my Amsterdam posts, we had ice cream cones after visiting Brouwerij IJ … That trend continued in Brussels at one of the best artisanal ice cream makers in town: Comus & Gasterea.
We each got one scoop, (speculoos for me and salted caramel caramel salé for Kyle). Five glorious minutes later we were empty handed and went back inside for more (sour cherry griotte for me and raspberry framboise for Kyle). Double the fun!
We walked around, popping into a few shops with awesome chocolate displays. The next photo I have on my phone is one I took a few hours later, at a non-touristy bar on the south end of town: Le Marseillais du Jeu de Balle.
Alongside the Olympics and good company (bartender was an amiable guy!) I ordered a Steenbrugge Wit from the tap and Kyle chose a Guldenberg (? – so many beers that will never make it to the States!)
We ate cheaply with gyro takeaway and headed back to the airbnb on the other side of town.
The next morning we took off for Brugge! By the way, this was the view from our room:
Pretty sweet dome, huh?
Next up: Brugge!
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