Day One, Brussels: Brasserie Cantillon

After walking around the city center we walked to Brasserie Cantillon in the city's Anderlecht section. The brewery was located on Rue Gheude in a neighborhood with many immigrant owned clothing shops. The brewery is a two story brick structure with large wooden doors that is located across the street from an open lot.

We entered and were greeted by an elderly woman who said hello in French, Dutch and English. We paid 4 € for the the tour, which included a tasting at the end. She gave us a brief explanation of the brewing process in front of a set of pictures on the wall, but after this explanation the tour was self guided, with numbers located around the brewery that correspond to sections in a booklet that guests are given.

The first stop on the tour was the Mashing House. For brewing Cantillon uses 450 kg unmalted wheat and 850 kg malted barley. The temperature of the mash rises from 45º to 72º C in two hours. Extracting sugars from the grain with hot water produces 10,000 liters of wort.

The mash tun

The mash tun

The wort is then pumped into two kettles, where it is cooked for 3 to 4 hours. About a quarter of the liquid evaporates during this step, leaving 7,500 liters of more concentrated wort.

One of the kettles

The other kettle

The grain mill, located in the same room

The next stop on the tour was the attic, where grains and hops are stored. The attic was lit by two skylights. The bags of grain were sitting upright in an orderly array in the center of the attic, while the hops were stored on the far side of the attic. You could smell the distinct aroma of aged hops when standing on this side of the attic.

The grain

The side of the attic where hops are stored

In the attic is a stairway that leads to a small opening that looks onto the Cooling Tun, which is a shallow copper vessel into which the cooked wort is pumped to cool. The wort should cool to 18-20º C overnight, which limits the brewing season from October until April. This is also where the wort is innoculated with the wild yeast and bacteria that cause spontaneous fermentation. The micro-flora that innoculate the wort are considered to be specific to this room. Therefore, in 1985, when the original roof was replaced, the original tiles were put under the new ones. Additionally, there are shutters on the left and right side of the cooling tun and holes in the tiles to allow airflow.

The cooling tun

The cooling tun

The cooling tun

A hole in the tiles

After cooling and innoculation the wort is pumped into Pipes (650 L) or Hogsheads (250 L) where it will ferment and mature. These barrels were stored in the next room on the tour. The barrels in which fermentation was occurring were obvious. Foam was coming out of the bungholes of these barrels. The sour and funky aroma of a Cantillon lambic was distinctly evident when standing nearby. You could also see and hear bubbling, and see fruit flies buzzing around the foam.

A line of barrels with fermenting lambic

More barrels

The foam coming out of the top of a barrel



After three to four weeks the barrels are sealed and the lambic is then aged for one, two or three years. Over this time the sugar content of the three year old lambic is reduced to 0.2% and 20% of the liquid is lost.

Time does not respect what is done without him

Aging lambic

Aging lambic

Aging lambic


Gueuze is produced by blending one, two and three year old lambic. The sugars needed for refermentation in the bottle are supplied by the one year old lambic, while the older lambic provides character. According to the booklet, for every 10 barrels of lambic only 5 or 6 are suitable for blending to make Gueuze. The Cantillon fruit lambics are produced by mixing 150 kg of fruit with 500 liters of two-year old lambic. This is then left for at least three months so the fruit is macerated completely and then mixed with one-third young lambic. Both gueuze and fruit lambics are lightly filtered and then bottled. The bottles are then stored horizontally in nooks or cellars on the first floor, during this time refermentation takes place creating carbonation.

An old bottling machine

The Gueuze cellar

The St. Lamvinus cellar

After the tour we were given samples of Cantillon Gueuze and then I had Cantillon Kriek and David had Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus.

David in the comments:
I thought it was cool how three generations were there. The older gent, his son, and the young grandson. And alot of beer.
I purchased a Cantillon T-shirt for 10 or 15 € and a 75 cL bottle of St. Lamvinus for 7 €. When I told the woman that a bottle of St. Lamvinus costs me $40 in America she seemed shocked at the price.

Visiting the brewery was one of my top priorities while in Belgium, since it was a bottle of Lou Pepe Kriek that really turned me on to sour beers. Seeing where and how these amazing beers are produced was a great experience.

495. Cantillon Faro

After sampling the gueuze, kriek and Rosé de Gambrinus we asked to sample the Faro, which we were graciously given. This was poured from a brown plastic pitcher.

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Brasserie Cantillon
Alcohol: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle?
Style: Faro

Appearance (4.0): Pours a hazy, dark golden with no head, though some bubbles do form around the edge of the glass.

Smell (3.5): Strong caramel and candy sugar aroma, with Cantillon lambic undertones of tartness and funkiness.

Taste (3.5): Starts with a candy sweetness, which remains throughout. The finish is lightly tart with a light bitterness.

Mouthfeel (3.0): Smooth with no carbonation and a lightly dry finish.

Drinkability (3.5): A little too sweet, but that's what Faro is. Overall it's pretty drinkable.

Overall (3.55): This was my first experience with a Faro. The lack of carbonation was a little odd and the sweetness was a little much, but I was pleased with how the lambic characteristics weren't completely masked my the addition of sugars and caramel.

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