02 December 2012

Beer Travels: Brasserie Cantillon

Jake Wrote:

A last minute work trip sent me to Europe for the last ten days. The original plan was to be in Luxembourg for all ten days. After determining where Luxembourg was in Europe (sandwiched between Belgium, Germany, and France), I decided to see how far it was from the hotel to Cantillon in Brussels. It turns out that it is a three-hour train from Luxembourg City’s train terminal to the southern terminal in Brussels (Gare Midi).  The brewery is a five-minute walk from Midi. So, on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, off I went.

After figuring out the direction I needed to walk for the five minutes, I came to the front door.

The next challenge: Which door do I choose. The sign on the far left says “The Museum of Sour Beer”, so I chose that door. There is a bell that is tempting to ring, but, as I watched happen a number of times, nobody answers the bell.  Immediately after you enter, there is a tasting station.

After grabbing a glass of the Lambic (Two EURO!), I was told that the tour was self-paced and includes a tasting for 6 Euro. The tour consists of an Introduction given by one of the family members and then an eight-station tour that takes you through the brewing and bottling process.

Stations one and two cover making the wort.

Stations three and four are the cool-ship and the area where they fill and store the barrels. The wort stays in the cool-ship for one day to gather the naturally occurring yeast before being put in barrels for 1-3 years. I was lucky enough that there was wort standing for the day. The smell was on par with the bourbon distilleries we toured in October (i.e. AMAZING)

Stations five and six showcase the blending of the labic and the barrel cleaning area.  The press in the foreground of the picture is used for adding the fruit to the young lambic. During the cleaning process, the chain that is hanging is put in the water-filled barrel and put in the machine in the picture below to clean any of the bugs that may have bored into the wood.

Stations seven and eight are the bottling and bottle storage. The only modern machine in the process is the bottling line that has a conveyor that takes the bottles to the storage bays where they are stacked end-to-end. Because the floor is a little uneven, they use wood sticks that resemble crown molding to level the bottles.

Overall, the trip made for a great day. I would love to go back with a group and split some bottles in the tasting area and make an afternoon of the tour as well. They have pre-made three bottle packs for sale or you can buy bottles individually and they will package it for you.

Quick Hitters:
- Because the introductions are given in a single language one at a time, you get the chance to meet others on the tour and then share a sample with them at the end.
- Make sure you buy a map and mark it ahead of time. The map I bought in the train station did not have the key streets I needed, so it took some wandering. 
- Grab a glass when you walk in and then pay for the tour as you typically have 5-10 minutes before the introduction is given in the language you need.

How to get there:
- The closest station is Gare Midi, which is the southern station in Brussels.
- You can also get off the train at Gare Centraal and walk through the Grand Palace and then work your way to the brewery
- There are some dicey looking places near the brewery, so go with a friend.

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