Eventually, Cantillon were the only ones left brewing Lambic in Brussels, but were rewarded for their perseverance through the dark years of Lambic once America got a taste for it in the late 90s and sour beers became popular amongst discerning beer drinkers. Now they are the most famous and revered lambic brewery in the World.
It’s important to understand the distinction between ‘sour beers’, which can include beers dosed with brett or any number of ‘wild yeasts’, and true spontaneously fermented lambics like those produced at Cantillon. The beers brewed in the Cantillon brewery are fermented solely by the wild yeasts in the air, which is let in through wooden slats in the roof of the brewery and allowed to come in to contact with the freshly brewed wort, which is pumped into the large, square, open topped cooling vessel located in the ramshackled loft.
When it is the living things in the air itself which your business relies on, you can understand why they take this so seriously. This is why you’ll never see a cobweb being swept away inside Cantillon. Because, as strange as it might sound, they are essential to the microcosm of the brewhouse and ensure that a space packed with bubbling barrels of spontaneously fermenting beer isn’t over-run with sugar-seeking fruit flies.
You feel a genuine sense of reverence as you explore the well-worn rooms of Cantillon Brewery, with every inch of the place having a piece of history attached to it. Whether it’s the thousand-stacked bottles of gueuze quietly maturing, or that magical open topped fermenting vessel tucked away in the loft, everything has a purpose and a story to tell.
And explore is exactly the right word to use. Even the modestly marked wooden doors of the entrance ensure every person who enters has a look of I found it on their face as they walk into the tasting room - before being ushered through into the brewery itself, armed with some information and a smile, then thrust into the thick of it and allowed to explore, enjoy, at their leisure.
There really is something magical in the air at Cantillon.
56 rue Gheude,1070 Brussels