The practical stuff first: Cantillon is a short walk from Brussels Midi Station. You can go just to sit and have some beers in their small bar area or you can take a self-guided tour, which ends with a glass of Lambic and a taster of another beer (and then carry on drinking).
Now for the romantic stuff: Cantillon Brewery is an innercity farmhouse and harks back hundreds of years. They make some of the world’s most revered beers. Those beers are spontaneously fermented, so they’re sour. Once brewed, they’re aged in rows and rows of old wooden barrels for up to three or four years—to walk among these barrels is wonderful, like a cathedral of wood (the smell is so good, too). The brewery is peerless and the beers are amazing—deep with balanced acidity and complexity. It’s somewhere beer geeks dream about going to and it always lives up to the expectation.
Visit Cantillon Brewery It’s A Top-Io Bucket List Tick Photo Gallery
The rarer experience is to go to one of their twice-yearly open brew days. At one of these you can spend the day in and around the brewery and follow the full brewing process—it’s remarkable to see the old brewkit working. Rarer still is Quintessence, which happens every other year. It’s a celebration of beer and food in the brewery, where you’ll get to taste around 25 rare world beers, each paired with a small snack. It’s a ticketed event with entry staggered throughout the day.
Drinking at Cantillon is one of the best beer experiences on the planet.
WHAT: Cantillon Brewery
HOW: Cantillon is open from 1 Oam—5pm every day except Wednesday and Sunday (and public holidays, so check the website, just in case; www.cantillon.be). A self-guided tour costs €7. You can buy bottles from the bar to drink in or take away.
WHERE: Rue Gheude 56, 1070 Brussels
Two More Sour Beer Experiences
* The Toer de Geuze Every other year—on the odd numbers—most of the Belgian Lambic brewers and blenders (plus a couple of bars) open their doors for visitors for the Toer de Geuze, a celebration of spontaneous fermentation. Buses carry drinkers between all the participating venues. It’s a rare chance to see inside some of these famous breweries (www.toerdegeuze.be).
* Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation With over 100 Lambics, including some rare and old bottles, The Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation is a must visit for sour lovers. It takes place over a weekend in May and is an unusual but lovely beer festival; a calm place where people are buying and sharing rare bottles of old, sour beer.