Visiting Cantillon in Brussels, a Pilgrimage Worth Making

As a sour fan, Cantillon is considered one of those places that you need to visit at least once. After spending half a day there with great company I totally agree. Getting to Cantillon is pretty easy. The metro drops you off a short distance away from the brewery so you don’t have to walk too far. The tour is short but worth paying the 7 euro fee (cash only) for because of the tasters you get after the tour is finished. The real fun comes when you start sharing bottles of archive beers with the various people around. Ideally you should gather a group of five or six people to share bottles with so that you can each buy one bottle and you can all share beers. You will have to buy bottles for on site consumption with cash only. I ended up getting together a group of six people and we each bought one bottle to share with the group.

We started with the Fou Foune, a delicious peach beer.
We started with the Fou Foune, a delicious apricot beer.

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If you are lucky, Cantillon will have something unique and interesting on the to-go bottle list besides the standard Gueuze (a blend of different aged lambics), Kriek (brewed with cherries), and Rose de Gambrinus (brewed with raspberries). When I was there they happened to have the Cuvee St Gilloise, a dry-hopped lambic as well.

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The prices for beer to go are very reasonable. The 375ml bottles are 4 euros on site and the 750ml bottles are 7 euros. The beers are packaged in cardboard holders that don’t have the strongest handles so if you choose to leave with more than 6 bottles, you should take a cab back to your hotel to avoid breaking. Even then, some of the handles started to break by the time I got up to my room. If you can, bring two large cloth shopping bags with you so that you didn’t have to worry about the handles breaking on the way to the room. It is worth the trip so that you can bring back plenty of bottles to enjoy at home. The beers are much less expensive on site than they are if you find them in other places outside of Belgium.

The group I joined when I was at the brewery.
The group I joined when I was at the brewery.

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If you don’t stay to taste at least one bottle on site, it might seem like a waste of time to come all the way out to visit. Many reviews from people who came just for the tour expressed this view. Keep in mind as well that they are only open from 10AM to 5PM and they sell the last bottles for on site consumption at 4:15 so you should plan to get there shortly after Noon, after a hearty lunch, if you want to make the most of your experience. In general the people who arrive earlier in the day are at Cantillon to try as much as they can while they are there so you can easily get a share going. Of the bottles we shared, the Fou Foune (brewed with apricots) was the agreed upon favorite. I also really enjoyed the grand cru.

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All the bottles we finished.
All the bottles we finished.

Visiting Cantillon was everything I expected and it was a great time hanging out with the group of people I shared bottles with while we were there. The crowd appeared as Cantillon was about to close so those people could only do the tour and weren’t able to try any bottles. You should also make sure you enjoy sours before making the trip so you know what you are getting into.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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