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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow (December 20, 2013) I will be getting married to a man. My husband was a bit slow to come around to enjoying craft beer but now enjoys a good stout and porter. If it had been up to me, the reception would be just beer, but he and others convinced me to have some snacking food. Though my selections aren’t perfect I had to keep in mind the varying tastes of my guests because not all of them love the bitter sting of an IPA. So I thought I’d share with everyone the beers I chose for the wedding.
San Diego beer drinkers will recognize that most of the beer here is from San Diego breweries. First off, two ballast point brewer’s selections. These multi-packs first became available this year and help satisfy guests who like a good pale ale and amber while including one of San Diego’s top IPAs, the Sculpin. Big Eye IPA is also solid and rounds out the pack. From Stone, another San Diego Brewery, I have six 22oz bottles of the 2013 Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter. This is for my husband and anyone else who prefers a good porter. Those same people might also appreciate the Full Suit Belgian Brown from Karl Strauss, one of the bigger San Diego breweries. Also from Karl Strauss is their Tower 10 IPA, a favorite of mine that looks like it was freshly released. To top it all off, I have two (though only one pictured here) of the delightful New Belgium Folly Pack 2013 (as I reviewed in my earlier post). This set is nice because it has some lighter seasonal brews and some IPA and even a Double IPA (the strongest beer of the night).
This gives us a total of 108 12oz bottles of beer and 6 22oz bottles of beer. Assuming 30 out of our 40 guests drink beer, that is about 3 or 4 drinks per person.
[NOTE: I purposefully did not get a bunch of Green Bullet or other beers over 9% because I want to be able to enjoy myself without going overboard. I also purposefully did not buy a bunch of growlers or a keg. It is better to have a variety than to assume that everyone will love my favorite IPA.
If you happen to notice that the boxes are empty, you are correct. The beers are all chilling in the fridge so I don’t have to put them on ice.]
I’ve had this bottle aging for almost a year in my wine fridge. It really comes through in the plum flavors behind the spice. Much nicer than I remember it being the last time. Remember you can usually age these specialty beers for a year or two. It tends to mature the flavor.