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.
Resident Brewing hasn’t gotten a ton of buzz that I have seen around town in part because of their location in the heart of downtown. They are located inside The Local, a bar that recently had a face lift to modernize its previously dark dive bar style interior. They have a solid lineup of beers and are a great addition to the downtown brewery scene. Keep in mind though that later in the evenings the connected bar tends to have very loud music so if that is not your thing, you should try to visit it closer to when they open.
The gose was crisp, dry, refreshing, and not too salty. Though I have had more complex gose, this one is very enjoyable. The saison was fruity and dry with hints of white wine, a solid beer. The oatmeal stout was smooth with notes of chocolate, mild roast and smoke on a medium body. This is a very solid oatmeal stout. The loud mouth hoppy amber was intensely piney and floral with a strong bitter finish. I was given beer from the end of the keg so it may have been better when first tapped. It is quite a malty beer so I would not recommend this compared to the IPAs on tap.
Pio Pico Pale was fruity and exploding with grapefruit over a light malt bill with a nice dry finish. It is one of the more flavorful pale ales I have had in San Diego. The Chasing Galaxy was a delicious hazy IPA with tons of juice and a dry finish. I haven’t yet had a lot of the local hazy beers but this one comes close to many of the excellent ones I have had from elsewhere. The Citra IPA was nice and crisp though seemed to be lacking in the aroma department. It may have simply been on tap for a bit too long and lost its strong aromas.
For a brewery that I hadn’t heard any buzz about prior to visiting, I was quite impressed by the beers at Resident. They had many other beers on tap as well that I didn’t try because I wanted to stick to the styles that sounded interesting to me. You can see some barrels in the brew house so expect to see some barrel aged beers in the future. I wasn’t told what is aging in them.
There are a ton of breweries opening all the time and it can be hard for new ones to stick out among the crowd. That is unless they start out making beers as impressive as those from Fall. Fall is probably one of the most hyped up young breweries lately and I figured I would walk away disappointed but found myself really impressed by a lot of what I tasted. I tried two flights while I was there. My first full flight included the Interpretive Dance Session IPA, Jazz Hands Berliner Weisse, English Pale, Spirit of 77 IPA, and Green Hat IPA. I ended with three dark beers including the ever popular 2AM Bike Ride, Apocalypse Pony, and Fall & Oats.
The Interpretive Dance session IPA was surprisingly potent with tons of hop flavor and high bitterness despite a seriously low 3.5% alcohol. It was a solid mix of tropical fruit and citrus with a seriously bitter finish. The Jazz Hands berliner weisse was crisp and delicious with a mild fruity/tart flavor. It also was surprisingly flavorful for a low 3.5% alcohol. This was one of the more flavorful local versions of the style I have had. The English Pale primarily has a lot of apricot flavor with some mild earthy hops and a crisp sweet finish. It didn’t overwhelm with the malts and was overall a very nicely balanced drinkable beer.
Both the Spirit of 77 and Green Hat IPAs were fantastically balanced and delicious. They were both quite similar in many ways, both having a sticky icky sweetness and both not too overwhelmed by the malts. The 77 IPA was fruity with a piney finish and a little more malt balance. The Green Hat tended more towards the juicy guava and pineapple flavors and was overall deliciously fruity. Neither tasted much like any IPA I have had before while they both were excellent examples of the style. After all the hype for 2AM Bike Ride, I wasn’t too excited by it. It was a very smooth light-body stout with intense bitter coffee and a subtle vanilla in the back. It seemed to lack a complexity or roasted malt flavor that I love so much in the style.
The Apocalypse Pony has a strong vanilla flavor with a mellow coffee finish. Again I found the body lacking here and the vanilla was a little too overpowering for me. The Fall & Oats was quite fruity and the fruit was so sweet I almost thought it was vanilla at first. Like the other two I tried, it was lacking the thicker mouthfeel I love in my stouts and didn’t have the chewy oat character I normally love. Despite the stouts being mostly underwhelming for me, I recognize that they are quite popular among other groups. 2AM Bike Ride is a big hit with many of the local beer fans. Still, the two IPAs were so delicious and showed a real skill with blending hop flavors that I don’t see often with young breweries. If you haven’t gotten around to visiting Fall, you should do so soon.
Green Hat IPA
Spirit of 77 IPA