While in Belgium, I decided (against warnings that, “it’s not like real beer”) to try lambic beer. Someone described it to me as a love child of beer and wine. “Where do I sign up?!” Was my reply.
Lambic beer is a style of beer common to Belgium, particularly the areas around Brussels. Lambic beers are traditionally made by natural fermentation, producing a unique style of beer. At one time, all lambic breweries stayed true to their natural roots. Nowadays, only a few remain in Belgium.
As luck would have it, Cantillon Brewery, founded in 1900, was a short walk from my hostel in Brussels. I was leaving by train in the afternoon, but had my heart set on checking out the brewery. My solution? Breakfast beers!
The tours at Cantillon, unless you make an appointment, Are self guided. They give you a brochure with ample information and send you on your way, where you eventually end up at the tasting bar.
The equipment used to brew is from the 19th century and I was able to really get a feel for the process of natural fermentation as I walked around.
Due to this process, lambic beers are only made during the colder season (October-April) as it is left in a large vessel to cool and ferment naturally. This requires temperatures of 18 to 20 C, or 64 to 68 F. Most beers are fermented artificially and require less specialization in this department.
So the results? A beer that is not carbonated and offers some sourness. Not sour like, “did this go bad” but a pleasant change from a typical lager or pilsner.The two I tasted were the traditional lambic beer and the Kriek, traditional lambic beer aged 2 years and infused with sour cherries. I’m a cherry fanatic.
The first thing I noticed about the traditional lambic was that it smelled like wine. At first taste, it had club soda elements to it, which were followed up by a sour aftertaste. If you’ve ever had a sour beer (style, not a beer that’s gone bad), it’s similar.
Next was the Kriek. Despite the cherry notion, this baby was sour. To be fair, they did use sour cherries. I loved the way this beer looked! The head was pink and airy and this did have some carbonation, but it’s bubbles were more like champagne. The first sip gave strong cherry notes and beer flavor at the finish.
At the end of the tour, I was so glad I carved out some time (even if it was 10am!) to check out Cantillon and its lambic beers. A surprising bonus? This tour and both beers came to 7 euro flat! Any fan of beer, or even anyone who prefers wine over beer is encouraged to try lambic beers on for size.
Rue Gheude 56 Straat
Bruxelles 1070 Brussel
+32 2 521 49 28