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Europe Trip: Cantillon Brewery

In my last recap of my trip to Europe I talked about Brussels as a whole and about their beer culture. Today I wanted to share a bit about a specific brewery trip that we made to the Cantillon Brewery. This brewery is known the world over for their wonderful Lambic, Fruit Lambic, and Gueuze styles of beer. If you are unfamiliar with the style, Lambic beers are generally sour and aged for a number of years. They are traditionally served with no carbonation and the fruit variety is, not surprisingly, fermented with some fruit added to the wort. A Gueuze is a carbonated Lambic and the carbonation is achieved by adding “young” Lambic beer, about a year old, to aged Lambic, about three years old.

When you walk up to the brewery you would never know that world class beer is made inside. The only way to identify that the building is the Cantillon Brewery is by the two wooden barrelsĀ  at the barn style doors along with a metal sign at the top of the door. When you walk you are are met with more barrels and a you can see a glimpse of a bar/seating area ahead on the left. A woman quickly approached us when we entered and told us the ground rules of the brewery tour. 1. It costs 6 Euro a person 2. For the 6 Euros you get a books of your language choice (its really a three page pamphlet) and two free samples of their beer. 3. Stick to the numbered signs and 4. Feel free to ask questions.

I’ve never been to a brewery that basically gives you free reign of the place. The reason for this is that they only brew for two months of the year and the summer is not that time of the year.

We began our tour by passing through thousands of bottles stacked one on top of another. Each batch of bottles was dated with a month and year. The oldest bottles that I saw dated to 2009. We then entered the mash tun room where hot water and grain are combined to produce wort. The amazing thing about the mash tun, and for that matter most of the equipment at the brewery, is that it is very low tech. The mash tun looks like it has been there for a hundred years and it is powered by a belt drive. Belts also power the pumps and other necessary equipment.

We then went upstairs where the boil kettle is and I still couldn’t stop marveling at the belt power. In all honest, most boil kettles look the same, so they are not terribly interesting. On the next floor up is where the mystical open air fermentation happens. There is a large copper table and open wooden slat walls that allow the natural yeast in the air to land on the beer. After 72 hours (and well after fermentation has started) the beer is put into barrels where it sits for 1-3 years.

The barrel room is impressive. Hundreds of barrels line the room and the smells of funky fermentation fill the room. While I was there works were milling about the room topping off the barrels that lose water due to evaporation. Upon leaving the barrel room we passed an old bottling machine on our trip to see the new bottling machine. And that’s pretty much the tour of the brewery.

In total it took us about a half hour to see everything. Once the tour was finished we received our free samples in a quaint bar area. I loved the lights, which were bottles with their bottoms cut off (see pictures below). The beer was marvelous. I have never been a big Lambic fan but the subtle complexity of the Cantillon’s beers were a real treat. I also loved the mix of new technology (like the bottling machine) and the traditional brewing techniques. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who wants to see a traditional Belgian brewery. (more…)

I am a craft brewer parody

The “I am a Craft Brewer” video came out some time ago, and there have been Homebrewer and Craft Beer Drinker versions done, each with lesser quality. Someone came up with the perfect video to follow the last three:

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I love, love, love it. I was getting a bit scared that we were taking ourselves too seriously, thank you to the makes of the video for redeeming my faith in the craft beer culture.

05-31-02

Flying Dog Brewery review week

It has been awhile since I have had a variety case. Pennsylvania has weird laws concerning six pack sales and all of that. You have to go to a state store to get liquor and/or wine. Go to a beer distributer if you want to get a case or a keg. And finally go to a bar or a few select grocery stores with “restaurants” inside of them that have a liquor license if you want to get a six pack or a single bottle. I have a feeling that these laws will be changing within the next few years, but living in Texas is a whole different story.

When I first moved here Lubbock was completely dry. A month an a half after living here they legalized alcohol sales in the city limits. Now any place that sells food mostlikely sells beer and wine as well. A side note, Lubbock has a minimal beer culture but a very large wine following. Go figure. I like to attribute Lubbock going dry to wet to myself, because, let’s face it, before I moved here it didn’t happen. After I moved here it did.

Anyway I was browsing in the local upscale super market and came across a variety 12 pack (half a case) of Flying Dog beers. Inside were five different examples of there beer. For $13.99 I grabbed the case right up. Flying Dog started as a brewpub in Colorado but has since shifted to a production brewery in Frederick, Maryland. Weird, and they will be the first ones to claim that as well. Anyway, in celebration of getting to try a whole bunch of new beers for one low price. I am dedicating this week as Flying Dog Brewery week here on Brewery Reviewery. For the next five days I will review each of the five beers that came in the case.

Beer Review #40 2 Below Ale

Yet another New Belgium seasonal beer. I can’t help it, I generally like everything that comes out of that brewery. I was also super excited to find a seasonal brew in Lubbock, Tx. If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you should know my struggles with finding seasonal beer in Lubbock. And for those of you who are new, Lubbock, simply put, is a hole. There is a complete lack of beer culture, but oddly enough they enjoy expensive wine. Go figure.

Anyway, I grabbed up a sixer of 2 Below as soon as I saw it. As most New Belgium Brewing Company beers have, the label was interesting looking. A nice picture of some freezing pipes with icicles coming down off of the top. Now onto the important part, the beer. It pours a light amber in color with a nice white head. The aroma is nice and strong with tons of floral hops. There isn’t much else to be found on the smell, mostly just hops and maybe some malt if you are really looking hard.

The taste is an explosion of hops, in a good way. The malt and the hops are balanced perfectly. The hops are clean and crisp. On the back-end of the beer there is a slightly bready flavor. You can also expect to finds hints of pepper and other spice in there as well. Unlike some hoppy beers, the hops goes through the entire beer and not just at the back.

2 Below has a light to medium mouthfeel with great carbonation. It is very drinkable but I kind of wanted something darker and richer tasting for a winter beer. The beer comes in at 6.6% ABV so it is not a “weak” beer but I want some more alcohol in my winter beer. The whole warming idea of a winter beer doesn’t really happen at 6.6%. It really is a great beer and I would highly suggest it if you have the chance. Again it is not my favorite winter beer, but it is a solid beer for anytime of the year. (more…)

Beer glasses

I’m of the opinion that a beer is better drank from a glass than a bottle and better from a bottle than a can. If it were a math equation it would look something like

Glass > Bottle > Can

I think most people can agree with that statement. But what is it about a glass that is so perfect? Imagine sitting down at a bar and have everyone with bottles instead of a nice pint glass. It just doesn’t seem right (unless you are a some cheap college bar). I don’t know if there is a real reason for this, it is just my preference.

I love beer glasses. I have several different types. I started with the typical pint, moved to a pilsner, and then to a challace. I use all of my glasses (that’s what they are for) but some beers just suit some glasses better. Some are just for fun, like my 26 oz half yard or my boot like the one on the left. My pint glasses get a hard workout weekly.

Beer glasses are just one of those beer culture icons that I just love. I do have a strange fascination with beer, and beer glasses are just another way to express myself.

Do you have any preference with glasses, bottles, or cans; leave a message below.