5th May at 05.32, a missed call from Clayton. I called back shortly after expecting there to be told there was a problem with our train line, which would not have been a shock. However, I was to be shocked, Clayton had just discovered that his Kiwi passport (which only have a 5-year validity period) expired 2 weeks earlier! He couldn’t go. This put a bit of dampener on proceedings I must admit. Felt gutted that Clayton was going to miss out on the event he had paid for and on his birthday, also felt a bit sorry for myself as no beer buddy to enjoy the event/travel with. However, there was nothing to be gained in me not going (Clayton enjoyed the London weather with his partner and got his birthday beer from Brewdog) so, I got the train to London, made my way over to Euston and having picked up some food for the journey proceeded to check in and await boarding The Eurostar at St Pancras. I do like train travel (although my commuter service provider does their utmost to put me off on a regular basis), especially the longer journeys when you can relax/unwind, and departing St Pancras always feels special, it is such a beautiful building skilfully and lovingly restored to its former glory. Did you know the pillared undercroft was used for storing beer brought down to London from the Midlands originally? Once on the train and utilising my spare seat to good effect for food and beer I settled down for the next two hours.
Arrived in Brussels bang on time and decided to head straight over to Cantillon rather than visit one of the many bars outside the station that were bathed in sunshine. It only takes 10 minutes or so to walk over there and more than once in the past I have wondered if I am going in the right direction, then you sort of happen upon the brewery. There was a queue, but, everyone had tickets and those tickets came with a time slot allocated, mine was 12 to 12.30. All the chatter in the queue was about beer, there was a good mix of people to mingle with as we waited for our time to come. Once inside we were ticked off, presented with a programme, a glass and vouchers for food as we went along (don’t expect me to be saying too much about the food, there’s no Untappd app for that!).
There were 23 beers and the selection of foodstuffs at 9 stations to navigate, I like a challenge!
The next 4 hours flew by, quite happy was I in my own beery world, watching and listening to other people’s conversations about the different beers being sampled, sometimes joining in, but, most of the time keeping my own counsel and thoughts to myself. I have had a few of the beers previously from Cantillon, but, the majority of them were new to me. Standouts were Gueuze +2+3+4 (2011), Classic Gueuze (1996), and 50 Degrees N – 4 Degrees, with the 1996 Gueuze being the absolute highlight. 20 years old and so very smooth and drinkable, a real pleasure to behold. The beers from Masia Agullons were interesting, and, some promised a lot, but, none of them really hit the heights of the many Cantillon beers I tasted during the day, but, perhaps this style of beer is not in their DNA and the regular range might well be worth seeking out, unfortunately I don’t know (must get to Barcelona sooner rather than later!).
Moeder Lambic is probably well known to anyone who has been to Brussels and has an interest in beer and is only a 15 minute walk from Cantillon. Busy it was when I arrived, but, found myself a seat indoors and chose what I hoped would be a nice refreshing beer, I was rather pleased with my choice – IV Saison from Brasserie de Jandrain, it was cool, refreshing and only mild hints of “Belguimy”. I then spotted a familiar face sitting outside with some mates – Joel from the Hop Locker, a pop up bar on The South Bank of the Thames, well worth a visit, can be found on Twitter @TheHopLocker. I popped over to say hi and was invited to join them, which was very nice of him and also bagged me a seat in the sun, shades on, beer in hand and good company – I was a rather contented and happy chap. A few more beers were had before the walk back to the station, even the 30 min delay at Brussels did nothing to dampen my mood.
Grand Cru Bruocsella Lambic Bio (3.75/5)
Lambic D’Aunis (3.5/5)
Rose de Gambrinus 2014 (3.75/5)
Lou Pepe Kriek 2012 (3.5/5)
Riesling Zusslin (3.5/5)
Fou’ Foune 2015 (3.5/5)
Zwanze 2012 (4/5)
Cuvee Saint-Gilloise Champions (3.25/5)
Iris Grand Cru 2013 (3.25/5)
Asperule Odorante (3.5/5)
Gueuze +2+3+4 2011 (4/5)
Classic Gueuze 1996 (4.25/5)
La Vie est Belge (2.75/5)
50 Degrees N – 4 Degrees E (4/5)
Barrico Blend #1 (2.75/5)
Barrico Merlot (2.75/5)
Barrica Kumquat (2.5/5)
Barrica 2013 (3.25/5)
Setembre Edicio Nadal (2.75/5)
NB. Birrificio Del Borgo from Italy were excluded due to the takeover by ABInbev. The decision to exclude is very eloquently explained on the Cantillon Facebook page, courtesy of Jean Van Roy.