brussels: beer, so much beer

My three objectives for Brussels were simple: waffels, seafood and beer.  We took care of the first two in the morning, so after our amazing lunch at Noordzee we set off in search of the last objective: beer.

We found our way to Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze, home of the Cantillion Brewery.  They've been brewing traditional Lambic beer since 1900.  Cantillion is one of very few breweries still making Lambic in the traditional method - the process is long and expensive, so many breweries have 'modernized' the process and call their beers Lambic, even though they have changed the process. Lambic beer is special because it's  inoculated with with wild, airborne yeast then spontaneously fermented in barrels.  Lambic beer is also unique because of it's long fermentation - 3 years - in which time the yeast eats up all the sugar, resulting in an acidic wine-like taste and no carbonation.

The Lambic is then used to make Gueuze and fruit-flavoured beers (with carbonation).  They mix 1, 2 and 3 year old casks of Lambic to get the right amount of sugars that contribute to secondary fermentation (and make bubbles) and older Lambic to get the aged, acidic flavour which results in Gueuze.  We tasted their Gueuze and it's quite different than any beer I've tried before.  Definitely more like wine - it had a sour taste and very tiny bubbles.  We both liked it, so we picked up a bottle to enjoy later.  Cantillion is also known for their fruit beers, so we tried the Kriek (cherry) and the Rosé de Gambrinus (raspberry).  They make the fruit beers by adding fresh organic fruit to aged Lambic, which gives it flavour and colour.  After the beer has been bottled it has to age for another 6 months in order to  produce carbonation, which means that the brewery stores an average of 80,000 bottles in the brewery!   We enjoyed our self-guided tour, and the samples after.

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It was interesting to be able to compare Cantillion's methods & beer to breweries that I've toured in the past (like De Molen or Alley Kat).

He claimed all of that beer as his own (we may have already had a few beers at this poINT)

He claimed all of that beer as his own (we may have already had a few beers at this poINT)

"where have you been all of my (adult) life?"

"where have you been all of my (adult) life?"

After our samples, we decided we needed more beer, so we walked back to the Grand Place and found ourselves at Delirium Taphouse.  It had awesome atmosphere - it was filled with people enjoying an afternoon beer.  They have an astounding number of choices - it was so hard to know where to even start!  They have 25 beers on tap (which change weekly) and a huge cooler filled with beer from around the world.  In fact, they don't just have a menu, they have a beer catalogue.  We each tried a few beers (both on tap and from bottles) and our favourite was the Trappistes Rochefort-10.  It was so caramelly smooth with a toffee taste and not bitter at all, even though it's quite dark.  It's a Belgian beer that's abbey-brewed, and as I learned from the bartender, if you actually want a true abbey beer you need to ask for a trappiste beer (anyone could make beer in his garage and call it abbey beer).  All of the trappiste beers we tried were higher in alcohol content as well, about 8-12%, so needless to say, things got a bit silly...We had an awesome time people watching, drinking beer and laughing together - Delerium Taphouse was a lot of fun.

We found some dinner at a little burger place and spent a bit more time looking around.  Before catching our train back to Amsterdam we stopped at a grocery store to pick up a snack for the ride.  I also wanted to buy Belgian chocolate bars at the store (a tip I had read online).  We happened to walk down the beer aisle, and I spotted the Trappiste Rochefort - for only 2 euro per bottle!  Trev grabbed an armload of beer and I grabbed an armload of chocolate and we were ready to head back to Amsterdam - all objectives of our one day visit to Brussels met: waffels, seafood, beer (and chocolate).