As you can see on this first few pictures, the outside of Cantillon simply looks like a plain building. But stepping into the building was like going 50 years back in time. Old wooden barrels were cleaned manually, using water and chains. And the atmosphere was wet and moist.
The first phase of brewing beer happens on the field, as malt is the main ingredient of beer. Cantillon's malt is produced in Holland and is treated in Germany. In this treatment, people put the malt in a humid atmosphere, so the malt absorbs the water in order to start growing. When the malt is full of water, people start drying it. The speed of this drying process will partly decide the color of the resulting beer. When dried fast, we get darker beer, when dried slowly, the beer will be blonde. Guinness for instance, is made by using heavily roasted malt.
After grinding all this malt, they start the second phase of the brewing phase, boiling the resulting substance with 10.000 liters of water at a fixed temperature of 72 C. For doing this, no automatic temperature regulating mechanism is used. Consequently, they had to manually measure the temperature, as you can see this picture . As Cantillon is a family owned brewery, the person you can see in this picture is the current owner of the brewery - the grandson of the founder. This phase results in a substance of 7000 liters of muddy stuff similar to leftovers from brewing coffee.
The third phase the mass is pumped upstairs where water and hops is added. Hops is added for preservation purposes only. Other breweries use it for taste, and in such case they use around 5 different kinds (or from different years) to preserve a consistent taste across the years. Most importantly, only the female plant can be used! The hops is removed again for reuse.
The fourth phase the liquid is cooled down by pouring it into the big container seen on the pictures. Here it stays all night being exposed to the Brussel air. Microorganism causes the fermentation to start..Spontaneously. The liquid is called lambic. But this also means that they are very dependent on the weather. The temperature should be close to but not under 0. The taste depends on the temperature. We went there in the beginning of November, which was their first day of brewering that seson.
The brewery were very afraid of a number of things
The fifth phase is the barreling. Lambic of three different ages are combined in one barrel. Here it will lie up to four years before going to the next phase. The use of three different lambics ensure a consistent taste. However, teh barrels also has a significant influence on the taste. We were told a story about how the owner got some cheap barrels which had been used for fruit transportation or something. And the beer from these bottles tasted completely different. Instead of throwing it out, it was sold a special limited edition beer.
The sixth phase is the bottleing. The gueuze is filtered and put on bottles. The barrels are washed and reused.
Kasper and Peter, BTA