Thursday August 9th, we flew out of Dulles, slept six hours on the plane, and woke up in Belgium at 7am on the 10th.
We wandered around Brussels a bit, grabbed a quick breakfast, dropped our bags off at the hotel and began to explore the city. The first stop on our list was Cantillon Brewery.
Cantillon makes a special kind of beer called Gueuze. (Pronounced Gooz) Gueuze is a blend of 1 year, 2 year, and 3 year old lambics. Traditional lambics are spontaneously fermented. This means that instead of the brewer pitching a specific strain of yeast, the beer is pumped into large, shallow open air containers to allow the yeast and bacteria that is naturally occurring in the air to fall onto the beer and cause fermentation.
All of the equipment in Cantillon looks like it should be in museum! Yes, this is still in use!
All of their equipment is also belt driven.
Its amazing to see these ancient kettles and to know that they are still fully functional.
Bottle washing and bottling.
Oh yes, and of course the tasting! Two beers were included with the tour.
The first beer that was poured was a one year old lambic. Since it was young, it was very tart, tangy, and bitter. Not very complex. Still drinkable. If you weren’t used to the style, it might have been too much for some people. They only have you sample this style so that you can taste the real difference in the gueuze.
I cant even describe how amazing it was to be there. I was overwhelmed that I was actually halfway around the world in a brewery that I only ever dreamed of visiting.
I also thought it was unusual that the brewery has remained in the family, the great-great granddaughter of the founder was working there and giving tours that day.
For my second drink I chose the traditional Gueuze. I really wanted to compare it to the previous beer. The first one was not blended, this second one was. It was so different! Much more carbonation (because the yeast had eaten all the sugars and produced carbon dioxide) It was very mellow and drinkable. The beer was much more complex and mature.
With a slight buzz going, we sadly left Cantillon and headed back into the heart of the city. Brussels was beautiful. The streets were clean and well kept, the buildings were in very good shape.
We had lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes along the street, and relaxed in the shade. After lunch, feeling refreshed, we walked around town.
We stumbled upon this catholic church and had a peek inside. I have never been more impressed with a church in my life. The paintings were huge and all from the mid 1550s. Such a different atmosphere from the shitty outdated, badly constructed 1960s churches in all the small towns across the US. (Sorry to be so harsh)
The church had so much dark wood and marble it was like a tomb. It was nice to be greeted by the sun and sights like this when we emerged.
The gardens! I could go on and on about the gardens, they were always relaxing and fun to find and come across on our trip.
There was one bar in particular that we were looking for in Brussels. It was called A La Becasse. I read about it in the Beer Connoisseur magazine and it sounded like a much better find than the Delirium Bar. Delirium would have been loud and touristy. Nothing wrong with that, we were just looking for something authentic.
Even though the sign is in plain sight, the bar was not. It was so exciting, we walked through a doorway/ alley to finally get back to the bar.
The interior of the bar was just as cool, with the wood and tables seeming quite old.
The bar specializes in gueuze served in the traditional manner, out of stone pitchers. They only carried three or four kinds of beer, all gueuze or lambics. We ordered a pitcher to split of traditional Timmerman’s gueuze.
It felt almost secret and intimate. We also had the bar almost to ourselves since we came right before the dinner rush.
Once we emerged back into the fading day, the first thing I saw was a waffle stand, I couldn’t resist! The waffles were amazing and delicious! Although, they gave you the tiniest most useless forks to eat it with. It required sober patience to use the tiny fork without making a mess. Sober patience was lacking.
We wandered back through the city center to get to our Hotel. I think we crashed at 8pm because of jet lag. But we woke back up at 2:30am and went on a late night hunt for more waffles.