The Quintessence at Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels is a very special festival. It’s not annual, it’s only for one day and of all the beers presented you will get only one. But as the brewery is more than a hype right now, the whole city was crowded by beer geeks, not all of them holding one of the rare tickets that have been sold out within half an hour. This year Cantillon invited the Hill Farmstead Brewery from the US, and as big as the honor is to be invited, so hard it is to compete with the legendary Cantillon beers.
Quintessence was the main event, but Moeder Lambic Fontainas was the epicentre of a two day sour beer madness. I really love this place and especially the first event day on Monday was awesome. The Cantillon tap takeover was an absolute blast and I had some much fun comparing vintages of Fou’Foune, Saint Lamvinus or Lou Pepe Kriek. It really showed the masterclass and variety of one of the best breweries in the world. Outside the bar Francisco Oppido opened his pizza stall, which I loved during Arrogant Sour last year and who was again amazing.
On Monday afternoon we moved to the Moeder Original, which published an amazing bottle list, but it ended in massive disappointment. We arrived 30 minutes before the opening and found the place packed with people waiting for their first beer to be served, but nearly all bottles were already sold out. That’s a no-go, so we moved with a bunch of really angry Britons to a small cafe to chug a Jupiler and I ate a fantastic chocolate-walnut cake. Much better than a Cantillon bottle in a backpack of an American collector.
Alvinne Tap Takover @ Dynamo Bar
So our temper has been calmed a bit when we entered the Dynamo bar to join a tap takeover of one of my most loved breweries at all: Alvinne. And so I was not surprised, that this was a bit of the secret winner of the weekend. The Alvinne tap list was awesome as expected and it was great, that half pours were served. From the brewery Glenn Castelein joined us later to provide some inside information and it was great to see, how happy he was because of all the appreciation of his hard work. The weird highlight of the evening was the coconut Eisbock, that was really inside a coconut. So it was full of coconut flavor, which covered a bit the strong 25 % ABV. A fantastic evening in a wonderful and relaxed bar.
But of course, everybody was in town for one thing: the legendary Cantillon Quintessence. I visited the brewery last year, so I knew that it would be tough to pack all the people in the small rooms of the historical brewery, that is also a museum. So Cantillon decided to use time slots to make sure that there will be a constant stream of visitors. My slot was at 1 o’clock, and after a bit of queuing I received my 20 drink and food vouchers and started at the first station.
The concept to present special beers and pair them with very interesting, mostly local food, was quite perfect. From station to station you got confronted with all that love and passion of brewers, butchers or ice makers, just to name some. I had a wonderful salmon marinated in Gueuze, maybe the best I’ve ever had. Christophe Gillard, owner of Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon, one of my favorite beer shops situated close to the border in Arlon, paired the Nuit Bruxelloise with his homemade cottage cheese with berries from the Tasmanian Native pepper, a spicy fruit and with a fascinating peppery aroma.
Beer and ice cream made a perfect match when the creations of Cremeria Capolinea from Italy met Cantillon’s Magic Lambic. I have to admit I’m conservative and chose the yogurt, sour cherry and rosemary ice. Others were brave enough to take the butter and anchovies one… I’m so happy that I will meet those crazy ice makers again in only a few weeks at the Arrogant!
Everybody was really excited to taste the beers of the guests from Hill Farmstead. a highly rated brewery from Vermont, USA. But after so many amazing Cantillon beers it was clear, that it would be hard for them to convince the lambic connoisseurs. And to be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed, maybe my expectations were just too high. My favorite one was the Flora BBRC with blueberry, black currant, raspberry and cherry.
Some of the Cantillon beers offered played in their own league. The Gueuze 2004 was a blast and my number one beer of the event. I also enjoyed the Zwanze 2015 – Wild Brussels Stout, a sour stout that matched perfectly with the Pamplemoussette chocolate made by Laurent Gerbaud. All in all it was an overwhelming experience to taste so many special Cantillon beers during a walk through this very special and beautiful brewery.
Just a few steps away from the famous gate of Cantillon Brewery the Brasserie L’Ermitage opened its doors to provide beer to all those guys that still hadn’t enough (like me of course). I really enjoyed the L’Ermitage Temple de la Passion, a super fresh New England IPA and something completely different compared to all the beers before. Several taps were located in the tasting room as well as in the brewery itself, and I was lucky to be quite early, as most of the really interesting beers had been emptied shortly afterwards. So I headed back to Moeder Lambic Fontainas to meet my friends. And realised, that another Lou Pepe Kriek vintage was on tap. Paradise.
3 Fonteinen Lambic-O-Droom
We just couldn’t get enough, so we interrupted our way home for a Gueuze breakfast at the 3 Fonteinen Lambic-O-Droom, located only a short ride outside Brussels in Beersel. Of course we weren’t alone and the very professional tasting room was quite crowded when we arrived. But there’s also a nice outside area where you can sit and enjoy the sun with a glass of Gueuze in your hand.
We started with the 2015 Oude Geuze Honing, but afterwards we mainly focussed on the Speling van het Lot (Twist of Fate) series, some of them have been produced in extremely small batches of several hundred bottles. My favorites were the peach lambics, one made with white peach, one with yellow peach and one blend of both. The highlight of the morning was the Oude Geuze Vintage (2014), that offered a smooth fruitiness together with a very moderate acidity. What a beauty! And what an end to a fantastic weekend!