Do you ever dream about going somewhere and then when you're there it's better than you could have possibly imagined? I'm hoping that's how the Mermaid Bar is going to be, but until then the only time that has happened to me is visiting Cantillon, but I'm getting ahead of myself. First: Drie Fonteinen.
This is the Drie Fonteinen brewer's grandson, who we hung out with when we visited. This kid had the personality of 12 regular kids. I have no idea what language he was speaking, but it wasn't English. He's the best. We thought MD would get a kick out of the hat.To visit Drie Fonteinin (it means three fountains) you have to get to Beersel, which is just outside of Brussels. If you don't have a car, you have to take the train and it only runs on weekdays! Anyhoo, they make scintillating lambic and geuze that is super pricey in the US, and Beersel is quite cute (there's a castle!), so I definitely recommend a visit. This was some vintage gueze (1997?) that we got at the Drie Fonteinen restaurant. It's a little confusing, but there's kind of a formal restaurant, and then around the corner a tasting room and gift shop. Oops, I somehow just erased that picture of the vintage gueze. The one below is actually our brew from the tasting room. They give you more cheese every time you order a brew. I am also confused about the Beersel (the beer) and Drie Fonteinen connection. Of course the shadowy, mysterious De Proef is involved. Perhaps SM can explain?
Here's the gift shop. The brewer, Armand, is super nice. It was sad because he seems kind of harried and overworked. He loves to talk about German beer. He just about has me convinced I want to go to Germany, but only in August, he insists.
Here's the train "station" at Beersel, better buy a two way ticket cuz there's no real station.
OK, Cantillon. The best. Here are some cobwebs. They make a big deal out of cobwebs there because they don't like to change anything in the environment because it could damage the natural yeast. It was founded in 1900 and they still do most things the way they did them back then. They used to be just one of a ton of brewers making faro, lambic and geuze (actually, MD wrote something really informative about this, so just read it here if you're interested.)
Here's the old bottle press thing. They have modernized this part of it.
It's hard to capture this in a picture, but here's a giant copper tub where they leave the wort overnight and let the natural yeast settle on it. Ha! I was about to say that this is like seeing the bed where Joseph and Mary made Jesus, which shows how well I know the bible.
The smell in the barrel room of Cantillon is without a doubt the sweetest smell I've every smelled. Lambic undergoes an initial violent fermentation, and Cantillon lets the frothy result foam out the top. They lose a signficant amount of product this way (like 20%). I wish I could volunteer to drink that 20% Here's some precious lambic on the floor.
Here's the cup and hammer that the brewer uses to taste the product and make decisions about aging and blending.
Here's some ooze from the barrel. I took a bite of this. J.K. Maybe.
Here's the brewer, Jean-Pierre Van Roy, another cool dude. He was getting a drink of water when I asked to take his picture, and he insisted he couldn't be photographed with mere water! He asked for a pour of the kriek. At the end of the tour, they give you a pour of geuze and a pour of kriek.
Here's some nerding out on dusty bottles.
This "Z" brew is an experimental lambic made with vegetables!
You can buy bottles to drink in the tasting room so we got one and sat there for a while, smiling from ear to ear.
Here's the brewery cat, whose fur is innoculated with wild yeast. He is an important part of the brewing process, and is allowed to swim in the wort.
Here's the wall of fame of Cantillon brewers. The founder is on the left.
Cantillon is located in the Anderlecht neighborhood of Brussels, which my guide book described as "gritty", but like everywhere else in Europe seems safe. It's just really racially mixed. Here's shop, I think it might be on Rue Anderlecht, that had bomb-ass coffee. It was the only place we found on our trip to get really strong coffee.
This place I think is also on Anderlecht (shop front picture below). This was a Lebanese place that had the best, cheapest food I had on the whole trip. I accidentally ordered an absurd amount of food (like a kibbeh "pizza) and they were so psyched on us that they gave us free baklava, too. See that wood fired oven? It was turning out tons of delicious breads.
Here's the place. If you're ever there, seek it out.
Here's a picture of Moeder Lambic. It's an insanely cool bar in Brussels. It's like the Spuyten Duyvel of Belgium, but with a better beer list.