Brussels: Moeder Lambic, Cantillon and Brussels Beer Project

I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus over the summer, but now I’m back and I’ve got plenty of things to write about!

Towards the end of July my boyfriend and I went to Belgium on holiday and really fell in love with the place. The first stop on our trip was the capital city, Brussels. I’ve always wanted to go to Brussels however I didn’t really know what to expect because a lot of people have told me in the past that it’s not the most exciting city to visit. I have to say that they were all wrong! Brussels exceeded my expectations and it is now definitely up there in my top favourite cities. We are already thinking about going back for a long weekend because we loved it so much. I would highly recommend a visit to anyone, however for the beer lovers out there it’s an absolute must.

We were fortunate enough to stay in a hotel in central Brussels, so it was very easy to get around. Brussels is a very walkable city, as long as you have some decent shoes to wear – the cobbled roads and pavements can take their toll otherwise! Something that really surprised me about Brussels (due to what I had been told) was how beautiful it is – the main square is very grand and really takes you aback when you first stumble across it. The streets in the very centre of Brussels are quite narrow and small which means that the main square is quite hidden away, so you really don’t see it clearly until you get right up to it. As well as tourist information and a multitude of chocolate shops, you can also find the Belgian Beer Brewers Museum. Yes, that’s how much this country loves its beer – the brewing museum takes centre stage in the main square! The museum is small and doesn’t take long to look around but for €5 it’s well worth a visit, even if only for the beer you get at the end. You get a choice of a light beer or a dark beer and both are excellent.

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One of many delicious beers enjoyed at Moeder Lambic

Another place that all beer lovers should visit when in Brussels is Moeder Lambic – a fantastic bar serving craft beers, as well as more traditional Belgian brews. We visited the “Fontainas” location, however there is also the “original” Moeder Lambic in the south of the city which we didn’t get to visit this time but we will definitely go in future. Moeder Lambic has a standard menu which has a wide range of more traditional brews, but also has a list of guest kegs which change all the time including breweries from Belgium and beyond. We tried quite a few beers from Quebec based breweries during our visits, as well as many from Belgium of course. The staff in Moeder Lambic are extremely friendly and knowledgeable and with every beer you get a little bowl of roasted malt to snack on – so delicious. We were only in Brussels for three days but we just kept going back to Moeder Lambic – we will definitely keep coming back to this place.

We also visited two breweries while in Brussels – both very different from each other but both amazing. We visited Cantillon Brewery first, which exclusively brews Lambic beers. Cantillon was one of more than one hundred operating breweries in Brussels when it was founded, but was the only one to remain operational through the 2000s. It’s a fascinating place to visit, but you need to keep your eye on your map because it’s easy to miss. For €7 you get a quick explanation of the brewing process at Cantillon (Lambic beers are brewed using only naturally occurring yeast), followed by a self-guided tour where you can look at all the brewing equipment (which is still all in use, despite being very old).

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The Fou’Foune and Mamouche we drank at Cantillon

Once you’ve finished looking round the brewery, you also get to choose two beers to try from the bar. I had a pure Lambic followed by a Kriek – both fantastic. When you’ve had your two beers as part of your entrance fee, visitors are welcome to stay for longer and purchase sharing bottles from the bar. We stayed and had two bottles between us, the first was the Fou’Foune which is a lambic with soaked apricots and the second was Mamouche, a lambic infused with elderflower. It’s a great place to go and spend a few hours as you end up talking to so many people. We got chatting to a guy from Portland, Oregon (where we visited last summer, so had plenty to talk about), a girl from Indiana who now lives in Madrid and another young American traveller who had just come from Ghent. Cantillon is definitely worth visiting if you can, it really is a unique experience. Unlike most Belgian beers, all Cantillon beers are 5% which is pretty low for Belgium, so it’s also a good place to go if you want to avoid the really strong brews.

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Juice Junkie New Zealand IPA

The second brewery we visited was a much more modern experience – Brussels Beer Project. We were due to leave for Bruges on the day we visited Brussels Beer Project but we waited around until it opened at 2.00pm (BBP is only open 2-10pm Thursday to Saturday). It was definitely worth the wait. Brussels Beer Project began in 2013 with the aim to collaborate in order to become more innovative and daring and offer a more modern take on Belgian craft brewing. We had picked up a flyer in the tourist information centre which offered us a free taster beer, so we started with that. I chose the Juice Junkie – a hazy New Zealand IPA. We didn’t have much time unfortunately but we decided to stay for another one, I had the Grosse Bertha, a Belgian Hefeweizen. Both were delicious and I really didn’t want to leave but we had to go and catch our train. We can’t wait to come back to Brussels so we can come back to Brussels Beer Project and spend much longer there. We will be back soon!

 

Thanks for reading about my amazing trip to Brussels. There’s so much more I could say but this blog is already over 1,000 words. I look forward to writing more about this great city and it’s amazing beer scene soon. Look out for my next blog which will be all about our beer travels in Bruges.

 

 

 

Cloudwater Brewery Tour

I started a new job in February and as a farewell present, my colleagues at my old work very kindly booked me tickets for a Cloudwater Brewery Tour. Ah, they know me so well!

Along with the gift, they printed off this article in the Manchester Evening News about Cloudwater being rated as the second best brewery in the world. I had sampled their beers many, many times however I’d never been on the tour, so I was really excited to learn more.

Last Saturday the day finally arrived and we headed over to the Cloudwater Brewery, based at the Piccadilly Trading Estate. I’d been to the actual brewery itself once before as it used to open as a tap room on a Saturday before they opened the Cloudwater Barrel Store on Sheffield Street. I’ve heard that the plan is for the tap room to re-open next door to the brewery quite soon, but I’m not sure exactly when that will happen.

The tour began at 10.45am and we were immediately offered a choice of two IPAs as we arrived. My boyfriend and I both went  for the 2.9% option instead of the alternative, which was pretty strong at 6.5%. Neither of us had eaten any breakfast, choosing a lie in instead – definitely not advisable before going on a brewery tour!

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Breakfast?

One thing that I thought was really good is that everyone on the tour was told that they could help themselves to beer throughout. We didn’t top ourselves up again because we knew there would be more tasters later, but I felt that it helped add to the relaxed atmosphere of the tour.

We were very lucky to be visiting the brewery on a brew day, which we were told rarely happens at the weekend. The reason they were brewing on a Saturday was due to something going wrong during the brew on the Friday, something else we were told happens quite rarely, with only around 1 in every 90 brews going wrong. I am no brewing expert, but I thought this was pretty impressive, especially considering how many different beers the brewery produces.

Cloudwater doesn’t have a core range of beers and instead makes seasonal beers, using ingredients that are readily available. For example, they wouldn’t tend to brew a strawberry beer in the winter and would usually brew darker beers instead. As of last weekend they were on there 425th recipe – not bad in only three years!

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Shot from inside the brewery

The first part of the tour focused on a brief history of Cloudwater, as well as a general overview of the brewing process. We were actually stood inside the main brewery floor during this part, but did have to move eventually so the brewer working hard that day could continue with his work. Like on most other brewery tours I’ve been on, we got the opportunity to try different types of malt used during the brewery process and various different types of hops were also passed round for us to break apart.

It was then time for the best part – the guided tasting! We got to try two different beers: one was a pale ale brewed with mango and the other was an IPA, which if I remember rightly was made with Centennial hops. I really liked both, but the second one was particularly delicious and went down far too easily.

Towards the end of the tour, our guide gave everyone the chance to ask him questions. This was really interesting as it provided the opportunity to understand so much more about the brewery. For instance, although Cloudwater is only three years old, it’s such a well thought of brewery that I had just assumed it’s quite big, however that’s not the case. Although it is growing in notoriety and has increased the size of its team, it is still a relatively small brewery. They don’t export their beer at all at the moment except for special events. I asked our guide if they’d noticed a difference in demand since they were named second best brewery in the world. He told us that this had made some difference, however demand has been growing since early 2016 and that the brewery is now producing five times more beer now than it was then. There was a group of people on our tour who had come all the way from Seattle too, so their reputation is clearly spreading far and wide.

We also learnt more about hops. Apparently it’s not as simple as breweries being able to pick and choose what hops they would like to use each week, but instead they have to take out a “hop contract” which lasts a year. I also found out that Citra hops – the most expensive in the world – cost £28 per kilo! Perhaps I’m being a bit nerdy here, but I found it all fascinating.

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Barrels inside the brewery

The tour was now coming to a close, but the fun wasn’t quite over yet. At the beginning we were all given a token which could be exchanged for a beer of our choice at the Cloudwater Barrel Store, around a 5-10 minute walk away from the main brewery. We made a quick food stop on the way and then headed over. I had the MCR DIPA CITRA BBC which was a bold and tasty choice full of tropical flavours.

I had a brilliant time at the Cloudwater Brewery Tour and would recommend to anyone interested in brewing, enjoys drinking good beer or is looking for something different to do on a visit to Manchester.