It all started with the process that led to the production of cereal and one tradition oriented family.
While most like their cereal with milk, this family has spiced up your typical go-to breakfast meal with producing something different but from the same process: beer.
This Belgian family owned brewery is home to the traditional lambic beer that took on the alcoholic fermentation process, taking after your daily breakfast dose of cereal.
Starting from scratch, the process of producing lambic beer formed into it’s own craftsmanship.
Like most stories now a-days they begin with two people falling in love but this story takes us back to 1900 when one man took a chance to open a brewery in Anderlecht, now Brussels, in honor of his family name.
Over a century later, this tucked-away, hole-in-the wall building is still up and running with people coming from all over to taste this masterpiece. The second someone walks into the brewery, you immediately try to imagine what it looked like in its hay-day. Soft lighting and friendly faces give you that homey feeling as you walk further into the brewery where the fermentation takes place.
One current employee found the family-like dynamic and familiar feeling as a reason to stay in this beloved city after pursuing an internship at the brewery following her master’s program.
“My favorite thing about Cantillon is all the people who make Cantillon a treasure. The Van Roy family is so genuinely kind and committed to their philosophy that every day I wake up and go to work I feel incredibly, unbelievably, fantastically lucky to be a part of all of it,” said Danielle French
Walking through the barn-like wooden double doors, the aroma is old but sweet. One look around and the history is there. Tours are being held, beer is being tasted and memories are being created all within these walls of Cantillon.
French says the atmosphere is very familiar and “for those of us employees who aren’t part of the family, we’re treated like family anyway.”
Keeping the family feel incorporated in the process, each step is meticulously hand crafted and carefully thought out adding a little TLC to the mix. This is the bond that holds families together: the beer.
“It’s something special to experience the atmosphere around the people who makes a beer in the most natural way. I appreciate that they’ve kept the family aspect embedded into the brewery after all these years”, said Andrew Sky, a visitor of the brewery.
Passed down for many generations, Cantillon Brewery produces the only beer in the world that continues to be produced by natural fermentation. This means natural ambient yeast that was floating in the air would settle into the wort (unfermented sugar liquid) and spark fermentation.
Taking all components into consideration, Cantillon brews 55 times in the winter, which is their maximum amount. There is limited space and time since it is all dependent upon the climate.
Lambic brewers only brew during the cold months of late fall, winter, and early spring. This is the time when the best mix of wild yeast is active and more dangerous bacteria are inactive.
“Each time we brew, the miracle starts again,” said Georgette Callebaut, a tour guide at Cantillon. They call this the mother of all beers as well as the “most mysterious beer”.
Once it reaches a certain temperature, “at that time of the night the miracle happens,” Callebaut says.
However, this process isn’t one for impatient people. Taking up to three and a half years to fully ferment in the barrel, one better be capable of putting their thirst aside for a little and quenching it with something else in the meantime.
In Belgium, 77 percent of businesses are family owned which accounts for one third of gross domestic product. Cantillon fits into that demographic and has carried on the family aspect ever since.
“They’re not just interested in making a great beer, they’re just as interested in giving back and making the brewery work for their community,” French said.