In a rare part of Brussels where time seems to stand still lies a family-run brewery in operation since 1900. Pajottenland, an area of expansive meadows and farmland in the west corner of the capital, is home to the Cantillon Lambic Brewery. This middle word should ring a bell for any lover of Belgian beers since the Gueuze and Kriek varieties of Lambic, with their dry, tart taste, are widely known to be a national specialty. The particular flavor is mostly due to the use of bacteria from the local river Senne, making it almost impossible to replicate and establishing it as a beer often only found within Belgian borders.
Luck has it then that the Lambic – a beer so quintessentially Belgian it inspired Willy Vandersteen to name a comic strip character after it – is among the specialties of an exceptionally welcoming brewery. The Roy-Cantillon family is always happy to share their traditional techniques, which haven’t changed since the place was founded in 1900. Individual visitors are encouraged to ask questions to the master brewer, who will talk your ear off with fun facts about his beloved beers.
Cantillon Lambic Brewery, Rue Gheude 56, 1070 Brussels, Belgium +32 2 521 49 28
Newest Belgian scion of the famed Trappist family, Achel has found a loophole in the monastic tradition of keeping brewing efforts for monks’ eyes only. By installing its café right next to its brewery and installing a window between the two, visitors can now see the abbey’s brothers milling around the brewing kettles as they go about their work. An actual tour isn’t in the cards as the monks’ dedication to their craft prevents them from guiding nosy tourists around, yet sipping an Achel 8 Blond or Brown while watching the delicious Trappist made before your very eyes is a pretty decent consolation prize, if you ask us.
Achelse Kluis, Saint-Benedictus Abbey, Belgium +32 11 80 07 60
Recently revamped to include a visitor’s center, Antwerp’s oldest city brewery De Koninck has embraced its rising number of visitors with gusto. The birthplace of the famed Bolleke – a malty pale ale with hints of caramel and cinnamon beloved by locals – has transformed itself into the ideal locale to learn about this port city’s brewing history. After an interactive exhibit taking you through a beer bottle’s journey all the way into cafés, you’re invited to take a stroll on the bridge suspended across the actual brewing chambers with the machines and kettles whirring below. This is the spot where you’ll want to keep your eyes open since not too many Belgian breweries offer up the opportunity to watch how the magic happen in real-time.
De Koninck Brewery, Mechelsesteenweg 291, Antwerp, Belgium +32 3 866 96 90
A baby brewery compared to De Koninck above (the latter was founded in 1833), Kazematten Brewery only saw the light of day in 2013. Its unique setting more than makes up for a sense of history though, as its blonde beers Wipers Times and Grotten Santé are produced inside Ypres’ ancient casements. These fortified gun placements, designed by Louis XIV-adviser and legendary engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, date back about four centuries and have an incredibly rich history. At one point they were home to a field hospital and at another the The Wipers Times published its English soldier paper here (hence the name of the brewery’s best-known brew). Now the soutterains are home to modern brewing kettles, put there by some of the region’s foremost brewing families who wanted Ypres to finally have a city brewery to pride itself on.
Kazematten Brewery, Houten Paard 1, Ypres, Belgium +32 057 38 80 21