Utter the name Brasserie Cantillon and beer geeks worldwide start foaming at the mouth. Cantillon makes almost exclusively sour beer in the lambic or blended lambic style, known as gueuze. These unique beers have experienced a major renaissance over the last decade. A brand that once sat on shelves in the U.S. collecting dust is now nearly impossible to find thanks to the fanatical dedication of their fans stateside.
The explosion of Cantillon’s popularity has led to some adjustments in the last year, namely the opening of a new cellar facility in an old bomb shelter in Brussels. Yes, it is a real bomb shelter, complete with metal entrance that swings up from the ground. Metal gates engraved with Cantillon's logo protect the fermenting treasures. How cool is that? Add to it that they signed a 30-year lease for free from the city of Brussels and you might just have the greatest cultural preservation project ever.
There is already a small treasure trove of sour beer laid down for maturation — about 10,000 bottles. If that seems like a crazy amount of coveted beer, just imagine 20 years from now, when an estimated 60,000-80,000 bottles will line those subterranean walls. The thought alone has got us all puckered up! Drink Belgian Beer has the full story on that.
This should have been a reason to celebrate, but over the last week some not-so-nice news has been circulating that Cantillion was the victim of a rare beer heist. This is the dark side of the craft beer world: when the collecting and compulsive hoarding of rare beers ruins the fun for everyone. The worst part: the thief was reportedly connected to a brewery that collaborates with Cantillon, then the stolen beers appeared for sale in the States. Part of the romance of the brewery is its guided tours through the musky underground facility, where many rare bottles lay resting within reach. I can only hope this breach doesn’t taint future visits to the brewery for others.
While such an opportunity to taste rare sour beer might seem tempting, you don’t have to seek out the black market to try some this weekend. Even though we're in the final few days of American Craft Beer Week, the opportunity is so rare that we encourage you to seek out these awesome Belgian suds. But you'll need to hit the road to Alaska right now. Tomorrow, Anchorage Brewing Company's Culmination Festival in Alaska will feature Iris, their unblended lambic and the ultra hard-to-find, Fou’ Foune, a lambic made with apricots. If Anchorage isn’t in your weekend plans, you’ll have a chance to buy some of their Classic Gueuze at One Mile House in New York City for their Wild Beer event.
If you can’t make it to an event, pour yourself an American sour like Almanac’s newest fruit beer, Dogpatch Strawberry. It’s the best way to celebrate American Craft Beer Week and pay homage to the tradition of Cantillon during a hell of a week.
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