Tag Archive: Cantillon


Cantillon: Grand Cru Bruocsella 2007(Belgium Unblended lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed grain. Still with no head.

Nose: Tart and sour. Very tart apples. Vinegar. Woollen scarves. Light wet rum casks. Chestnut mushrooms (initially recorded as chestnuts).

Body: Surprisingly light front. Apple cider. Dry white wine. Teeth tingling. Walnuts. Mushrooms. An acid kick as you swallow.

Finish: Lemongrass. Dry white wine finish. Dry nuttiness. Dry sherry. Kind of dry then. Light cherry touches. White grapes. Mushrooms.

Conclusion: Ok this is going to be an interesting one to write up. I have scattered notes from the start and end of the first and second glass of this, and the opinions vary as the beer shifts and turns. I have attempted to put it together into something that both encapsulates the variety of opinion this beer engenders and also try to make it at least slightly comprehensible.

Here goes.

With this beer my long term examination of Cantillon continues, with this rare example of an unblended lambic. Now my last experience of unblended lambic was a good one, and I am warming to Cantillon as the years go on. This however, initially at least, was not to my tastes.

It is a very subtle beer for the main flavour, unfortunately the main body can also seem light. The front especially seeming occasionally watery.  The back by comparison hits with an acid burn as you swallow.  This seems to be deemphasising the elements I came to enjoy in the past lambic while keeping the burn that never really appealed to me.

With further examination I can see what people enjoy in it. It has a dry nuttiness and white wine style which seems to be a result of the changing style.  It also has surprising depth at this point. It may be it takes about half a glass to build up the flavour, or it may just take time to acclimatise but the finish in particular shows an impressive slow bloom of flavour.

The main enjoyment does seem to be front and finish though.  The flavour that floats on the finish is by far superior to what you get mid body.  In  a way I find this more than most examples emphasises the dichotomy of experience with Cantillon. I can see the quality held within it that leads to it being held in such high regard. The aroma, the dry tartness, wine like qualities and the shimmering range to the finish. However this more than any other I find I enjoy more on intellectual examination that on a visceral level. The main body especially just doesn’t click in what it does with the lighter style.

Then we get to the thoughts held near the end of the drink.  By this point the finish does drag me back to it, with a dry sherry like element being added to the nuttiness that is particularly pleasant. The later realised mushroom elements (See notes later for more on that) are very interesting, if not quite what I was expecting. I still do not think this is quite the Cantillon for me, a statement that may get me some hate mail from Cantillon hardcore fans.  However even more than most Cantillons I found the examination a joy in itself more than the beer. It really is an example of something different in the craft,

Final thoughts. A fine aroma and finish, and intriguing beer, but one that does not quite hold my joy as I hold it on my tongue.

Note: I cannot claim to have come to the description of the mushroom elements myself. Remembering that  “100 Belgium beers to try before you die” had advised an accompanied tasting for this I took a look at their notes for my own enjoyment after I had finished two glasses and the vast majority of my writing.  After seeing their reference to it I realized that explained the odd aroma I couldn’t quite pin down.  I was then torn between my usual insistence on not adding to the tasting notes after looking at others thoughts and the fact that it was a very accurate description of an important element. In compromise I listed the elements and added this note here to allow for psychosomatic bias and to give correct attribution to the writers of that book

Background: Bottled early 2011, drunk early 2012.  As mentioned many a time on this blog I have an interesting relationship with Cantillion. The most dry and hardcore of lambic produces, I originally could not get along with them., Over the years I have returned to various of their bottled beers and have found them fascinating, but can never quiet decide if I like them most of the time. They are however intriguing, and I always look forwards to breaking open a bottle to see what happens this time.  This is a rare unblended lambic of three years of age.  I had tried the two year unblended on tap at the GBBF and found it very much to my taste.

Cantillon: Saint Lamvinus (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear dark cherry to ruby red. A head froths to life, but does not last beyond the pour in the acidity. Looks somewhat like a single drop of blood has been dropped in and swirled around to create the hazy red look.

Nose: Horse blankets. White wine. Light blueberry. Slight tart gooseberries. That cheeseboard effect. Becomes slightly musty as it warms and much more fruity with red grapes coming out.

Body: White grapes. Tart yet dry. A touch gravely initially. Gooseberries. White wine. As it warms you get evident red grapes. Sour cherry, as well as oddly sweet shop sour cherry chews.  Cheeseboards again and blackcurrant.

Finish: White wine and light acidity. Grapes. Blackcurrant touches. Light brown bread slices. Dry. Occasionally oaken with a touch of fruit seeds.

Conclusion: Some people really take the concept of lambics as “the wine of beers” to the limits don’t they?  Merlot grapes and oak ageing of the lambic seems to be the result, and thus this beer.

The wine touches are unmistakable, oddly despite its gorgeous red colour; the flavour often calls more to white wine when it was chilled. As it warms the influence of the merlot grapes becomes much more apparent.   The colour, described as like a single drop of blood had been added, did lead to much quoting of “I don’t drink…wine” over the nights drinking.

For taste and aroma you have a lot of the call to lambic styling here. The dry acidity, horse blanket aroma, and cheeseboard like influence. The fruit influence is weaved in subtly, without the sheer sour force of say the kriek.  The dryness is similarly restrained, still present but not teeth drying in its power.  It may be just a sign of acclimatisation to Cantillons, but it does feel much smoother from its time in the oak.

Whilst restrained and fruity, it does not quite grab me as much as say, the Lou Pepe Framboise did. This can possible be attributed to the higher wine influence, which as a non wine drinker, was fascinating, but more appreciated intellectually than through the taste itself.  Still impressive, for whatever reason, but yes, more wine like that I tend to appreciate it.

So, your enjoyment will really depend on your lambic acclimatisation, and wine appreciation, but it is a fine crafted beer.

On a final note, much better as it warmed, though still slightly chilled, and make sure you take the dregs at the bottom of the bottle where the extra sediment really pushes the black cherry notes up massively in a very enjoyable manner.

Background: 600 Tasting Notes! Woo. To celebrate I broke open this from the beers that I always toe the line between love and hate for me, the Cantillons.  The most challenging of the Belgium, or in fact any, lambics.  This oddity has been aged in oak casks (apparently Burgundy barrels according to rate beer) and made with merlot grapes. Shared with friends, this beer recommends on its bottle to drink within a year of buying to appreciate the fruit nature fully. It was drunk seven days before said year deadline.

Cantillon: 2 year Lambic (Belgium: Unblended Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual:   Yellowed grain. Thin rim of white bubbles. Slightly hazy and distinctly still body.

Nose:  Tart. Dried apricot. A mix of crumble desserts and lemon. Crab apple. Very dry and sharp, yet still slightly sherbety.

Body:  Surprisingly easy going. Smooth texture and dry oats taste. Tart without being overpowering. Lemon.  Almost woollen if that makes sense. Lemon curd.

Finish: Lemon. Vinegar acidity. Tongue drying. Light green peppers of chilli. Oats again.

Conclusion. Wow. For all Cantillon turn out sharp hardcore beers I was expecting this to kick my teeth out. Instead, whilst it is sharp and acidic in finish, it comes through wondrously smooth. Very fresh, and delicious flavours, still not one for a newcomer to lambics, but very well done.

The lemon sharpness mixes with a flavour that I would call the flavour equivalent of the horse blanket aroma you get with many gauze beers.  This of course makes very little sense as  flavour so I have tried to describe it better in the tasting, with little success I might note.  The dry elements keep it fresh over every sip.

Not a common beer I’m guessing, so try it if you find it, I can’t promise you will love it but you won’t forget it.  Personally I can’t think of a better thirst quencher for a hot day.

Background: Note- the unblended lambic statement for style is a guess. The item is listed as 2 year lambic and describes as the base element of a geuze, so it seems a solid bet.  This would be my first unblended lambic then, and one from the notoriously mouth puckering Cantillon. Brave aren’t I? Drunk at the Great British Beer festival in London 2011.

Cantillon: Kriek (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear black cherry with a dark burgundy red head.

Nose:  Black cherry. Apples and acidic feel. Wet oak. Mature cheese. Pips and raspberries. Lots of cherries.

Body: Tart. Vinegar and cherries. Wood. Mature cheese. Distinctly sour and dry.

Finish:  Fresh feel. Cherry. Teeth drying. Light raspberry and black cherry. Lime. Apple crumble.  Light cheese. Blackberry and lemon meringue

Conclusion:  So I return one more to the legendary and oft somewhat feared Cantillon.  One of the most prestigious lambics, one of the driest and one of the first I ever tried.

So, now I’ve had some more experience with the style, how is it? Still sharp as hell.  Manageable now though, it is mouth puckering sour and dry but no longer unpleasantly so.  The finish however, that is what intrigues. As you leave the drink after a sip, the still remains on your tongue shift through fruit flavours, sweet, sharp, acidic and sour in turns. Many fruit flavours express them, most of which are fruit that I know for a fact never came near the beer in its making, they instead result from the interplay of the layers of the beer.

The body may have equal subtly, but it’s still hard for me to tell behind its acid sourness.   Though just as it slips down your gullet it seems to lighten and you can really enjoy the full cherry flavour.

Full bodied, fruity and fresh.  Don’t pick this as your first kriek beer, or first lambic.  Seriously. Work up to it and you will appreciate it, it’s worth taking your time, both in working up to it and appreciating that long shimmering finish.

A beer than needs a work out to get ready for it, but worth the effort.

Background: Cantillon Kriek was one of the first lambics I tried and I had been warned it was quite challenging. The warning did little to stop my shock as my mouth promptly puckered.  It was a while after that before I gave lambics another go, since they I have returned to Cantillon again. This however is the first time I have returned to the first Cantillon I ever tried, their Kriek beer

Cantillon: Lou Pepe Framboise 2007 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

(Bottled 2009, drunk 2010)

Visual: Steamy dark cherry red with a raspberry fizzy head, when cool the head vanishes nearly instantly. When slightly warmer a more solid if not exactly sturdy head is evident.

Nose: Sharp and sour, delicate thorns and twigs, with distinct raspberry. Brambles and crumble comes out also. Very acidic. Jiff.

Body: Tart, acidic, a slightly understated raspberry. Slight earthy character and under ripe fruit. Some unexpected strawberry. Insane levels of sherbety texture. Heavy red wine influence and lots of oak casks. Cheeseboards and a bunch of grapes.

Finish: Apples, sourness and acidity, Mouth drying. Crab apples. Lots of wood and blackcherry (oddly).Lemon, more cheese in taste and texture.

Conclusion: 100 Belgium Beers to Try Before You Die called this “One of the worlds great drinks” – I’m not that sold yet, in part due to the aggressive sourness that masks the flavours below somewhat for me. However this beer takes you on quite a journey, so shall we examine it?

In a way, initially this is a very “back of the mouth” drink, the front taste buds seem too shocked to catch everything, and so it’s at the back the flavour really hits. Then again this mouth puckering sharpness is always Cantillons unique selling point (though not as sharp as their kriek).

When the taste mellows somewhat you start getting wine and cheese coming out, a platter of elements combined. At this point I start to feel like I’m debating with myself, the beer hovers between too much and intriguing and clever. Like the Rodenbach Grand Cru I find myself fascinated but unable to decide if I actually like it.

I returned to Cantillon here for the 350th tasting note in the hope of setting this beast to bed. The normal Cantillon was my first ever lambic and its intense sourness overwhelmed me then. I returned to this acclaimed version in the hope that my more experience pallet could decide finally on my view on it.

I am distinctly intrigued, yet I still cannot decide; guess I’ll have to return to Cantillon again in years to come.

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