Podcast Episode 226: For Cantillon’s Jean Van Roy, Brewing Comes Naturally

Through dire decades for traditional lambic, this multigenerational Brussels brewery kept the flame lit long enough to witness the current renaissance. Yet Cantillon continues to explore methods for using fruit while staying true to the family’s vision.

Jamie Bogner , Joe Stange Feb 18, 2022 - 6 min read

Podcast Episode 226: For Cantillon’s Jean Van Roy, Brewing Comes Naturally Primary Image

Photo: Joe Stange

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History can be a heavy weight to bear. Being caretakers for a legacy and advocates for a tradition can win you credibility in small circles, but such victories seem inconsequential in the face of an industry and consumer tide that rolls toward simpler tastes. Cantillon, founded in 1900, survived the industry consolidation and shifting consumer tastes of the 20th century, when the number of Brussels lambic breweries dwindled from dozens to just one. While a cadre of diehards appreciated their adherence to tradition, it was the Jean-Pierre Van Roy’s decision to open as a tourist-focused museum that actually kept the business afloat.

When interest in craft brewing began to rise toward the end of the century, Cantillon saw ripples that broke into serious waves over the past couple of decades. Today, they stand at the pinnacle—not just as one of Belgium’s most respected lambic breweries, but also as one of the finest examples of artful brewing anywhere in the world.

In this episode, recorded in Cantillon’s second-floor tasting room, fourth-generation brewer Jean Van Roy recounts that storied past while discussing how the brewery has adapted to the current environment, embracing an energetic, winery-like approach to making beer. He discusses:

  • the necessity of keeping an active hand in the production of every beer
  • brewing in a living building that actively impacts the beer
  • following the vision of his family while discovering his own natural way to work
  • the turbid mash process using two boil kettles in the vintage 1800s brewhouse
  • picking up blending skills without learning them
  • utilizing long boils to decrease the cheesy flavors in aged hops
  • hop varieties used in Cantillon lambic
  • embracing the natural microflora
  • allowing Pediococcus to work by not pre-acidifying the wort
  • the ideal temperature range for lambic brewing and impacts of climate change
  • sustainability measures at the historic brewery
  • fruit philosophy and techniques
  • mixing wine lees and lambic in barrel-aged beers such as La Vie Est Belge
  • their sensory approach to fruit maceration

And more.

This episode is brought to you by:

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].