I managed to navigate the streets of Brussels today and find parking just two blocks (and I use that term generously--the streets of the city writhe like snakes, so what lies between them is rarely rectilinear--away from the legendary Brasserie Cantillon. To top it off, owner and brewer Jean Van Roy was brewing today, and as I arrived, he was pumping steaming wort into the koelschip (cool ship). Since Cantillon is one of the world's most famous breweries, and since he has an open-door policy to all who drop by, everything I could write is already well-documented.

So instead I'll tell you three things that surprised me.

1. The brewing season, which depends on cool temperatures to drop the wort to fermentation temperatures in the koelschip by morning, is getting shorter. It runs from roughly late October to early April, but this is down by a month since Jean's grandfather brewed. (Capacity, not available brewing days, are the limitation for the brewery.)

2. Faro is strangely malty. Cantillon's is as historic as you'll find (though strong), but I've never had the chance to try it before.

3. Unlike in Britain, where a renaissance in brewing has excited the market (without exception, every brewer expressed optimism and excitement for the future), the same isn't happening with lambics. In the US, we're crazy for sour beers. Jean said Italians are even ahead of Americans. But in Belgium, not so much.

Jean let us try a 2006 bottle of Gueuze before I left and it was stunningly good. Cantillon's fauna sometimes produce beers too dry for my taste. This one was absolutely perfect. It was alive with citrus rind and a lavender delicacy. The souring was more acid than vinegar, and the resemblance to wine was marked. It would be a useful mile marker for new world brewers looking to find the sweet spot for sours. They don't have to be extreme to exhibit amazing complexity, and they don't have to have (indeed shouldn't have) excessive Brett harshness or exotic solvent notes. I mean, we should know that the taste of burning tire is bad, right? This beer's a reminder.

I will see Frank Boon tomorrow.