If you happen to stumble upon this page looking for tips on Brasserie Cantillon, the brewery is back in it’s pre-Covid form, operating tours and welcoming guests back to the upstairs bar. Have a great time.
But for me, Cantillon Day, a personal annual tradition founded in 2019, is never about the beer.
Ironically my March 9th pilgrimage to Brasserie Cantillon, a week after Belgium lifted the Covid mask mandate, was postponed due to my first encounter with the pesky disease. As I entered the brewery on March 19th, welcoming the scent of musty cellar and fermenting oak barrels, I was briefly met with a hollow feeling in my gut. What if the same thing had happened three years ago? What if I’d actually arrived on the 19th of March, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nineteen? Can it be that somewhere in the universe is an alternative version of myself wandering thru life oblivious to the joys brought about by that fateful day? It was a haunting concept, which I probably let linger too long in my mind. The way it pierced my soul heightened my senses. I WAS here, three years ago on the 9th. And there was the reminder.
Steady and reliable. Humble. No longer serving as a guest table but hocking pamphlets instead. The top warped by age, it valiantly keeps my purchases standing as my heart leaps at the long-awaited framing of yet another picture. One of my greatest fears is discovering this barrel has been rendered obsolete and replaced by a more modern one, or even worse, finding an empty space in the floor where it used to be. Thanks for being here, Barrel. How has life been since last year? Oh really? Yes, yes I do. Very much.
In the bar, I sipped a glass of 2005 Grand Cru Bruoscella to the din of a room full of merry drinkers, several of which had clear American accents. It felt warmly similar to that day in 2019. I looked around at the faces, listened more closely to the voices, aching for the familiar. An ache like something a tree has grown around and incorporated into itself. I fiddled with my phone, scrolling aimlessly thru messages and pictures as one does to give the impression of having company. Even after one glass, I was starting to get hungry. I was overwhelmed with cravings for blueberries, cheeseburgers, and tortellini. So I swallowed the last of the Bruoscella, grabbed my backpack, smiling at the sound of the clanking bottles inside. Two more for the growing collection, each one a symbol of hope, of memories, and of hopeful memories to come.
On the way out, a pat on it’s copious round belly. I will see you next year, Barrel.
On the 9th?
Yes, on the 9th.
The Rest of the Day
Had lunch at a Lebanese restaurant with a delicious assortment of vegetarian tapas highlighted by their grilled cauliflower, followed by a visit to the Matisse Museum.