Two brew days at Brasserie Cantillon

Published on January 24, 2018.

Once the four hour boil of the wort and aged hops is finished, the next step of the brewing process can begin. First, the wort is pumped from the boiling kettles into the hopback, a deep stainless steel vessel used as a filter to capture the hop flowers. This process continues even after the coolship has begun filling, until all the wort has been run through the hopback. The hot wort is pumped into Cantillon’s copper coolship (koelschip), which is located on the top floor (attic) of the brewery.

The coolship, a shallow, rectangular vessel, occupies its own room on the same floor as the malts and hops, at the very top of the brewery. Van Roy says: “Our coolship has a capacity of 70 hectoliters (note: about 59.6 U.S. barrels.) The other 5 hl of wort from each batch is filled into another tun, called a cuve guilloire.”

Open windows in the coolship room allow the cold night air to flow in, and with it, wild yeasts and bacteria that exist naturally in the air. As the wort cools overnight, from a starting temperature of about 85 to 90 degrees Celsius (185 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit) wild yeasts, which include Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and Brettanomyces Lambicus, and various bacteria, fall into the wort to feast (feed) on the starches and proteins inside. The coolship’s design provides a large surface area for the wort to be exposed to the air, and allows for maximum exposure for the wild yeasts and bacteria to be able to fall into the wort. These wild bugs begin to infect (ferment) the wort, as it cools overnight to about 18 degrees celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit.) The next morning, the cooled wort will be pumped into some of Cantillon’s oak and chestnut casks, which range in size from 225-liters to 2000-liters (1.9 to 17 U.S. barrels.)

Hot wort being pumped into the hopback, to separate (filter out) the hop flowers, prior to the wort being pumped into the coolship. Note the metal screen to the left. The wort flows back through this screen (filter) and is pumped back into the boiling kettle before being pumped into the coolship.

Hot wort being pumped into the hopback, to separate (filter out) the hop flowers, prior to the wort being pumped into the coolship. Note the metal screen to the left. The wort flows back through this screen (filter) and is pumped back into the boiling kettle before being pumped into the coolship.

Hot wort being pumped into the hopback (hop filter) at Brasserie Cantillon, with a close up of the wet hop flowers inside.

Hot wort being pumped into the hopback (hop filter) at Brasserie Cantillon, with a close up of the wet hop flowers inside.

Hot wort being pumped into the hopback, to separate (filter out) the hop flowers, prior to the wort being pumped into the coolship.

Hot wort being pumped into the hopback, to separate (filter out) the hop flowers, prior to the wort being pumped into the coolship. Note the metal screen to the left. The wort flows back through this screen (filter) before being pumped into the coolship.

Jean Van Roy raking wet hops away from the wire screen (left) so the wort can pass through it prior to being pumped into the coolship.

Jean Van Roy raking wet hops away from the wire screen (left) so the wort can pass through it prior to being pumped into the coolship.

Jean Van Roy raking wet hops away from the wire screen (left) so the wort can pass through it prior to being pumped into the coolship.

Jean Van Roy raking wet hops away from the wire screen (left) so the wort can pass through it prior to being pumped into the coolship.

Another shot of Jean Van Roy raking hops in the hopback, which is located directly beneath the bottom of the right side brewkettle.

Another shot of Jean Van Roy raking hops in the hopback, which is located directly beneath the bottom of the “Petite cuve d’ébullition” (Or: “Small boiling kettle”.)

A close up of hops in the hopback (hop filter) at Brasserie Cantillon.

A close up of hops in the hopback (hop filter) at Brasserie Cantillon.

Cantillon brewmaster Jean Van Roy, with the hopback in action behind him.

Cantillon brewmaster Jean Van Roy, with the hopback in action behind him.

You can see the copper pipe coming from the left mash tun (where the aged whole hops are added and boiled with wort) into the hopback, where the hops are filtered out.

You can see the copper pipe coming from the bottom of the Grande cuve d’ébullition into the hopback, where the hops are filtered out.

Another shot of wort being pumped into the hopback (hop filter) prior to being pumped into the coolship.

Another shot of wort being pumped into the hopback (hop filter) prior to being pumped into the coolship.

Used hops inside the hopback at Brasserie Cantillon.

Used hops inside the hopback at Brasserie Cantillon.

The hopback, completely full of wort and hops.

The hopback, completely full of wort and hops.

Jean Van Roy using a sack to catch and hops that may be at the very bottom of the left boiling kettle. This happens towards the end of the brewing day. In this case, was 4:15 pm on 28 November 2017.

Jean Van Roy using a sack to catch and hops that may be at the very bottom of the Grande cuve d’ébullition. This happens towards the end of the brewing day. In this case, was 4:15 pm on 28 November 2017.

Used hops from the bottom of the left boiling kettle settling in a bag underneath it.

Used hops from the bottom of the Grande cuve d’ébullition settling in a bag underneath it.

Another shot of this decidedly hands-on filtration method.

Another shot of this decidedly hands-on filtration method.

And now, where the magic happens…..Cantillon’s coolship! Note the open (louvered) windows to the left and right in some of the photos. On a typical brew day, the coolship begins to be filled around 3:15 to 3:30 pm, and it takes about an hour and a half to fill completely.

The copper coolship (koelschip) at Brasserie Cantillon, on the top floor of the brewery.

The copper coolship (koelschip) at Brasserie Cantillon, on the top floor of the brewery.

Another shot of the Cantillon coolship. You can see open windows on the right.

Another shot of the Cantillon coolship. You can see open windows on the right.

The roof inside the Brasserie Cantillon coolship room.

The roof inside the Brasserie Cantillon coolship room.

Another view of the coolship at Brasserie Cantillon.

Another view of the coolship at Brasserie Cantillon.

Open windows on the left side of the Cantillon coolship room.

Open windows on the left side of the Cantillon coolship room.

You can see open windows on the left side of the Cantillon coolship room.

You can see open windows on the left side of the Cantillon coolship room.

Wort will be pumped into the coolship via this copper pipe in the back center of the vessel.

Wort will be pumped into the coolship via this copper pipe in the back center of the vessel.

Wort first hits the coolship at 3:23 pm on November 28, 2017.

Wort first hit the coolship at 3:23 pm on November 28, 2017.

Brasserie Cantillon's coolship begins to fill with wort.

Brasserie Cantillon’s coolship begins to fill with wort.

Close up of hot wort being pumped into Cantillon's copper coolship.

Close up of hot wort being pumped into Cantillon’s copper coolship.

Wort flows into the coolship at Brasserie Cantillon.

Wort flows into the coolship at Brasserie Cantillon.

Another shot of the coolship filling.

Another shot of the coolship filling.

The coolship fills with wort.

The coolship fills with wort.

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Steam fills the air as the hot wort hits the cold coolship.

Steam fills the air as the hot wort hits the cold coolship.

After about a minute, steam fills the room, and makes it difficult to see the wort filling the coolship.

After about a minute, steam fills the room, and makes it difficult to see the wort filling the coolship.

A drain on the right corner of the coolship.

A drain on the right corner of the coolship.

Another photo of the coolship filling up.

Another photo of the coolship filling up.

The steamed up coolship at Brasserie Cantillon.

The steamed up coolship at Brasserie Cantillon.

After a few minutes, this is all you can see in the coolship room.

After a few minutes, this is all you can see in the coolship room.

The entrance to the coolship room at Cantillon.

The entrance to the coolship room at Cantillon.

Old wooden crates under the steps leading into the Brasserie Cantillon coolship room.

Old wooden crates under the steps leading into the Brasserie Cantillon coolship room.

The steps lead to the door and the Brasserie Cantillon coolship room.

The steps lead to the door and the Brasserie Cantillon coolship room.

Once the wort has cooled for at least 12 hours or so, it will be pumped into some of Cantillon’s wooden casks, which are made of oak and chestnut. The wort will age in casks for between one and four years, depending on which beer the lambic is to be used in. The process of fermentation and aging in wooden barrels transforms the wort into lambic. The details of that process will have to wait for another story….

Cantillon brew days most often happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and some Wednesdays. Jean Van Roy says: “We have to prepare for brewing the day before we brew, and that is why we do not brew on Mondays, because we are closed on Sundays. Also, we have to finish cleaning the brewery and fill barrels with the cooled wort the day after a brew day, and that is the reason that we do not brew on Fridays, because we do not want to do that work on Saturdays.”

A typical brew day lasts until about 4:30 pm. The brewery opens to the public at 10 am and closes at 5 pm. Last call in the popular tasting room is 4 pm. Brasserie Cantillon is closed on Wednesdays, Sundays, and public holidays.

Here are two more articles on Brasserie Cantillon:The Bomb Shelter Beer Cellar and Filling Barrels on Brew Day.

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