Small gestures...

Better than those famous Belgian comics: this is as true as life.

Summer is almost over. Looking back to the experiences I have had during these melting-hot months, I can say aloud it hasn't been just another summer. At all. It started with the latest stages of Mrs. Birraire's pregnancy, followed by the birth of my baby daughter on August. It has indeed been an emotionally intense period: full of uncertainties, but with lots of calmed and quiet moments. It has actually been so quiet that I haven't even had relevant beer stories, beyond every single beer drunk. Well, to say the truth, there might have been a couple of worth-writing tales.
"An unexpected occupant had helped itself to a second home, to rest after all the hard work throughout the year"

Circumstances, such as the celebration of the EBBC15, led me back to Brussels for a two days intense experience: 48 hours with lots of things to do, but during which I didn't miss the chance to make that long-awaited visit. I missed my opportunity back in 2007 when I lived in Belgium for half a year, and also during a trip in 2009. But not this time. Along with my fellow vlogger Simon Martin, I finally stepped on the premises of Brasserie Cantillon. I'm not going to write about the tour, though. Instead, I want to share a little anecdote that happened during the visit to this classic Lambic brewery.

After excitedly touring every single visitable corner of the brasserie, I wanted to get myself a little souvenir from the shop located at the entrance of the premises. Among other items, I wanted a couple of tumbler glasses: one for my collection of glassware; the second one to drink Gueuze at home like a true bruxellois. The first glass was wrapped with newspaper for added protection during transport. But when they proceeded to do the same thing with the second one, luck wanted me to witness a beautiful and symbolic scene.
"In these times in which every single week we read about yet another huge business deal in the industry, I choose small gesture breweries"
That second tumbler had an unexpected occupant, who had helped itself to a second home to rest after all the hard work throughout the year.
Please meet Master Fermenter at Brasserie Cantillon.
The picture is not clear enough: the rush, the dim light and the effect caused by the narrow body of the tumbler played against an optimal capture of this unique moment. Indeed, within that second glass laid a considerably big spider. "Oh là là!" said out loud the gentleman who was attending me, with a mix of admiration and surprise. He then carefully proceeded  to cover the glass with a coaster.

Beside us, Julie Van Roy, Jean's sister and designer of the lovely labels of this Belgian brewery, looked fondly inside the glass: "Oh, c'est grand!". And with a brief exchange of words, a new location for that Master Fermenter was agreed. It was moved to the first floor of the brewery, so that it could continue its task of maintaining the natural balance of the unique ecosystem that can only be found at Brasserie Cantillon.

One day you hear or read about these small gestures that add romance and a mystical point to this Belgian brewery. But witnessing that memorable scene was the best souvenir I could have taken back home. I will always retain in my mind the memory of a place where no one seemed to have a hurry. A place where they naturally and hospitably received beer enthusiasts coming from all over the world, showing them without any censure how their product is actually made. No secrets: only ingredients, machinery and know-how.

Beer must express itself in the glass. My view has always been that the most important thing is the satisfaction of the consumer when drinking it. It was Dave Line, an English homebrewer and writer of the last century, who in the 70's complained as brewers seemed to have stopped worrying about customer satisfaction: they only seemed to worry about the satisfaction of their shareholders.

In these times in which every single week we read about yet another huge total or partial acquisition of brewing companies by the industry giants, I choose companies that are primarily concerned about their customers. I undoubtedly choose small gesture breweries.

Salut i birra!

Brasserie Cantillon → 56 Rue Gheude, 1070 Brussels. Belgium.


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