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Cantillon suspends production because of warm temperatures

23:59 05/11/2015

Brussels brewery Cantillon has stopped production of its lambic beers because the temperatures are unseasonably high for November. The brewer, located in Anderlecht, makes lambic by a process of spontaneous fermentation which sees large copper vessels sitting in rooms with the windows and vents wide open.

Lambic is only made in Brussels and Flemish Brabant: wild yeasts and bacteria work to ferment a boiled solution of malted barley as it lies exposed to the natural elements. To avoid having the lambic – the basis for gueuze, kriek and other traditional beers – infected by unwanted organisms, the exposure only takes place when the temperatures drop overnight to between zero and five degrees.

That would normally be the case in November, but recent temperatures have been unusually warm. “I’ve been in this business for 15 years, and this is the second time this has happened,” said owner Jean Van Roy. “My father never experienced it. Clearly, Cantillon is the victim of climate change.”

The brewery hopes to be able to start up production by next week, once temperatures return to normal, in time for a planned public brewing day on 14 November. “That’s the only day of the year when we brew on Sunday,” Van Roy said. “People come from all over the world for the event.”

Cantillon recently doubled its brewing capacity by acquiring storage space where the beer can mature. A stoppage of one week is, Van Roy said, “no disaster,” but anything longer would be. “Then we would lose one-tenth of our production.”

Written by Alan Hope