My wife and I found this tour from TripAdvisor and based on the reviews and my love of beer we booked and took our tour with Cesar on February 2nd.
Overall: Decent tour; nice education; appeals to all levels of beer knowledge; fair priced; not a pub crawl (Cesar makes note of that from the beginning); nice selection of beers; tour a working brewery (Cantillon Brewing); experience two unique and different Brussels Pubs & plenty of American generalizations. Wait, what did he just say?
Some of Cesar’s Americanisms grew to be a bit much for my wife and I by the end of the tour. The way he talked down about American culture in generalizations was really inappropriate at times. One of his comments about how “the Americans on the tour might have some trouble keeping up with the walking” really annoyed my wife and I. There was even a point where some of our Norwegian tour partners glanced over and exchanged eye rolls after a few of his comments. I’m really surprised other US reviewers did not include this in their reviews; took someone from Canada to point out this fact. Don’t believe me? Read it in their TA review of this tour from February 14, 2012.
Simply put, the tour operator, Cesar, originally from Argentina, living for 6 years in Brussels, who also spent some time in France and married a corporate lawyer should really hold his opinions of American culture to himself. Especially, when we shelled out $107 USD for his tour. Plus, if he read TripAdvisor he would notice that it’s mainly Americans who are giving him the positive reviews that help him maintain his “#1 Activity in Brussels status.” By nature I’m more passive, so his comments mainly just got under my skin, but since I was more interested in the beer knowledge I gave him a pass. My wife on the other hand wasn’t as forgiving. She may even write her own TA review.
Sorry, enough of the rant, let me comment on the tour itself. It’s a great concept. Cesar gives a decent tour and he includes some awesome spots. You meet out front of the Visit Brussels office in the Grand Place at 2pm sharp. Our tour started at Au Bon Vieux Temps, a quaint Brussels beer bar, about 300 years old, located down an alley way. Here, Cesar began with an intro to the ingredients of beer followed by a discussion about Trappist beers and brewing. We were given the option to try a Blonde (Westmalle Tripel), Amber (Orval), or a Dark (Rouchefort). We also spent some time discussing the “Best Beer in the World”, Westvleteren. Unfortunately, we did not try it, but Cesar got us a bottle form the bar (yes Au Bon Vieux had it) and we passed the plain bottle around and discussed how marketing can effect perception. He suggested if you order this beer from this Pub, ask for it at cellar temperature.
Next stop was Cantillon Brewing, according to Cesar this is a Mecca for Beer Geeks. As a “Wanna Be Beer Geek,” I was all in for the experience. Here we toured the functioning brewery and learned about spontaneous fermentation. At the end we sampled a Lambic right from the barrel (not actually from the barrel, more like from a ceramic jug who’s contents I guess came from the barrel). We were also given the choice to sample a Gueze (sour), or a Raspberry Lambic (sweet), or an Iris (a mix; completely original to the brewery). It’s worth noting that the Cantillon website offers a great PDF file with information for a walking tour around Brussels, print it out before you go.
The tour concludes at a more modern Brussels pub called Moeder Lambic Fontainas (Mother Lambic). The pub has 46 beers on draft and leaves some malted grains on the tables for you to snack on. It was early Saturday evening and the place was beginning to fill up. We had a reserved area in the back where we sampled two additional beers. A blonde, from Brassier de la Senne. Very refreshing after the sourness of the Gueze and the Lambic at Cantillon. We were then given a choice of either a smoky, bacon flavored Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from Brauerei Heller. My personal favorite of the day. My wife opted for the other selection, her favorite of the day, the Bink Blosesem from Kerkom. Cesar wrapped up the tour, which at this point was going on 4 hours, after these selections. My wife and I decided to stay a little longer to experience the vibe of Moeder Lambic after the tour to try one of their quiches. Highly recommend.
So, bottom line, if Cesar tones down, and/or gets rid of his American generalizations, or if you can block them out for 4 hours, you’ll have an even better time on this tour.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.