WSJ: Tracking an Ancient Belgian Beer

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Tracking an Ancient Belgian Beer
Lambic, a rare, sour brew, uses techniques dating back to man's first beer. Reporter Charles Forelle visits one of the few remaining breweries

BRUSSELS -- Beer is usually not a morning pursuit.

But it was still dark one day last month when I lumbered out of bed and over to the tiny Cantillon brewery, located in a scruffy neighborhood not far from the main train station here.

Industrial brewers can be as secretive as defense contractors -- good luck getting inside the mashing room of Diageo PLC's Guinness brewery in Dublin -- but a couple of times a year Cantillon opens its doors to the public.

I had risen early because I wanted to see how to brew lambic, a Belgian specialty so retro its origins go back thousands of years. The early-morning start was necessary because there are no refrigerated tanks or cryogenic chillers at Cantillon; the boiled liquid that will become beer cools in the open air, and it needs a whole, cold night to do so. Thus all the mixing, cooking, filtering and boiling must be completed well before sunset.
 
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