By 1900, Paul Cantillon and his wife Marie Troch began a gueuze blending business in Anderlecht. During these first 37 years, Cantillon never actually brewed a beer. Instead, they bought lambic from a variety of producers in the area to blend and sell on their own, considering Cantillon a beer blender and beer merchant.
After the First World War, Paul was ready to expand the business and bring his two sons named Robert and Marcel into the fold. In 1937, Paul, Robert, and Marcel purchased second-hand brewing equipment and the first batch of Cantillon’s own beer was brewed in 1938.
During the Second World War, with supplies in demand for the soldiers, it was more difficult to continue to brew beers. The period during the war saw the brewery at a near standstill. The immediate post-war years did not see the same demand and production of beers as the 1930s had. To make matters worse, a massive heat wave in Belgium destroyed many breweries’ stocks including Cantillon’s. Sometime around 1950, the brewery began to recover and reached an all-time high production in 1955.
Starting in 1960, the demand for traditional gueuze and lambic began to decline once again, and Robert sold his share to Marcel and left the business. Marcel, too, was on his way out of the brewing business when his only daughter, Claude, married Jean-Pierre Van Roy. By 1969-1972, Van Roy had taken the reins of the brewery.
To keep the brewery afloat, Van Roy sweetened his gueuze with artificial sweeteners to keep up with current tastes. Sadly, this did not help the brewery and it continued to operate at a loss. By 1975, Jean-Pierre began to abandon the artificial sweeteners and stopped the practice altogether by 1978. In 1978, he also decided to create a working exhibit dedicated to the art of lambic brewing. Opening Cantillon to the public allowed the brewery to bring some extra revenue to help balance the books. It also helped to spread the word to both locals and to tourists.
Though still involved in the brewery, the elder Van Roy brewed his last official batch in 2009. Jean Van Roy, who spent a full twenty years working beside his father, now directs the brewery’s operations after having officially taken over in 2003.