We recently visited a small family-owned brewery, La Brasserie à Vapeur. They hold public brewing sessions from 9-12 pm on the last Saturday of the month. The farmhouse brewery is located in the middle of Pipaix, in the Wallonian Hainut region, and is a gem of a family-owned brewery. The brewing process is powered by an old steam engine, which is visible just behind the mash tun.
As groups of people filtered in and out during the day, we got to take a tour and see their fermentation tanks, grain grinder, and wort chiller. They have working brewing equipment that dates into the early 1900's. While I cannot remember how large the fermentation tanks were (photo below), they sometimes add up to 3 kg of spices in a batch! Visiting a brewery during their brew day is really intense, and very educational. I'm amazed at how calm and collected the brewers were, especially because there was so many people everywhere, and they had to keep telling folks to move. They never appeared stressed out or the least bit annoyed, instead stopping to chat and crack a few jokes.
Across the street from the brewery is the Vapeur Brasserie. During the public brew day, visitors can reserve a spot for a lunchtime grand buffet-style meal and all-inclusive beers for €30.00. Several main dishes were prepared from their beers including smoked salmon, ham, and several breads. They had over a dozen Belgian cheeses, and plenty of buffet fixins. If you go to their public brew day, plan to spend the whole day there. We had scheduled another brewery tour, so after a quick beer tasting we were on our way. Unfortunately, we were only able to try their Saison de Pipaix, a much darker style amber saison with lots of spices. It reminded me of the saison styles from Fantome Brewery.
Most breweries welcome visitors, but it's best to call ahead to make sure they are open, and not booked. Breweries get lots of traffic in the high-tourism season (basically, as soon as it's warm), but you can always ask to join a larger group if there is space. I have found it's best to drive, because you have control over when you can leave or arrive. It makes it nicer when you're planning on visiting more than one brewery.
Just outside of the main brewhouse (above)
Public brewing day. It was steamy inside (above)
A steam engine powers the main part of the brewery, and gives the brewery its name
Spying on the cool ship
It was challenging to take pics because of all the steam.