5 O'Clock Somewhere
Little Shop of Holy Grails
Pat Holden’s Liquor
860 S. A St.
Brussels is a city of many contrasts. The United Nations calls Brussels home, and so do countless vagabonds and world travelers. It’s also home to the city’s oldest working brewery, Cantillon. On my first and so-far only visit to Belgium, I was given a tour of the facility by the woman who would become my wife — and frankly, I did not appreciate it. Sours weren’t my thing at the time and all Cantillon produces are sours.
That admission could be considered grounds for divorce. I didn’t deserve that level of attention nor did I deserve the flight of Cantillon brews that I sipped with a sour expression on my face.
Now, however, I have seen the light. Cantillon is considered the white whale of sours for many a craft beer aficionado in the States who hasn’t been to Europe, where it’s sort of ubiquitous. In fact, the only place I’ve ever seen Cantillon on sale in Ventura County is at Pat Holden’s Liqour, a nondescript shop just past Oxnard’s downtown Plaza Park (and I’m sure I’ll hear it if I’m wrong, so I’ll amend this by saying in my experience).
Pat Holden’s craft beer specialist, Jay Hernandez, and the owner have collected a wide range of craft beers that could be considered the best in the west, at least in Ventura County. In fact, on a lowly Friday morning, a single case of Cantillon classic gueuze made its way into the store and quickly sold out — with only an image on the store’s Instagram to promote it.
While the Cantillon is long gone at this point, you’ll easily find something worthwhile on the shelves. The Friday we visited, my wife (who has hopefully by now forgiven me for the Cantillon business) and I came away with Prairie Artisan Ale “Funky Gold Mosaic,” a dry-hopped sour; a Hill Farmstead collaboration; and the aforementioned Cantillon —– a blend of 1- and 3-year-old lambics.
Keep an eye on Pat Holden’s Instagram (@patholdensliquor) for sudden specials and new bottles, which seem to come in at random intervals.
It is a trek to the heart of Oxnard, but a worthy trek indeed. After all, your only other option is to head to Belgium, through the streets of Brussels and into the bomb-shelter that is the Cantillon brewery. You should do this, anyway. Go now.
Chris O’Neal is really sorry that he didn’t fully appreciate Cantillon brewery, so please forgive him. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @agentoneal.