I have passed through Le Cateau on a number of occasions whilst en route to visit Wilfred Owen's grave at Ors.
The town played a major role in the retreat of the British Army from Mons, and of course featured again in the final advance to victory at the end of 1918.
The brewery is easily found at the top of the town just before you leave in the direction of Bazuel.
Visits to the Brewery can be organised through the local tourist office in the centre of the town a few minutes walk from the brewery.
There has been a brewery on the site since before the French Revolution, during which the Abbey was sold off.
The buildings passed through a number of hands until in 2000 it came into possession of the local Communes and the buildings were declared Monuments Historiques.
The buildings have undergone refurbishment and the result is a museum/brewery and maltings with a modern brewery working and producing high quality beer behind the scenes.
Tours commence with the Malting House surrounding the restaurant, where machinery shows how the grain was brought into the building, cooked in vats to allow the grain to germinate becoming Malt in the process. The Malt was then dried in order to stop germination and to prepare the grain for the beer making process. The higher the temperature used to dry the malt the deeper the colour of the beer. As an idea of the temperatures that people worked in, 50-60°C gives a blonde beer whilst it takes a temperature of 100-120°C to give a brune.
Once dried the malt was cleaned up using this machine before the brewing commences.
The brewery works on a cascade system. The ingredients start in the upper part of the building and are slowly brought down stage by stage, floor by floor.
Once again the machinery helps explain how the grain and hops and water are slowly turned into beer. What is quickly apparent is just how labour intensive the work was, and how much depended on the master brewer to ensure that the correct mix of ingredients achieved just the right temperature for the right length of time.
What is missing from the brewery is all of the original copper vats and piping - all taken by the Germans to produce shells during the two wars. However as a footnote, both the kettles on show in the bar area are German made!
In the area of the bar you can find the Steam Boiler which produced all the necessary power to turn the winding and driving systems using a system of clutch and release levers. The old well with a depth of 28 metres is behind the bar.
The bar is open most days from 10h30 and the restaurant provides a chance to taste the beer as well as regional products and recipes. The brewery produces just the one beer called Vivat. However in the brewery it is possible to try the non-filtered version alongside the commercially produced filtered version. The brewery also produces a number of lemonades should you have children with you.
Contact the Brewery at:
16 rue du Marché aux Chevaux
59360, Le Cateau-Cambrésis
Tel: 03 27 07 19 19