Years Back - More of Belgium - A long post

Here's some of our favorite (and less favorite) bars.

Hotel Le Limbourg - Rochefort. Good quiet big rooms with soft beds.
A good beer menu including all the Rocheforts. Emphasis is on regional beers.
Good food. An interesting street to sit and people-watch.
And the run of the place at night with our own key to the front door.

Le Bier Circus - Brussels.
A big, bright restaurant on a side street in northeast area inside the inner ring.
Fancy food. Lots of beers. Nuff said.
We passed on the "Beef Stewed in Gueuze, Mustard and Chocolate".

3 Fonteinen's home tap - Beersel. Bright family restaurant.
Crowded with Sunday apres-church diners. Get the fish soup.
They serve their Lambik, Kriek, and Faro from a traditional handpump.
Can't recommend the Lambik or Faro though the Kriek is exceptional.

Just a beautiful front of the bar across the street from the Leffe Abbey.
The inscription above the door reads "l' historie de la Leffe". Sadly it was closed.

So we went to this seedy little bar directly next to the Leffe Abbey.
Had to stop in for a Leffe or two of course (actually 4).
Friendly enough but we split when an argument escalated after one patron
kissed his middle finger before showing it to the woman he had a disagreement with.

Kafee de Hop Duvel - Ghent. Quiet college crowd. 8 creaky rambling rooms, a garden, and an upstairs room up a narrow creaky stair. Has expanded over the years by buying attached houses. Obsolete beer signs for wall decorations; Christiaen, Horse Ale, Hoboken. The 250+ beers available are all Belgian. There are so many possible because the founder also owns a beer distributorship. The bar is now 25 years old and owned by the founder's brother, Jaak Dencoze. The menu is separated by 1) Van 't vat. 2) Trappisten.
3) Abdijbieren. 4) By Belgian region. 5) Lambik
There are more beers here I haven't heard of than I could possibly drink in the time available. Note that all beers are served quite cold but that's better than all of them served too warm. Our hint: go to the bar to order - table service, especially in the back, is spotty.

Too bad you can't hear the creaky floors in this photo.

't Galgenhuisje - Ghent. Attached to the old jailhouse.
The building (white in the front) was built "at the pillory in 1579" as a fishmonger.
In 1748 they had a license as a "public beer cellar".
The front was widened and the 2nd story added in 1783. And it hasn't changed much since.
Supposedly prisoners were brought next door to drink the night away before being hung at dawn.

In typical Belgian humor, it's named "The Water House on the Beerside".
Just across from 't Galganjuisje, it's an equally rustic beer bar with a nice canalside terrace.
The menu of 150 runs Tap, Trappist, Abbey, Strong (Bush, Piraat, DT, DN, etc),
East Flanders, Lamics from 10 brewerys, Oud Bruins, (Rodenbach, Liefmans, etc),
Other fruit beers, Bottle Fermented (Duvel, etc.), Honey beer (8), Jeneverbieren, and 750mls.
They also have a house beer, Gandavum. And steins filled with concrete as lamps on the tables.
On the terrace is Dreupelkot, a jenever-only bar.

't Brugs Beertje - Brugge.
A classical brown cafe popular with tourists since it's in every tourist guide.
There are only 2 small rooms and it's crowded at night.
I've never seen a barman asked so often for his recommendation.\
One of the great places and well worth the visit.

In 't Nieuw Museum - Brugge.
Down a backstreet in a residential area.
Mainly an impressive restaurant with open-hearth grilling but has a 25+ beer menu with
few surprises (except for the plate of escargot that comes as snacks with your beer).
They have, of course, their own beer commissioned.

De Garre in Brugge is a challenge to find. Opened in 1984. The door is mostly unmarked and you have to find your way through a gated doorway down a dead-end alley (below) to get there in the first place. Good luck.
Once there, you'll enter a genteel beer bar with only 3 beers on tap - Their Tripel Van de Garre, DeWitte Van Celis, and Gulden Draak. They also have about 50 bottles available.
2 floors. 6 tables downstairs and 9 up. It could be a tea room except everyone is drinking beer served on trays with paper doilies. Music tends toward power classics like Finlandia.

Brouwershof - Fortem (Alveringem).
Cheery, friendly bar in a very small town.
Cheery, friendly bar manager, Liselotte Vangampelaere will make you glad you came.
About 30 beers on the list and Westy 12 is 3€. Beat that!
Plus, there's a brewery museum around back (see below).

In De Vrede - West Vleteren - Actually 4 miles outside of West Vleteren
down 1-lane tractor paths following obscure signage.
In De Vrede means "In the Shadow" which is appropriate since it's immediately
across the street from the St. Sixtus Abbey brewery and sells only their products.
Starkly modern cavernous place with most of the charm of an airport waiting room.
Complete with gift shop and carryout counter (note wooden case holders above).
Despite the size and large staff, only soup and sandwiches are available for food.
Oh, and a plate of cheeses made at the Abbey.

  • Brasserie Prelude - Ghent. Nice shaded sycamore sidewalk seating in an unbusy area of town. Little food. An OK list of standard Belgian beers.
  • L'Ultime Atome - Brussels. Busy corner cafe in a neighborhood just southeast of the inner ring road. It just happens to have 70+ beers on their menu but otherwise it could be a Parisian cafe. Big portions of food. Worth finding.

Beers we tried.
  • 3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek - From the handpump. "Minimum 35% krieken". Pitch black with a bright pink foam. Tart, strong. An espresso of kriek. Both an aperitif and a desert beer in one.
  • 3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek - From the bottle in Brugge. Even tarter than from the keg. Seemingly less black but it was dark that night.
  • 3 Fonteinen Lambik - From the handpump. One year in the vat. Plain brown and cloudy. Completely flat. Vinegary sour lambic brown ale. I would have returned this had it been at an American brewpub. No doubt it's that sour in order to produce such a good kriek.
  • 3 Fonteinen Faro - From the handpump. Same brown but brighter and with a foamy head. Sourest faro in my experience. Pulls at the back of the throat. The Lambik base is identifiable and it doesn't seem as much candy sugar was used. An acquired taste, evidently.
  • Augustijn - Light amber. Smooth and understated. A sneaker-up-on. Brother to Piraat from Van Steenberge. 8%.
  • Barbar Winterbok - Just out. On tap. Creamy ivory head on a dark brown. Dark honey comes through strong in taste as though it were a fruit in a lambic. Not sweet though. Very drinkable. Close to a Top 10.
  • Bink Donkel - Dark brown. Not notable. From Brouwerij Kerkom.
  • Bourgogne Des Flanders - On tap. Simple dark brown bruin. Plum notes.
  • Brugse Tripel - Dark, dull blond. Appealing ice cream soda head. From Gouden Boom. A typical triple but at 9.5%.
  • Brugse Zot - From Halve Maan. Darkish blond. Their summer seasonal. Light ale. A bit grainy. Shape on the tongue but not pleasant.
  • De Witte Van Celis - Yep, Pierre Celis's latest. A wit, surprise. On tap at DeGarre and bottled at Beertje in Brugge. Both served in an Austin glass. Thin. Something just slightly unusual about it but hard to place at this time of day. "The wheat beer, developed by the Celis Brewery (Austin, Texas) with the 500 year old brewing art of Hoegaarden (Belgium) with the modern brewing techniques."
  • Chapeau Exotic - Lambic by De Troch. Pineapple and juicy fruit. Unsweet but not tart. Iron notes.
  • Cuvee des Trolls - Fat side of tripel. Silly side of name and logo (right). Alcohol comes through as well as the aging. 7%.
  • Dentengem Wit - On tap. Crisp but very light.
  • Dikke Mathile - Fat Matilda named for a statue in Oostende. From Strubbete Ichtegm. Crisp and sharp with a sweet peach edge. Brown amber. Nice foamy head. Half hallertauer hops. Munich malt.
  • Du Bocq Triple Moin - Orange juice blonde. Right to style. Lots of barley nose. A touch of orange/tangerine taste.
  • Duchesse de Bourgoene - Dark "donker" beer with lots of sourness now. It's been altered a bit from the apple tartness of last year but that's still present. Quite fizzy.
  • Ename Blond - Abbey ale. From the tap. Eh. A basic blond. Hoppy enough but not at all distinctive.
  • John Martin's Pale Ale - Not bad. Not a British bitter. Not Belgian. But a decent pale ale. 5.8%.
  • Galgenbier - From the tap. Special beer for 't Galgenhuisje. Dark ruby with a tan head. Mild amber ale. Slightly fizzy. 7.2%.
  • Gandavum - House beer of Het Waterhuis Aan de Bierkant in Brugge. Brewed by Proffbrouwerij. Blonde. Dry hopped and proud of it although there's a minimal hop aroma. The fruit comes through. Taste is very mild blonde, maybe a saison. Certainly not a tripel even though 7.5%.
  • Tripel Van de Garre - House beer at De Garre brewed to their recipe by a East Flanders brewery (Huyghe?). Floral petals notes and very drying. There's candy sugar evident and plenty of hops. Still, the drying is the most prominent.
  • Gentse Tripel - Very light yellow, verging on green. Poured from the bottle entusiastically, giving a 1/2 glass of head. Light and fruity. Quaffable and dangerous. 8%.
  • Girardin Frambous - Quite tart. Brewed in Dilbeek. 5%.
  • Gordon Highland Scotch - Just because it's so good and the thistle glass fits the hand so well. "Brewed in Benelux for Anthony Martin". 8.6%.
  • Guillotine - Blond tripel. A bit of caramel but not really sweet. A little spice of not-quite-clove in the finish. Hides the alcohol completely. It's suggested that this is a Delirium Tremens with another name and a little stronger. 9.3%
  • Hommelbier - Apricot. Blonde ale. Leffe with twice the bitterness. 7.5%.
  • Leffe Radieuse 10° - Dark amber. Massive malt, massive bitter. Where have you been all my life? Knows its place and doesn't attack the tongue or last too long. Polite. Nice belch though. Top 10.
  • Lindeman's Gueuze - On tap. Subdued tartness and a light taste for the style. 4%.
  • Lindeman's Kriek - On tap. All what we call black cherry. Tart and sweet.
  • Malheur 12° - Big but not as massive as other 12°s. Plenty of malt and matching bitter but just to balance.
  • Museum Bier - On tap at In 't Nieuw Museum (above). Dull gold. Mostly bitter with some Cascades probably.
  • Oud Zottegems - Peach color. Light carbonation. Apple fruitiness. From Crombe brewery just south of Ghent. 6.5%.
  • Petrus Bruin - Dark brown and delicious.
  • Radar Ambree. "Is a traditional beer brewed in an old fashioned way with bottle fermentation flavoured with a subtle malt distillate aged in oak wood casks." By Radermacher Distillerie. Good smooth dark blonde. Not spicy at all. No gin character. A good drink.
  • Reinaert Tripel - Blond with constant bubbles from all parts of a very clean tulip glass. Bold and thick alcohol hit. 9%.
  • Rochefort 8 - Bottled. Same as in the U.S. Delightful brown chewiness. 7.3%. Served with some Rochefort cheese.
  • Rochefort 10 - Served too cold at a singles bar in Rochefort.
  • Saint Idesbald Brune - Cordovan. Strongish brune. Big aroma and long aftertaste of chocolate.
  • Saint Monon Brune - Quite dark brown. Little head but fizzy on the tongue. Scotch ale aroma but a much more bitter taste. Dark toffee and coffee notes. 7.5%.
  • Saison Regal - Dark for this type. Not stronger taste though. Maybe less hoppy than style.
  • 't Smisje - Very red amber beer with sweet honey notes. Pronounced Shmisee. 6%.
  • 't Smisje Halloween - Pompoen bier. Dark dull orange. Is it pie with nutmeg & cinnamon? Nope. They don't know proper pumpkin pie. It's unsweet pumpkin with a slightly burnt taste. Must be pretty strong because Terry tried to rip out her tongue and stomp on it after only one sip. She doesn't appreciate pumpkin very much. 10.5%.
  • Straffe Hendrik Bruin - On tap. "Strong Henry" from De Halve Moon in Brugge. Served in a glass so wide it looks like a stemmed soup bowl. Brown, bold, spicy, citric, hoppy, bitter, raisin.8.5%.
  • Stropken - Brewed by Steenberge for the Hop Duvel to their recipe. Dark blond. Bottle fermented. Served in a proper Hop Duvel glass. Not blown up on the menu as their exclusive beer. Some fruit; tropical and citric. Well balanced. Spicy dry finish that still leaves the palate coated. 7%.
  • Tweespan Liselote - A Snoek Blonde (7.5% brewed by Bavik) with a shooter of hop jenever sitting in the glass. Bracing and quite complementary. (Bottom picture at right).
  • Ultra Des Ecaussinees - From Brouwerij d'Ecaussinnes. Very dark brown with thick ivory foam. Flavor hits the roof of the mouth right behind the front teeth. 10%.
  • Westvleteren 12 - Served warmish from the bottle at In De Verde. Very malty but my gawd it's very bitter. Leviathan strong of both.
  • Wittekerke Rose - Raspberry wit from Bavik. Dark electric cranberry color. Very mild raspberry flavor. 4.3%.
  • Wostyntje Torhouts Mostaard Bier. From Regenboog Brewery in Asse broek. "Mout, hop, kanij, mostardzaan, gistenwater". Your basic mustard beer. Nice but not really much mustard character.



De Troch - Chapeau.

Huyghe - Delirium Tremens

Straffe Hendrik - Brugge.

The Halve Maan brewery in Brugge is another of the city's tourist meccas where English families come by the dozen. They have hourly brewery tours which end with a beer in their restaurant. Unfortunately there's only one beer available in their restaurant and they pay very little attention to the place except at the end of tours - it's really tough to buy a beer, actually.

Vats in the restaurant are for display only.
That's the largest wort chiller we've ever seen.

The Abbey brewery at St. Sixtus does not allow visitors but they have a carry-out shop.
Since their Westvleteren 12 was named "the best beer in the world" it's been tough to get.
In fact, when we were there, the Twelve, Eight, and Blond were all unavailable at the brewery.
Go to the In De Vrode across the street which did have supplies.

Brasserie du Bocq - Blanche de Namur, Saison Regal, Tripel Moine. Tours are offered on weekends at 2pm. Unfortunately we showed up on Friday at 1:45. When in Europe, take a calendar. Sigh.

De Gouden Boom, Brugge - Steenbrugge.

Brouwerij de Block - Satan

A Beer Museum.
At one time there were 7 breweries in the small town of Alveringem (population now 7,000) but none are still around. The Brewery de Snoek, in the outskirts of town (actually in the hamlet of Fortem) brewed beer from 1767 through 1952 when they stopped due to competition and regulatory pressure and continued making sodas until the 1960s. They then cleaned up all the equipment and now it's a unique opportunity to go through a non-working 19th century 4-story tower brewery complete with the small coke-fired floor maltings.
On top of this, it's behind a friendly, cheery bar where Liselotte will serve up a beer or two before and after your visit to the museum. (see Favorite Bars section above). There's even English signs for us Yanks (and more likely Brits).

Gas engine which replaced the steam engine about 1900.

The mash tun fed the brewing copper through a hole in the floor which also accepted the hops.

Hot water piped to the mash tun at the malt head.

A plaster statue of the Brewer.

Fermenting took place in barrels in the basement. These have iron bungs

Other stuff.

A display of beers in an almost-typical street quick-stop tobacco shop.
I'd suggest it for inclusion in links but it's about 5,000 miles too far east.

The Bottle Shop in downtown Brugge is much more typical of the probably
20 great stores in that city alone. The picture below shows about
15 feet of the approx. 90 linear feet of 5-high shelving.
Bottles are sold next to their appropriate official glassware.

Comparatively few non-Belgian beers can be found anywhere in Belgium. Guinness, Stella, and Bass probably make up 80% of these. We did see the lamp above as well as a wall sign for Fat Tire.

St. Louis Kriek in a can.

At Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant in Ghent, the table lamp bases are beer mugs filled with concrete.

Mash paddle lampshade.

In the beer menu at 't Brugs Beertje there's an article entitled "The Definition of Lambic".
On 31 March 1993 a Koninklijk Besluit (Royal Decree) on beer was passed by the Belgian parliament that changed the definition of what constitutes a lambic beer. . . "acid beers where spontaneous fermentation is part of the production process."
"Acid beer" is not a phrase that means an awful lot to a lambic brewer as even the sharpest gueuze should really be looking to be dry and tart rather than acidic. However, this is also helpfully defined thus . . . "beer with a total acidity of at least 30 milli-equivalents of NaOH per litre and a grade of volatile acids of at least 2 milli-equivalents of NaOH per litre. In acid beers of spontaneous fermentation at least 30% of the total weight of the incorporated starch- or sugar-containing ingredients must consist of wheat".
This means that, for example, a beer made from 10% real spontaneously fermented lambic and 90% ultra-dry wheat beer is permitted to be sold as "gueuze-lambic".
You may think that such a dippy definition of this most traditional of craft products came about because politicians have little expertise when it comes to beer. But this is not necessarily true. For example, Jean-Luc Dehaene, who was Prime Minister of Belgium back in 1993, knows enough about it to be appointed to the Board of Interbrew. Interbrew happens to make Belle-Vue "gueuze-lambic", which some cynics claim falls somewhat short of being an oude gueuze.

Much is made of Belgian Scotch ales. There are only a couple of these available here. Most beer-savvy Belgians drink triples, Leffe-type blonds, and bruins. Some wits also but that's a sideline.

We stopped in an Odd Bins in Calais to see why CAMRA is so upset about people crossing the channel to buy cheap beer, whisky, wine, and cigarettes. Not all that interesting, really. Moreland's Old Speckled Hen, Green King's Abbot, and Ruddle's County ales were £10 to £12 a case (24x33cl bottles). Talisker for £25 (about $45 which is a bargain but not a steal). Also "Bier de France" and other such abominations which surely is the whole reason for Cailais' reputation.

No comments:

Post a Comment