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.

Also.

  • 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.
Breweries.

Lindemans.

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 Indianabeer.com 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.