Monday, October 6, 2014

Kortrijk & Antwerp & Beer 5,500, Oh My!


Had the pleasure of a recent beer trip to Kortrijk and Antwerp Belgium. It was truly too brief, but several factors conspired to mean it was not to be much longer than a few days. To keep data costs down, AT&T's Wi-Fi app was downloaded for use, and of course it does not work on iOS 8! Also brought copies of the incomparable Tim Webb book on Belgian beers and beer places.

For once, the flight was truly uneventful, and arrived in Brussels slightly early. A good omen was Brussels looked like a giant beer from above.

After a quick pass through customs, went to the train station and picked up a ticket, took the train to Ghent, then switched trains and made it to Kotrirjk, about 1-1/2 hours earlier than anticipated. 


We were all meeting and staying at the hotel Duivels Paterke in Kotrirjk, which is about a 15 minute walk from the train station. 

The proprietor, Ms. C, was really quite an ebullient host. Realizing how tired MR was she took us in her van about a block and a half away to some of the other hotel rooms; had the pleasure of staying in the Belgian Trappist Tripel room, as the rooms are named after beers.   

The rooms are neat, clean, en-suite equipped, and a really good price. After a refreshing shower and very brief nap, walked back over to the restaurant/bar. Spoke again with Ms. C for a few minutes and about the city and why we were visiting Belgium. Ordered an 
 Ellezelloise des Légendes     Quintine    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [7.5]


If you're a beer fan, you will understand the indescribable taste; and that there's nothing better than your first Belgian beer after 12-15 hours of travel. Do apologize for my Untappd post of "(I'm in ) Kotrirjk Belgium, bitches," but hey, blame the jet lag.

It was also a good time to be there because there are a lot of World War I celebrations going on in the area as well. Ordered the lunch special which was a wonderful homemade tomato soup, and sort of a lazy lasagna with fish and Alfredo sauce (which was appropriated and prepared later at home, albeit with chicken). Delicious.

By this time a few of the folks from the original Club Belgique UK showed up, lunch was almost done, and we were ready to start having some more Belgian beers. 

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Was also wearing a Narrative Clip so many of the pictures are taken just randomly as we walked or drank; such as the one immediately above; couldn't pose that if one tried!

We all sat down and chatted a bit about what's been happening, how things are going, and then listened to the game plan as it was set up.Further enjoyed a

van Steenberge     Leute Bokbier    Ale, Bock    [8.5]
Chouffe    Dobbelen IPA Tripel    Ale, Belgian Trappist Tripel IPA    [7.5]

Note with the Leute, the bottom of the glass is rounded, so if you forget, (or one supposes drinks too much) and set it on the countertop, it is guaranteed to spill! Guess it's better this is one of beers earlier in the day, as opposed to that last beer you're drinking in the evening!


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After checking a combination of electronic maps and ancient scrolls imprinted on dead ground-up trees, we walked to the center of town, and saw some really nice architecture on the way. 




On the way there we did get the stink-eye from a couple of locals apparently

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Found our way via "beer sense"
 
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to the Hoochie Coochie, on Jan Persijnstraat 12. 


When we got there, the place is not actually open yet. The very nice barmaid asked us to just wait a couple of minutes as they were opening. A few anxious moments, and the doors opened and we were welcomed in.

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The place was quite fancy, there was an upper balcony and chandeliers, and a  very large long bar. The place appeared to be a jazz bar with music the evening, too bad we wouldn't stay for that; but they had good beer.

Some of the folks started with a few appetizers being ordered.  

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It was great to be all together, enjoying some Belgian beers. Tried and shared several good ones

Duvel Moortgat    Vedett Extra Ordinary IPA    Ale, IPA, Belgian    [7.0]
Duvel    Duvel Tripel Hop 2014    Ale, Belgian IPA    [9.0]
Dupont    Moinette Blonde    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [9.0]

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Halve Mann    Straffe Hendrik Brugs Quadrupel    Ale, Belgian Quadrupel    [8.0]
Halve Mann    Straffe Hendrik Brugs Tripel    Ale, Belgian Quadrupel    [8.5]

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 Boon    Geuze Lambic    Ale, Belgian Geuze Lambic    [9.0]

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As always there was a good discussion about beer-related topics. We chatted about tracking beers compared to just drinking beers. 

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There are two schools of thought and actions about beer. Some people choose to just drink a beer they know they have had before, and enjoy it. One could argue that a true Zythophile on the other hand would like to see if they have had that beer before. 

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And there is really nothing wrong writing down the color and the aroma and what you thought about the taste. One presumes, however, it's a bit more obsessive to record things like how much you paid for the beer or the actual size bottle/glass it came out of. If you are really over-the-top, you would write down the Schaumhaftvermoegen value, or pull out a non-contact infrared thermometer (SensorDrone) to measure the temperature. MR falls into the latter category; record the information and pass it on, at least in a beer blog of course. 


As always there's never a right answer, any good beer fans realize that either way is fine, as they say in France "chuckling awesome" (actually "chacun à son gôut" but SIRI dictation chose the former, which sounds better: "mon Dieu, c'est chuckling awesome").

After finishing up, we went in search of another location. We walked to the center of town, and ran across some sort of festival where music was playing, but not really any beers available; or at least nothing we wanted.  
 
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Went to the Gainsbar at Vlasmarkt 1, which is very small and cozy inside, with a spacious patio on the outside. 

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The staff was really friendly, a really good bar. 

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You can always tell a good beer bar by some of the signs on the wall. 

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There were many beers available, including personal favorites such as Golden Spur/Gulden Spoor and others.

Golden Spur    Druivenbier     Ale, Fruit    [7.0]
Gülden Spoor    Netebuk    Ale, Belgian Saison Farmhouse    [7.0]

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 3 Fonteinen     Oude Geuze 2007    Ale, Belgian Gueuze    [9.0]
Hanssens Artisanaal    Oude Kriek    Ale, Belgian Lambic    [9.0]


We sat outside as well, soaking up the sunlight. We did try to contact member KA in the Netherlands, who could not make it, but unfortunately it was one of those rare times where technology failed us. We did have a small toast in his honor.

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And yes while outside, had the singular experience of trying a hand-rolled tobacco cigarette complete with a filter; which is apparently popular in Wales. 

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Do like cigars on occasion, however one would not compare this to any cigar; in fact it was different from any cigarettes. Not worse, it was just different.

We went back to the hotel because the plans were to meet for dinner. Had a spectacular rare steak, with frites of course. 

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Enjoyed a

Maredsous Abbey - Duvel Moortgat    Maredsous Tripel    Ale, Belgian Tripel    [8.0]
Kievit    Zundert    Ale, Belgian Trappist Brown    [7.5]


Finished up the meal with a really good dessert beer; believe it was some sort of beer float with a Belgian cookie in it, but did not have the recipe until now. Just got it, simple, and it sounds odd but trust us, delicious. 

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Beer (in this case it was in fact Triple Karmeliet), 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and any long thin cookie. One scoop of ice cream is mixed with the beer, a scoop is floated on top, whipped cream added and a cookie as a stirrer/garnish. OMFG.

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Due to fatigue, and jetlag, it was time for one more beer before bed.

van Eecke     Poperings Hommelbier Fresh Harvest 2012     Ale, Belgian Blonde     9.5


Left about half the bottle for fellow Club Belgique member EC (who arrived very late) as this is one of his favorites.

It's morning - got up had a nice breakfast. A pleasant surprise awaited all, including Ms. C., as Spencer Abbey Ale had been brought in from the States. 



And in trade, a bottle of Westvleteren 12 to take to the States.

After checking out, everyone said their goodbyes, as most of the lads were heading to Ieper and Brugges, some were going to Antwerp for the Modeste beer festival. In our case, before Antwerp, the first stop was at the beer store Dranken Pauwels in Heule.



The store had a dizzying array of choices, not a lot of Cantillon, but that's okay.  Hard cases would mean these should return to the US safe and sound. 

Later in the morning arrived in Antwerp. There was a minor problem with the hotel Postiljon, as it was a busy weekend, and apparently one room was given away. This did eventually get rectified, think goodness. 



As luck would have it, the hotel was very close to the Cathedral Café, aka Het Elfde Gebod-Het Kathedraalcafe. 

Drinking a beer here is almost like a religious experience because you're surrounded by religious icons.

Mort Subite    Kriek    Ale, Belgian Framboise    [8.0]
La Trappe    La Trappe Blonde    Ale, Belgian Trappist Blonde    [7.5]


 
La Trappe    La Trappe Dubbel    Ale, Belgian Trappist Blonde    [7.0]
Oud Beersel    Framboise    Ale, Belgian Framboise    [7.0]
Martin's     IPA    Ale, Belgian IPA    [8.0]


The town center is quite magnificent, with a large cathedral and numerous shops and cafes. 




Did see an interesting gnome souvenir, but chose to pass on this one.


Headed over to our favorite rib place, only to find it packed, with no reservations until the next evening.



Walked over to the Malle Babbe, which was a bar we had never run into before, and had an

Musketeers    Antigoon    Ale, Belgian Strong    [7.5]



A beer which wins the "most terrifying beer label" award, with the illustration of the classic legend of the giant (Antigoon) having his hand cut off. With loads of blood. Ewww. 
Also tried a

LeFort Omer    Dubbel    Ale, Belgian Dubbel    [8.5]
Koninck, de    Triple D'Anvers    Ale, Belgian Tripel    [9.0]




Stopped in at the Grote Markt for a really good dinner, as well as some really nice Grimbergen, and raw beef.



Grimbergen     Donker (aka) Optimo Bruno    Ale, Belgian Brown    [6.5]
Grimbergen     Blanche D'été    Ale, Belgian White    [6.0]

We did pass on the Sludge Tongues, though...


And thence to the incomparable Kulminator. I mean if you haven't ever been there, or heard about it, what can one say? 


The Kulminator is run by a husband-and-wife team  (the wife is very friendly and quiet; the husband is very... quiet). It's a bar were you cannot go for food, you don't go to drink to party.


You go to one of the best beer bars in the world, because they have beers you could probably never find anywhere. Besides basic good Belgian beers (and some other EU standouts), there are special beers and rare Belgian beers. 

They also have one-of-a-kind aged Belgian beers available. In the past have tried a Chimay Speciale 1983, as well as a Westmalle white ring (only for consumption in the Abbey), a Westvleteren green label (also only for the Abbey), and a Hoergaarden Grand Cru from 1985 (in 2011). The prices for the aged stuff varies from cheap to insane, but it's a real once (or 4 times) in a lifetime treat.  

Koningsjoven    La Trappe Quercus Quadrupel 2011    Ale, Belgian Quadrupel    [9.5]
Montaigu    Diesterse Beker 5    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [7.5]
Emelisse    Barley Wine 2014 Makers Mark bourbon barrel aged    Ale, Barleywine    [9.5]


Emilesse    Imperial Russian Stout (Bowmore barrel)   Ale, Stout, Russian Imperial    [10.5]*

*Note sometimes a beer rises above the 0 to 10 point scale that MR uses. These beers are often rare, usually exceptional, and hit every criteria such as aroma or color or mouthfeel spot on. They also offer something else, something going for them in that they may have a little bit different flavor, or something indescribable in the taste or something else that makes the beer exceptional. They are still are usually within the outer style limits for that particular beer, but something pushes them over the top. These are the types of beers that a true beer fan appreciates. Brewers that strive for results like this are literally no different than athletes or scientist or architects - someone pushing themselves in the afternoon to do even better than they did in the morning. The "Nadia Comănecis" of brewing.

Chimay    Chimay Blue 1999    Ale, Belgian Trappist Dubbel    [7.0]






We also the pleasure of being there for the Proefbrouwerij offering for the 40th anniversary of the Kulminator, which started out as the Bodega. 

image from Kulminator Facebook page
The beer is described (in Flemish, translated as) "Forty years of beer culture: Beerhouse Bodega/Kulminator. Brewed by Mikkeller for Kulminator Antwerp ( Dirk and Leen) in Proefbrouwerij Lochristi on: 01/08/2013. This beer is a Barley Wine that has matured 12 months in Château d' Yquem barrels (Sauternes). Bottled 21 /08 / in 2014 . The shelf life of this beer is limitless if expertly saved!." A spectacular beer for a spectacular beer bar.One wonders how this would taste in a year or 5?

Mikkeller and de Proef    40 Smaragd    Ale, Barleywine    [9.0]


As always, it was a great time, and addition to with chatting several folks also met one of the volunteers for the Modeste beer festival, Mr. H., who was going to be there tomorrow and we should be sure to see him. Finished out with a

Hoorm    Cornet Oaked    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [8.0]

On the way out we were drawn, moth-like, to some unnamed bar where I believe Queen was blaring on the sound system. As this was Belgium it's pretty likely to find a decent beer, and we did.

Koninck, de    De Koninck    Ale, Belgian Pale    [6.5]

Also stopped at a Middle Eastern restaurant, for a quick bite. 

And good thing it was a relatively low BAC (for walking) I mean, look at those hotel stairs!


In the morning, and by morning I mean later morning (but not really hung over), it was time to head out to the Modeste beer festival. 


After a good, filling breakfast, it was about a 30 minute walk to the De Koninck brewery, where the festival was being held, for the fourth year in a row. 

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But keep in mind, this is a brewery that could be a competitor to the other breweries, clearing out it's warehouse for the beer festival. That is not something you see in other industries except breweries, and in many ways almost unique to Belgium.

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After paying our admission fee for a proper glass, we first went over and saw Mr. H at the T-shirt booth. 



And by proper glass, one means a glass. A vitrified, transparent glass made of actual silicon dioxide, soda, and arsenic. Unlike America, sadly, where people have to get plastic cups because one idiot will start throwing them, in Belgium it is more civilized.

After chatting a bit was time for some beers. Started counter-clockwise with

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Boskal    Bossie Blonde    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [7.0]
Boskal    Bossie Bruin    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [7.5]

Again to remind people of the way beer served in Belgium, the glasses filled, the head cut off flat with a spatula, and the glass dipped in water to clean any residue that dripped down.

At one of our favorites, van Eecke, saw the new labeling for the US beer market for Poperings Hommelbier. 


Sampled an exquisite

Eecke, van    Poperings Hommelbier 2014 dry hopped    Ale, Belgian Blonde    [9.0]

At the incomparable 3 Fonteinen had the    
Zwet.be    Ale, Porter, Sour, Belgian    [9.0]

  This is one of those beers worth trying again, had actually had it the year it was released at the brewery in 2010.

Some of the specialty brewers had some really good offerings, such as:
Roman, Browerji    Ename Dubbel    Ale, Belgian Dubbel    [8.0]

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Dame Jeanne Patrick Theunissen   Dame Jeanne Grand Cru  Ale, Belgian Amber  [9.0]
Timmermans    Bourgogne des Flandres    Ale, Belgian Special    [9.0]
Timmermans    Lambicus Blanche    Ale, Belgian Lambic mix    [9.0]


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Sadly there was limited space in the suitcases to bring beer back, and it was already full; would've loved to pick up some of these.



Had lunch at the event and for a fairly decent price got a slightly unusual hamburger, but they tasted good. As always, the event was well set up and well organized. 


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There were plenty of tables, a clean and well-attended-to pissoir, helpful guides and attendants, and the weather was to die for.

After lunch it was on track to try to closing on that beer number 5,500. And of course it's important to record the beers, including colour, and post on Untappd!

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De Molen    Hel & Verdoemenis     Ale, Belgian Brown, Strong    [9.0]
De Molen    Vuur & Vlam    Ale, Belgian IPA    [9.0]

Actually have a bottle of Hel & Verdoemenis (hell & damnation) aging at home, from BOTMC (Beer of the Month Club).


Also signed up for a new magazine: Belgian Beer and Food magazine. 

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It is a new publication, and is a pretty good read as far as the first three issues are concerned; and it is in English. Here's to its success, but you have to offer a digital / Kindle / iBooks version soon!

Continued walking, chatting, and handing out free bottle openers with the Club Belgique logo. Sampled a

Pakhuis, 't     den Zwarte Sinjoor    Ale, Belgian Stout    [8.5]

Then realized it was time for beer 5,500 and what better choice than the Gulden Spoor or Golden Spur, which started out as the Brouwkot (brewing shed). Have visited them back in late 2010, when they were just changing names. Did try to explain the previous visit and beer 5,500 to the lovely attendant, but she was overwhelmed by the crowd, and don't think she go the message; but who can blame her?



Gulden Spoor    Kalle    Ale, Belgian Tripel    [9.0]

Ah yes, more beers to try; unfortunate could really not drink as much as we wanted to or were able to, because the next morning had to leave early for the airport. even saw the brewery's marching band.




Paenhuys, 't     Schapenkop    Ale, Belgian Tripel    [8.5]
Hof ten Dormal   Barrel aged Project 13 Cognac   Ale, Belgian Quadrupel   [10.0]


De Struise    Cuvée Delphine    Ale, Stout, Belgium, Imperial    [8.0]
Dupont    Avec Les Bons Vœux    Ale, Belgian Saison    [9.0]
 
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Again, just smashing, all excellent beers and if you see one bottle in a specialty shop, grab it. Picked up several souvenirs for people such as la Chouffe hats and some T-shirts, etc.

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Went and had dinner at Amadeus which is one of the best rib places in Belgium (Europe)? 


After sating ourselves, walked around the river a bit.








Went to Kulminator again. Sat with some British guys and chatted about beer and beer travels. We had a couple beers and that was it.

De Struise    Cuvée Delphine    Ale, Stout, Belgium, Imperial    [8.0]
Dupont    Avec Les Bons Vœux    Ale, Belgian Saison    [9.0]

So all-in-all, a great, albeit too short, time in Belgium.



Postscript

1) There must be at least one beer fan in the TSA. One hard case was delayed arriving at the local airport from Philadelphia, eventually arrived okay. The bottles had been packed even better than when they left Brussels.



2) Oude Beersel Kriek is great with home-made cherry pie!

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