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Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest

Posted by Jeremy Gray on 11/05/2002 08:13:21 AM

Thursday: amazingly, after 3 days of running no service due to the innovative new problem of salt on the line, the Eurostar was running perfectly when we turned up on Thursday afternoon. Not only did it leave on time and arrive in Brussels on time, but we had virtually the whole train to ourselves. We didn’t even have to run to make our Antwerp connection, and so we rolled up at the hotel around 9.15pm. The weekend was off to a perfect start!

Hitting the Kulminator just after 10, we quickly met up with Dave Anderson, Chuck Cook, John Allison, and Mike and Linda Gatti. A totally unplanned mini babblefest was soon in full swing! First time meeting Mike and Linda, but amazingly the fourth time in the last year meeting Dave, and the third time we’ve been drinking together, at three different festivals, in the last three months alone! – London for GBBF, Denver for GABF, and now the 24 Uur. Where next, Mr Anderson?!

My first beer was a 1986 Chimay, a large anniversary bottle with the gold writing on it, which we shared between a few of us. This was good, but a bit over sherry like, and not as amazing as some of the older bottles from the early 80s I’ve had there before. Next up we had a Gueuze de Neve from Belle Vue, 1995, which was fantastic, definitely the best thing I’ve ever had from Belle Vue. Continuing on the same theme we then had an Elyenbosch Druivenbier Gueuze, the one made with grapes, from 1979. This was a little past it, but still a fine beer. Bearing in mind the rush on the cellar’s best contents that was due the next day, I rounded this little session off with a De Dolle Speciaal Brouwsel from 1981, because surely they must be nearing the end of their supplies of this one. Again, I’ve had better ones of these from the Kulminator before, but it was still a highly enjoyable beer with a remarkable head for a 21 year old beer.

The 3 Americans had headed off by this stage as they’d been on the go all day, but we were still keen for more, so at 1am we left the Kulminator and headed for the wonderful Frituur on Hoogstraat with Mike and Linda. This was their first experience of seeing Antwerp rock in the middle of the night, so we dragged them kicking and screaming off to Paters Vaetje for another beer. There I had a very unnecessary but tasty Gulden Draak to round the night off. Mike was very insulting about the quality of my GD, so I was equally insulting back about his love of Stella! Hit the sack at 3.30am after a great first evening in Antwerp!

Friday: amazingly, woke at 8.30am and felt great!! A public holiday, so absolutely nobody around. This was strange, as in the UK on public holidays, everybody gets their cars out and goes to spend the day in a traffic jam. We were slightly taken aback by the fact that nothing was open and there was nobody out. Anyway, it was a good chance to do some walking round and sightseeing and general relaxation, before we hit the Kulminator just after 3pm. Our plan was to spend a couple of hours there before it got too busy. Well, it wasn’t too bad, but there were some examples of babblers, and others, waiting for up to half an hour for service, which just isn’t really on. Yet again Dirk and Leen were there on their own, and yet again it was pretty busy, though nowhere near as bad as it got later on the Friday last year. Anyway, by 6pm I had had enough, and so we left and got dinner.

Again, loads of babblers were there at the K: Steve H, me and T, Dave A, Chuck, Mike and Linda, Carl and Siobhan, Dann and Aaron, and Fred and John A were there with the Sticke Warriors crew. First beer was a 75cl of Book Kriek Mariage Parfait, which I shared with Steve H. Then I had a St Bernardus Tripel from 1995, which was slightly disappointing but ok, then I had a Westvleteren Red from 1998, the dark one that they don’t do anymore – as awesome as ever.

After dinner it was up to ‘t Waagstuk for the big babblefest. An absolute boat load of babblers, far too many to list accurately here, but I will post loads of pics when I get them sorted. Off the top of my head, we had Carl, Siobhan, Dann, Aaron, Dave A, me, Theresa, Joris & his wife Lut, Jean H & Dave & their pal, Fred, Fred’s dad and a pal or two of theirs, Chuck Cook, John A, Podge, Siobhan, Lorenzo, Ian, Hisa, Priscilla & Paul, Steve H, John and Joyce White & friends, Don Scheidt, and no doubt I’ve missed a heap of others – apologies to them all.

Our host, Hans, opened proceedings by explaining what he had – basically a massive stash of Rodenbach, Rodenbach Grand Cru, and Rodenbach Alexander. There were 2 75cl bottles of 1972 Grand Cru; a whole heap of 33cl bottles of RGC from the late 80s and various years since, loads of Alexander which was around the 10 – 12 year old mark, and bazillions of bottles of Rodenbach going back to about 1988. Apart from the two 30 year old Grand Crus, Hans charged the regular price for a bottle of new beer, which was extremely fair and generous given what he had to offer, and the two 30 year old RGCs were only 10 Euros each.

I kicked off with a 30 year old Grand Cru, which quite a few of us were able to sample, then had a 1990 Alexander, finishing off with a Grand Cru from 1989. The 30 year old RGC was astoudingly brilliant. Hans tasted both and said my bottle was significantly better than the other one, so I was very lucky. It was a real treat, sour but without being overpoweringly sour, and with a great head for such an old beer. I also enjoyed the Alexander very much, and the younger Grand Cru was also outstanding.

By the end of the night, we had polished off most of the Grand Cru and virtually all the Alexander. There was plenty of the regular Rodenbach left, however. As usual with these things, the evening went far too quickly. I had a fantastic time and it was great to be in such a huge gathering of babblers, surely the biggest yet?

However, just one complaint about the evening for me: we were in this great bar with an excellent beer list, with a load of special beer provided by our kind, generous and welcoming host. Now, I know that on such occasions we often like to open a beer or two that we have brought along, but on this occasion in my opinion some people went way over the top. There were far too many bottles opened which we had not bought at ‘t Waagstuk. I thought that this was very rude and inconsiderate, and that people should have been a bit more thoughtful. We do not want to abuse the wonderful hospitality of people like Hans, who is a thoroughly decent bloke, and we definitely want to return. Now, we checked with Hans the next day, and he says he was ok about it, but I felt embarrassed when bottle after bottle of beer was opened that we hadn’t purchased from Hans. Please, everyone, can we sort this out next time and ensure that when we are festing in Belgian bars (or British ones, for that matter – we’d have been kicked out if this had happened here) we do NOT have a repeat performance. Thank you, end of rant.

Another word on ‘t Waagstuk: great venue, not only did we have an entire area reserved for us, and all the special beer, but the place was laid back, there were staff there to serve us, and the overall experience was a lot less manic than in the Kulminator on the same night last year. I know where I would prefer to be in future years the night before the festival.

Anyway, around 1am me and T called it a day and went to the Frituur again, hitting the sack early at 2am in preparation for the festival. Next up – festival report!



Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Jeremy Gray, 11/05/02 08:13:21 AM
        Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Joelle, 11/05/02 05:56:42 PM
        Beers "not on the menu" - Cornelia, 11/05/02 10:25:44 AM
        Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Mark, 11/05/02 08:35:29 AM
                Delete the expletives!! - MikeG, 11/05/02 10:39:02 AM
                        Delete them yourself !! - Mark, 11/07/02 08:05:42 AM
                        Re: Delete the expletives!! - SteveG, 11/05/02 12:03:18 PM
                                well, we have done this in the past - Dick, 11/05/02 03:19:20 PM
                                        Re: well, we have done this in the past - Jeremy Gray, 11/05/02 03:23:05 PM
                                                Re: well, we have done this in the past - Dick, 11/07/02 01:55:01 PM
                                                        Re: well, we have done this in the past - Jeremy Gray, 11/08/02 10:37:30 AM
                                                Re: well, we have done this in the past - Mark, 11/07/02 08:00:43 AM
                Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - SteveG, 11/05/02 09:40:37 AM
                        Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Bill Coleman, 11/05/02 10:13:56 AM
                                Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - SteveG, 11/05/02 11:55:43 AM
                                        Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Fred, 11/07/02 04:36:40 AM
                                                Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Jeremy Gray, 11/08/02 08:55:59 AM
                                                        Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Chuck Cook, 11/09/02 07:59:42 AM
                                                                I agree 100% nfm - Joris P., 11/09/02 08:18:34 AM
                                Re: Antwerp report part one: Thurs & Fri, incl Waagstuk fest - Mark A, 11/05/02 10:50:17 AM
                                        Very wise nfm - SteveG, 11/05/02 11:57:17 AM

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