Belgian Days Serial--Episode I
Posted by Matt Dinges on 04/07/2003 12:09:56 AM
I’ll post this in installments, just to keep you on the edge of your seats!—
The trip was 21March03-30March03. Way too short, if our airfare hadn’t been so cheap, I would have stuck to my rule of not going overseas for less than 3 weeks.
The trip got off to a bad start. Our flight out of Lincoln was cancelled, and they said we(Laura & I) couldn’t get reaccommodated until the following morning, out of Omaha. So we lost a day of the trip. We decided it would be easiest and make the most sense to simply drop Liege from the plans altogether.—
And a comment before I begin--should I post my entire drinking list for the trip? I tried to document it, I can post it at the end.
When we finally got into Brussels, picked up our car and got into the Sheraton Towers, it was around 2pm Sat(22March). We had slept about 8 hours in the past 48 hours and were dead. Relaxing in the room, we watched a large peace march outside the hotel, napped and headed out. Bier Circus was unfortunately closed, and we headed towards Grand Palace. I found a shop called Delices & Caprices that had a decent selection of BBs, so I picked up 6 bottles or so. It is located on Rue des Pierres 51, very near Falstaff, and run by Pierre Zuber. The prices were not as cheap as the grocery stores, but there were more “specialty” biers, a good selection of glasses, as well as some wines and candies. Still, I loved paying 2E for stuff that if I found in Nebraska would cost me $6. Pierre also threw in a bottle on the house in each of my 3 visits and helped point my in the direction of some decent cafes.
The first café I went to was Le Cirio(I left my old version of The Guide behind, so I may misspell some of these places or just not have the names). The first BB I had was Rochefort 10. One I’d never had before, and I was immediately overjoyed to be in Belgium, although still dead tired. I had lasagna there, as well as a Ciney Blond(not one I’m chomping at the bit to try again, a bit of a let down after the R10). The beer list seemed to fall a little short of the Guides quoted 50?, I’d put it at 35-40, with little in the way of surprises. Still, it was an interesting crowd and pub. Chatted with a nice British guy about various things including BBs, Jaques Brel, and American football. Also, a very pet friendly place, le Cirio.
From there it was back to Delices b/c I realized I had no bier glasses with me, so I picked up a couple(including my now favorite Oerbier glass), a few more BBs and was directed to La Porte Noire. Specializing in whiskeys and biers, its obvious which brought me there. This place is in a basement and I was warned it can get quite smoky. When I arrived however, there were only 3 other people in there. I liked the atmosphere here, all brick, with different “chambers” and candle light. Confronted with a “real” bier list, I’d guess 80-100, I picked out Au fut, Augustyn Grand Cru. Definitely a fruity beer, but a bit light for me. This would be something I might drink as a lawn mower bier!--Obviously my tastes run a little bit bigger than most. I did prefer it to the Ciney Blonde for sure. Next I opted for a St. Bernardus Abt 12, also Au fut. Absolutely loved this brew, it seemed even bigger than the R10 had. Since Laura was falling asleep at the table we called it a night and left. Although I had already picked out the next 3 beers I_would_have drank: Floreffe Mill., Des Rocs Montagnarde, and a Fantome. I’d get to two of them later in the trip.
Wondering back to the hotel, I stopped at one of the typical junk shops around the palace area to grab a coupla trinket souvenir. I picked up a bottle of Rocheforoise Blond, basically b/c of the label(I collect beer labels) and a Maniken Pis coaster. There was a large concert in the palace area that night. We watched about 1/2 a song and left. I had the Blond back at the hotel, but didn’t quite finish it. It had a distinct metallic taste. Who knows how it had been handled; it was the only one on the shelf.
The next day it was a waffle around the palace(with the stage still marring the scenery) and my first and only Geueze of the trip. We decided to skip Cantillon on Saturday in favor of rest(STUPID STUPID people we are!),
After the waffles we got the car out of the garage(a minor ordeal) and headed for the Ardennes--namely Soy. I had emailed Dany P that we would be in on Sunday I wanted to be sure and make it. Getting out of town was a breeze and soon we were in the Ardennes and approaching Fantome. I had to ask for Dany and we enjoyed our first Fantome and Flop (both Au fut) while we waited. He showed up and took us through the brewery.
Amazing place really, easily the smallest and dirtiest I’ve seen(although we did_skip_Cantillon), but it had a good feel to it. He explained that he needed to fix his boil kettle’s burner. I noted the bricked mash tun which he said he had bricked himself and we moved on to the fermentation chamber, watching our heads through the low door. I really wish I could have spoken some French because there was a lot we could have talked about. He did talk about the yeast and fermentation temps. The yeast comes from a laboratory and he uses each batch 3 times, fermentation temps vary a bit but are ~25C. Fermentation and bulk conditioning are measured in weeks and bottle conditioning is done ~26C. We talked about where he sends the beers, and then got back to the sampling room where he presented me with a bottle of Pissenlit??—a saison brewed with Dandelions that I believe he said was popular in the US. He then poured us glasses of it, apologizing that it was not very cold. Hardly offended or upset, we relished the brew. A very nice tasting room and we enjoyed our time there a lot. It seemed that Dany’s whole family was present and all were very kind to us, even though there was quite a language barrier. Dany gave me suggestions on areas I should go to for more bier tours which I should have followed, but I’ll get to that. I left with 3 bottles and a T-shirt all for very cheap.
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