PODGE’S BELGIAN BEER TOURS - Brussels 2003
Posted by Thom Aikman on 08/29/2003 01:45:17 PM
TOUR THREE (FRI 22nd - MON 25th AUGUST 2003)
Podge’s trips are all about Belgian beer. Beer sampling, beer making and beer buying. There is limited amount of time for sight seeing, culture or activities outside the group. As long as you are aware of this and are happy with that arrangement, you get to some wonderful cafes and bars (that are often too isolated to get to easily by public transport) plus brewery visits that increase your knowledge and appreciation of Belgian beer. Also at £195 person, they represent great value for money. You do need the next day off to recover though, before returning to work. I am quite happy to balance these trips with our own solo efforts.
The majority of the cafes were Bob H ticks. I should have had a tick for all of these places but somehow contrived to leave my book at the bar of the café in Drongen. I did not notice this until we arrived in Welle. My name is in the book and I will call this weekend to see if they managed to return it. I have also sent a letter with some money for postage with my full address, so fingers crossed they post it on.
Assebroek (“Hovenier” )
This café is on the outskirts of Bruges. First beer of the trip was an excellent Westmalle Tripel. I keep forgetting how excellent this beer is and it was a great start to the trip. A Barbar courtesy of Bob, plus a Brugse Tripel followed this.
Drongen (“De Gloriette”)
This is an excellent country bar that only opens at weekends and has a beer menu of around 75 beers, in the countryside outside of Drongen. Started off with a Liefmans Goudenband, followed by a Drongens Plezierke (=Amborix Dubbel) and a Pater Lieven Blonde.
Welle (“Hocus Pocus”)
This is a neat little bar with a witch, troll & magician theme and strong on Trappist beers. I focused on some De Leyerth beers (Novicius Vertus, Tonicum Finiboldhus and Hibernus Quentum)
Brussels (“Bier Circus”)
After a long and arduous day, there was only time for a short stop at the Bier Circus for a quick Achel and my first foray in the Vintage beers menu with an excellent 1998 Drie Fontainen Gueuze.
Lustin (“Musée des Bieres Belges”)
This amazing place is the home to a huge collection of beer bottles and glasses. It is described by Tim Webb as “One of the world’s more unusual drinking experiences”. We had a long relaxing afternoon visiting the museum and trying to work out what the beers were, as most of the beers were unknown to me and in 75cl bottles. They had a unique pricing structure matrix based on size of bottle and strength of beer.
There were lots to discover and I shared a Brasserie du Brabant La Barbaconne Biere Blonde de Miel, Brasserie Brootcoorens Delices des Pontifes and a Crombe Oud Kriekenbier. We had chicken cooked in beer with various meats, pates and salads.
Louvain la Neuve (“Creperie Bretonne”)
This cafe has an amazing number of sorts of crepes as well as its beer list of 220 beers, including many rarely available 75cl Wallonian ales. This was a long stop, maybe too long. The menu of the beers was complicated enough without multiple categories of crepes. I am still amazed that the bill was paid successfully with 25 different people ordering different crepes and different beers over a three-hour period.
Eizeringen (“In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst”)
A resurrected lambic café opposite the church in the village of Eizeringen. This is an amazing place, with much building work still going on and a toilet tagged on the side of a wall amongst the rubble. Inside, it is taking shape nicely though. We had a meal of soup, sandwiches & a special rice pudding, as we were poured an incredible 1987 Eylenbosch Faro and Gueuze. I think was probably my first Faro, as the style had never appealed. Possibly one of the beers of the trip. This place is a real gem. The menu does not have all the available gueuzes but a good solid list and the visit was completed with an Oud Beersel Kriek, sitting outside in the sunshine.
Asse (“In den Bloeyenden Wijngaerdt”)
My final lambic of the day was a Girardin. I followed this up with a Witkap Stimulo as by this time my stomach’s acidity level has reached dangerous levels. This was a really excellent café with a beautiful dining room with chandeliers.
Wetteren (“Kasteeltje De Warande")
We had met Andre when we toured his nearby brewery last year. His new venture, the Warande, is a large buiding with three floors, overlooking a swimming pool complex. There were two beer lists, one for the terrace with around 35 well chosen beers and a larger list for the indoor eating and drinking areas. We were served what turned out for me the meal of the trip. We were served by his daughters in a large dining area, off the main bar. There was plenty of extra food available of all the choices so everyone could taste all the choices. The draught Uitzet 1730 and Lam Gods were superb and were even better than the bottled versions available at the brewery last year.
Tervate (“Herberg Tervate”)
This is a small café on the Izser canal just north of Diksmuide, popular with walkers, cyclists and boat owners. By this time I was on coffee and water, as I would be driving home from Dover. The beer list has all the Trappist beers. This is definitely worth another visit, as it is so close to De Dolle in Esen.
Purnode (“Du Bocq”)
Brewery, south of Namur for a tour and a tasting of this brewery’s products. Here I sampled draught Gauloise Brune and St Beniot Blonde.
Louvain la Neuve (“House brewery Brasse-Temps”)
This house brewery has three beers on draught; an amber, blanche and Cuvee de Trolls. For 3,80 euros, the best value was a rafale of 12.5cl samples of two of the draught beers, plus Bush Blonde and Ambree.
After the tour of the gueuze brewery, we sampled the Boon Kriek, 2000 Mariage Parfait and Duivelsbier in the café Kring in the square in Lembeek.
Gooik (“De Cam”)
We had a short look at the blenders and sampled the Gueuze, Lambik and Kriek, before retiring to the De Cam café for a coffee.
Herzele (“De Ryck”)
Small family run brewery with the best souvenir shop found so far. An and her family were delightful and the visit was both enjoyable and thorough. The souvenirs (T-shirts, baseball hats, glasses, cheeses) were among the cheapest I've ever bought. We also had a snack to help us through the rest of the day. Generous samples of Rochus and Special were provided. Please note that the beers are now available in 75cl glass bottles as well as the original plastic.
St Lievens-Houtem (“Pede warehouse”)
Now this must be the dustiest and messiest warehouse experience to date. Does have a small bar though. However, the plusses exceeded these negatives. It does not have the widest choice around, especially amongst 75cl bottles but it did feature a great deal of local East Flanders breweries. At least half the warehouse was taken up with wines and spirits and beer presentation packs and larger bottle sizes. The prices, however, were extremely ‘democratic’, in that all the 25 cl and 33cl bottles I bought were less than one euro per bottle. This included Malheur 12 amongst others. Also it accepts credit cards and this helps greatly on the last day of a trip. No major surprises but I managed to get two bottles of the De Ryck Pale Ale (sell by dated Dec 2002), which were not available at the brewery.
Brussels (“Hotel Du Congress)
Major Rant about the Hotel Du Congress.
Paulette and I had used this hotel with Jeremy and Theresa prior to last year’s Essen beer. This time, I had no complaints about the room or the maid service. The rooms were clean and comfortable. The location is also ideal for the Bier Circus.
The food at breakfast is generally a cold buffet of breads, pastries, juices, yogurts and cereals. When we came down on the Saturday morning, there were few clean tables, limited cereal, bread and cheese, a few pastries. We thought they were unprepared for the number of people coming down in the last half hour. Sunday was a great improvement, which may have been helped by us going down earlier. Monday morning was the worse, with an hour of breakfast time to go, there were no clean tables, no cereal, limited bread, and three helpless slices of cheese, no pastries and a developing queue of people waiting to be seated. There seemed to be no organisation and nothing to eat. We had to clear a table, request some cutlery and cups etc., (which took two attempts).
On leaving the hotel, we tried to speak to the duty manager. He failed to take on board our complaint about the poor service or even to apologise. He seemed to think that having 120 guests in the hotel overnight was a sufficient explanation. There was limited food and no hot food to prepare, so it was basically a question of keeping all the relevant areas of food topped up on a regular basis and clearing and setting the tables as they were used. My feeling was that, for a three star hotel, the organisation needed to be sharpened up or guests will start looking for other hotels that are convenient for the Bier Circus. Paulette is determined not to stay there again, if we can possibly help it, because the Duty Manager's attitude shows that they don't care if we go back or not.
Select the BACK button on your brouser to see the previous list