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Belgian Trip - Longish

Posted by Martin Self on 09/05/2004 09:18:33 AM

Hi All,

Just a quick write up on my recent visit to Belgium to try and drink Belgium dry and bring anything left back in the car for later consumption. As usual I was accompanied by fellow Belgian Beer fan Richard Waterhouse.

We arrived in Belgium last Sunday via Le Shuttle and took up base in the Carlton Hotel in Gent. I have been stopping there for 17 years – is this bill correct 6210 nights? surely not – and always found it to be consistently clean and friendly. The first port of call was to be the De Heeren van Liedekercke, which contributors to this board had helpfully confirmed would be open, so we travelled via train and alighted at Denderleeuw and then made the 30 mins walk to HVL. The only seats initially were at the bar but the crowd soon dissipated and we bagged a table and consumed a Belle Vue Selection Lambic, impressively served in Selection Lambic glasses. Next Richard had a Moriau Oude Geuze from Boon whilst I had a Sleedoornbier by Regenboog. The Sleedoornbier using sloes and it certainly had a fruity aroma and tasted and was very pleasant. I had a taste of the Moriau and found it very pleasant and certainly different in taste to the Boon Geuze. To round off we had a vintage Moriau Geuze, 1995, from the original brewery and very nice it was, and as you would expect not dented by the years.

Our next dilemma was whether to try the local station at Liedekerke to see if it was nearer or walk back to Denderleeuw. To answer the question we asked in the Café and in no time at all we were being whisked back to Denderleeuw in a 4x4 being driven by Joost, who runs the beer side of HVL. It was a nice touch considering we hadn’t broken the bank in HVL but it was very much appreciated.

Monday was beer stocking day so we made our way to Dranken Geers and as always Dominiek and Vera assisted us in obtaining the beers we required and diving into the main warehouse as necessary. As always there is a fine selection of beers, particularly lambics and all at a good price. We spent a couple of hours there and left a little room to pick up a few items at the Hop Duvel warehouse if required. After having a ride about we found ourselves back in Gent a little late so the only really option for a guaranteed meal and some decent beer is the Hop Duvel. This will no doubt be a little controversial but I have to say it is normally at the bottom of my list of places to try. I have usually found the service to be quite indifferent and it is the only place I have seen the locals giving the staff earache about the service. Even so we alighted from a tram and dashed through a thunderstorm to reach the Hop Duvel. Our first beer was a Leute Bokbier, which was new for the pair of us and for which we were required to pay for on delivery, based on Tim Webb’s observation, it wasn’t busy so we must have looked shifty. In their defence I have seen English p**s heads drinking in there so it is quite probable that they may have attempted to beat the record for running a mile – before paying for their drinks. Anyway back to the beer and the Leute Bokbier was very pleasant and the chocolate taste described in the BBG was certainly there. Next up was another new one , De Ryck Special 75cl, certainly very smooth and very drinkable and I know that the Hop Duvel warehouse normally stocks it so hopefully I will be taking some with me. Last up was De Graal Gember, (Ginger), you could certainly taste the ginger and it wasn’t unpleasant. I wonder if you could get the same result dunking ginger nuts in beer – possibly not…..

Tuesday started with a visit to the Hop Duvel Warehouse to pick up some De Ryck Special and their other brew, Rochus as well as some 75cl bottles of Hanssens. The car was now approaching its limit even with it’s Tardis sized boot so any additional items would have to be special. After travelling around on the train we ended up at the Bier Circus and to start we kicked off with a Drie Fonteinen Millennium Gueuze and did that go with a bang. If a Senior Citizens outing had been sat at the bar then the bus would have gone back half empty as cork exploded out of the bottle like a bomb and the sound was not dissimilar. We both jumped out of our skins as did the other patrons in the bar, but not a drop was spilt and it was excellent. You know you should savour it but you just end up glugging it down. Next was Biere de Beloeil by Dupont which was spot on and this was followed by Vlasbier (Van Eecke) on draught, this was a nice blond ale and very refreshing. This was all rounded off by a De Dolle Speciaal Brouwsel 20, which was excellent with quite a fruity taste and some slight sourness.

Wednesday’ beers were consumed at The Domus in Leuven, good to see they have reinstated production of their beers as last time a visit was made it was only Con Domus on the menu. First up was Domus, which with it’s orange colour is very reminiscent of the British fizzy drink Irn Bru. Fortunately that is where the similarity ends. Next up was the Pilsner, which is quite bitter and certainly satisfies a thirst. Although the range is being restored the only other Domus brew on the menu was Engel, which is a winter beer and therefore unavailable. The final beer was Gildenbier, from Haacht, which is a quite a sweet brown ale with a toffee taste?

Thursday was to be lunchtime visit to Drie Fonteinen to sample some ales and hopefully pick up some Schaarbeekse Kriek for a trip to the UK. As we had not visited the Streekproductencentrum before we decided to head via Halle and carry out a reccie on the establishment. After obtaining a map from the tourist information office we located the Streekproductencentrum, which is quite close to the railway station when you know your way. Excellent selection of Lambics and all reasonably priced but it was nearly a case of not seeing the wood for the trees as we suddenly caught sight of Belle Vue Selection Lambic stacked on the shelf. It was very reasonable at under 5 Euros bottle so 12 bottles were obtained. Even those these 12 bottles were split between two boxes it is still some undertaking to carry this weight for any distance so instead of travelling to Beersel, we returned to Gent to offload the boxes into the car. We would have been unable to get to Beersel anyway as the train service was suspended due to a problem with the overhead supply. After offloading the SL we made our way to the Saf at Geraardsbergen, which has been there as long as I have been visiting Belgium and always has a good selection of beers, not strong on Lambics but there is plenty to go at. Started off with a Leute Bokbier, which has been described previously, this was followed by Boerken from Proef, which is a brown ale and very strong but this is not reflected in the taste and could therefore mislead. Next up was Duivelsbier from Boon which is dark and sweet but left me a little confused as the strength was shown as 8% on the bottle, which is somewhat stronger than I was led to believe the beer actually was – any ideas?. The beers were rounded off by Op Ale from Affligem, which is a light ale but not really to my taste.

Friday was going home day and I am afraid that the lure of Schaarbeekse Kriek meant that a trip to the Drie Fonteinen was to be made before heading home. As Driving was to be taking place later the drinking was restricted to a glass of draught kriek, as always it is initially very sweet but improves as you go down the glass leaving you with a nice almondy aftertaste. We then made our way around the corner to the off sales and were fortunate to find the Brewer, Armand Debelder, in residence. We had a very interesting chat and whilst there we were offered a glass of his recently brewed lambic, which was excellent very refreshing on what was a very warm day. As a great fan of traditional Kriek and Gueuze, it is always fascinating to sample the starting point of these great beers.

I hope I am not betraying anything said in confidence but it was apparent that Armand was showing some despair at the fact that the brewing side of the business was failing to pay it’s way and he would be reviewing the brewing operation next year. I hope that we met Armand on a bad day, although his affable manner would suggest otherwise, as it would be tragic if he were to cease brewing. If you are already producing an excellent product then your options for improving sales are probably limited. From speaking to Armand it is obvious he is very proud of his products and certainly wishes the brewery side to continue and let us hope that is the case. To help the cause we purchased 12 bottles of Schaarbeekse Kriek which were weight lifted across Belgium to Gent and then back to Blighty.

For anybody from the UK considering a trip to pick up beer from Belgium and you have a reasonable sized car then it is probably worthwhile. It is surprising how much you can bring back, without overloading the car. A word of caution though, ensure that you DO calculate how much you can carry as an overloaded car is likely to 1. wreck you car 2. Ensure the Police stop you 3. Invalidate any breakdown cover, particularly if any problem is attributed to overloading.

Hope I haven’t bored you all to death,

Martin.

Belgian Trip - Longish - Martin Self, 09/05/04 09:18:33 AM
        Re: Belgian Trip - Longish - John White, 09/06/04 06:21:52 PM
                Bus to Beersel... worked like a charm last Sunday! - Jeff TruthBrew, 09/08/04 03:03:54 PM
                Bus to Beersel - Martin Self, 09/06/04 07:24:56 PM
        Re: Belgian Trip - Longish - Sutty, 09/05/04 06:22:13 PM
        Re: Belgian Trip - not that long, very entertaining - Jeremy Gray, 09/05/04 04:43:12 PM
                Carlton Hotel/Drie Fonteinen Framboos - Martin Self, 09/05/04 05:51:17 PM
                        Places to eat in Gent - Jeremy Gray, 09/07/04 03:26:42 AM
                                Re: Places to eat in Gent - John White, 09/07/04 04:40:57 AM
                                        Re: Places to eat in Gent - John White, 09/07/04 04:44:12 AM
                                                Re: Places to eat in Gent - Jeremy Gray, 09/07/04 05:33:39 PM
                                                        Re: Places to eat in Gent - John White, 09/08/04 04:34:11 AM
                                                                Re: Places to eat in Gent - Jeremy Gray, 09/08/04 01:59:20 PM
                                                                        Re: Places to eat in Gent: belga Queen - John White, 09/08/04 04:17:29 PM
                                                                                Re: Places to eat in Gent: belga Queen - Jeremy Gray, 09/08/04 05:15:28 PM
        I'm very jealous Martin! - DrBill, 09/05/04 03:17:24 PM
                Lorry - Martin Self, 09/05/04 03:45:46 PM
        Greatly enjoyed the write-up! nfm - Cornelia, 09/05/04 01:29:33 PM

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