Posted by tony on 04/16/2008 03:17:50 AM
Arriving in Bruges in mid afternoon we dumped our stuff at our regular B&B Tine’s, had a pancake in Ezelstraat, a chat with the gaffer of the beer shop Bier Tempel about the new book “All Belgian Beers” and then headed straight for the Garre Bar and their wonderful 11% house beer. Damn! We had been so looking forward to this moment and it was closed until next week. Never mind, off to Erasmus for a drink with Tom Allewaerts of Belgian Beer Card fame. Double damn! The builders were in revamping the joint. By now it was after 4:00pm so we walked round to Brugs Beertje and our luck had changed- open- and they had Avec les Bons Voeux on draught, bostin! We struck up a conversation with the bloke next to us and found out his name was Yvan De Baets, he used to be a brewer at Cantillon Brewery, Brussels and now brewed his own beer, borrowing De Ranke Brewery two days a week. He is mates with Tim Webb author of Good Beer Guide Belgium, Fillip Geerts Webmaster of Belgian Beer Board, and was great friends also with the late Michael Jackson, whose channel 4 programme Beer Hunter first got us interested in Belgian beer and the late John White, webmaster of White BeerTravels. We discovered later he is mentioned several times in the Good Beer Guide Belgium and has written one the articles in there – “Mediocrity .…. It’s the new classic!” and runs the Brussels Beerfestival. A Belgian Beer Guru and we didn’t realise at the time. He brews Zinnebir, Taras Boulba, Equinox and Stouterik. He enjoys beers of taste rather than high alcohol and was knowedgble about English beer too. His told us his beers can be found on draught at Poechenellekelder and Moeder Lambic in Brussels. We had pre-booked a meal at De Witten Cop, a small, 20 cover restaurant in Ezelstraat, owned by friends of Tine, so had to leave to enjoy some great food accompanied by St. Bernadus Tripel, including a couple on the house!
Saturday – Mechelen
We left for Mechelen next morning feeling a little worse for wear. We bought a Town Walk booklet for €1.50 and did walk no.1 around the city centre. All these fine buildings including a couple of palaces, the cathedral, several churches – one had 5 Rubens paintings in - gave us an appetite so off to t’Ankertje aan de Dijle for something to eat, as it was highly recommended in the beer guide – Damn! Not again - they don’t do food anymore. We had a Gold Carolus Tripel and went to Den Beer (beer is Belgian for bear – confusing) in the main square for an excellent meal and several more Golden Carolus Tripels. Last drink of Hommelbier at the D’Hanekeef, a local’s bar with a beer list of about 40.
Sunday – Mechelen
Walk 2 took us around the Beguinage area by Het Anker Brewery which has a hotel, bar and restaurant – how convenient- so we had a snack, booked a table for that evening and cashed in our beer tokens we had in our “Quaffing with Emperor Charles : guide for the beer-themed Carolus walk includes vouchers for sampling 3 Mechelen beers €8.50” We tried three different draught beers and continued on our way taking in the Museum our Jewish deportation. We always leave these depressing places hating the Germans and cannot understand how anyone could do such atrocities but we have German in-laws and they are lovely people. After the walk, a short kip to rejuvenate and off to the Brewery for our favourite local meal, rabbit cooked in beer and several more Golden Carolus. The bar with the bigguest beer choice in Mechelen is the Den Stillen, run by an uncommunicative, little, fat bloke with a Bill Bailey hairstyle. His beer was cheap though and the beer menu was huge. We had Wesvleteren 6º, 8º, and decided to try beers we have never had - La Poiuchette, a spiced blonde 7.5% and Abbaye de Dieleghem another spiced blonde 7.5%. Wesvleteren, by the way, was voted the best beer in the world in some American magazine, and has since been difficult to obtain. It is brewed by monks, they will only sell 6 bottles to anyone and consequently bars usually sell it at three times its normal price, so well done Den Stillen for keeping it reasonably priced.
Monday – Leuven
We caught the train to Leuven, €7.40 return – every half hour – went to the tourist office, bought a city walk map and set off to see the sights and visit a few bars on route. The highlight of the walk was not the magnificent Town Hall or the equally ornate University Library but the Great Beguinage area. Beguinages were communities of religious women. They differ from Nunneries because although the women take vows of chastity and obedience, they do not take vows of poverty, and so are allowed to keep their possessions. It was like stepping into another world of peace and tranquillity. No people or noise in this inner city area. Of course beer was also a priority and we headed to Domus, Leuven’s famous brewpub. Shut on Mondays. This time it wasn’t the beer Guides fault but mine. PPPPPP! (Prior planning prevents piss poor performance) Off to Wentelsteen next. Closed on Mondays! The guides fault this time. The Wiering was open thank God. More of a restaurant than a bar but with a wide choice of beers. We ate and had a couple of large bottles of La Chouffe between us, before catching the train back to Mechelen to find Het Anker Brewery Tap also closed on Monday! Back to Den Beer to round off the day.
Tuesday – Brussels
Caught the train again, this time €7.40 return to Brussels, every 15 minutes. The Mechelen to Brussels railway, by the way, was the first on mainland Europe. Passing by Brussels North station we couldn’t help but notice, all the buildings along the track had windows full of scantily clad women, out Amsterdamming Amsterdam. Arriving at Central Station we boarded the Metro to Heysel and spent a couple of hours exploring the Atomium. We intended to lunch there but of course the restaurant was closed! Two of the spheres were classrooms/bedrooms for school parties to stay. The children’s beds were inside smaller spheres suspended from the ceiling. An exhibition of Fifties furniture, a film show of the construction of the Atomium, a snack bar, and the structure itself provided the rest of the interest. We returned to city centre for a Hot Chocolate at Cirio, an Art Nouveau café and a walk to the Jacques Brel exhibition. If you’ve never seen Jacques Brel perform, try YouTube. A visit to Poechenellekelder was a must to sample our new friends beer. They had Zinnebir on special offer so we had a couple each – it was 6% and hoppy like XX Bitter but with a maltier finish. We couldn’t go to Brussels without visiting Morte Subite - damn someone was in Jacques Brel’s seat, never mind we sat by our old friend the cat, and enjoyed a Chimay White on draught. Another “must” was Delirium Café. This has now got 25 beers on draught at ground level and has an extended bar in the cellar. A Rulles tripel each before going around the corner to our favourite Brussels Restaurant Vincent for the best Chateaubriand we’ve ever tasted with a very good bottle of wine, just for a change.
Wednesday – Dunkerque
Drove to Ghent, to Hop Duvel warehouse to buy a few months supplies of our favourite beers and were given a couple of bottles of a new beer and a Belgian beer book by the lady who served us. On to Dunkerque, explored the town, had some lunch and walked up to the beach where my Dad spent a couple of days waiting to be picked up in 1940. At 6:00pmish we walked down to L’Estaminet Flamand but it was shut! Had an excellent 3 course meal at a quayside restaurant L’Estouffode and returned to the L’Estaminet Flamand again, this time with success, had a couple of large bottles of 3 Monts as nightcap.
Our general bad luck continued on Thursday – all ferries cancelled due to the terrible gales. As we had a car full of fresh food, we drove down to Calais and used Euro tunnel to get back. Unfortunately it was five times the price we paid for the ferry!
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