The trip began on the morning of Easter Sunday, as our plane arrived promptly (what a nice change) at 950 am. We had until 12:17 to get to our hotel in Brussels, check in, and catch the tram to the bus to Gooik. Close call, but we caught the 12:17 by just a hair.
Since we had no clue where to get off the bus, I made a guess when I saw a Gooik sign, which of course turned out to be a bit farther than the designated stop in the village, but allowed for a scenic and quiet mile or so stroll into Gooik’s center.
We first popped in to In De Groene Poort, a lovely, rustic, old building with a real farmhouse feel. We opted to start with draught Girardin Lambic, which was just sensational. Light carbonation led me to guess it’s about a year old. Lemony, not overpowering, yet still assertive, and beautifully balanced. A real treat. A few bowls of some decent Spaghetti and frites helped us refuel. The owner?, a very friendly woman did her best to communicate with us, despite the obvious language barrier. I had a quick Girardin Kriek and we were on our way to De Cam. Definitely a unique place.
We each began at Cam’s large, one roomed café with a palate of 13cl samples of hand pulled Lambik, Kriekenbier, and Gueuze. A cage full of nearby canaries chirped loudly in the heavily occupied place. We were both completely blown away by the draught Kriek. The cherry flavor was intense, yet perfectly sour and drying, with no lingering sweetness. We each ordered another ceramic mug of that and savored it. I had another quick glass of the Gueuze and we made our way out to catch the next bus from the town’s center. Sadly, we were already an hour behind schedule!
The bus arrived at 3:56 and took us to Halle, where we waited for a bit before connecting with the next bus to Beersel. Upon arriving, we realized we were going to have to re-evaluate our plans in order to make our 6pm reservation at Drie Fonteinen for dinner. Changing busses was time consuming. We unfortunately had to bail on visiting Beersel Castle, which looked incredible, but was at the bottom of an exceptionally steep hill. Oude Pruim also had to be scrapped. We were able to pop into Centrum for a quick drink though. I got excited when I saw Girardin and Kriekenbier scribbled on the outside blackboard, but was informed that only Liefmans Kriekbier was on. We settled for those. Definitely a change from the previous Cam beers, but not altogether bad for what it is. I would have loved to have spent more time in this quaint, cosy, friendly little hotel café, but it was now time to eat.
Drie Fonteinen’s restaurant/brewery had a much more modern feel. While the décor was quite nice, and I imagine it’s wonderful to enjoy the elegant courtyard in the warmer months, we much preferred the olden-times feel of all the previous Payottenland cafes we had encountered. I ordered a Drie Fonteinen Lambic, which I enjoyed, although not as much as Cam and Girardin’s. I ordered the Blinde Vinken in Gueuze, while G went for the Turkey marinated in Gueuze. A ’97 Oude Gueuze was a great pair with our tasty meals. I followed up with a draught Kriek , which was intensely fruity, with a sweetish finish. Would make for an excellent match with cherry pie, I’d guess. Exhausted from a full day, we caught the 7:48 (last) bus back in the snow and managed to make it to our room before collapsing.
Payottenland was simply an intriguing, exquisite area that hopefully with continue to go on unchanged with time. This is truly a place every beer lover should make a pilgrimage to in his lifetime. I should add that Tim Webb’s LambicLand was a huge help for us.