Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Belgium Trip: Day 8, Part 2: More Brussels, Lots of Lambic

Poechenellekelder is a two-tiered cafe located within spitting distance of the most overrated tourist attraction in the world. Still giddy from the Cantillon tour, we ordered up a 750 ml bottle of Rose de Gambrinus to split. Poechenellekelder is a classic Belgian bar, full of Mannekin Pis replicas dressed in little outfits created for the real one over the years. Marionettes hung from the ceiling and walls and the requisite beer signs were plastered over a glassed in square. Service was good. We snacked on the little crisps they made available and leisurely enjoyed our lambic. After we were done, we grabbed a waffle from the place across the street and started making our way to the Grand Place.

From the Grand Place, a series of narrow alleys take you to Toone, a combination cafe and marionette theatre. Toone is sizable, three distinct rooms and far more seating than you would expect from the outside. We took a seat in the second room that housed the marionette stage itself. The place looks well worn and cozy. It's near the Grand Place and there were plenty of tourists in there ordering tables full of Kwak in the coachman's glass. The beer list...was not that impressive to me. Outside of Cantillon, there wasn't a lot that was going to rock your world...lots of Inbev brews. I went with a Hoegaarden Grad Cru, an old favorite. Dave got a Leffe Radieusse. The Grand Cru was as good as ever. The Leffe Radieusse was a bit hot in my opinion.

After a dinner at a Greek cafe, we headed out to look for a bar called Becasse. There is one main reason to seek out La Becasse; their house beer, Lambic Doux produced by Timmerman's. Becasse is located at the end of a narrow alley keeping foot traffic to a minimum which is a shame because it is a beautiful little cafe. Lots of wood and brass and ceramic jugs which carry the Lambic Doux. Lambic Doux is a straight lambic, lightly sweetened and very still. It hits you more like cider than ale but the balance of the tart funky flavors and the candy sugar sweetness is delicate and perfect. This makes Becasse a must visit for fans of lambic. Served in ceramic pitchers, it is a throwback to a time when all beer in Brussels was served this way.

La Becasse would be our last beery experience in Belgium. It was time to head back to the station, jump the train to the airport a fly home. Great trip overall!

Some recap notes:

Top 5 Cafes Visited

5. t' Oud Arsenaal - a 1920's bar that remains unchanged. Well chosen beer menu with some nice treats.
4. t' Beertje Bruge - Outstanding beer list but cramped and limited hours.
3. De Dulle Griet - Not a great list but classic "brown bar" atmosphere and a lot of fun.
2. Het Waterhuis - Charming cafe on the canal with an incredible beer lsit including some good house brews.
1. Kulminator - Great atmosphere, outstanding beer list and cellared beer for sale. Fantastic.

Gent was overall my favorite city to drink in.

Top 5 Beers Tasted

5. Boon Faro Pertotale - tart and cidery, a rare chance to try traditional faro
4. St. Bernardus Tripel (draft) - spicy and warming, perfect in draft form in my opinion
3. 2000 Boon Oude Gueze Marriage Parfait - aged to perfection, velvety smooth
2. Rodenbach Foederbier - wickedly sour, Rodenbach Grand Cru x 2
1. Westvleteren 12 - perhaps not worth the crazy hype but stellar just the same

Top 5 Surprise Beers

5. Martins Scotch - Malty treat that was quite tasty
4. Brugse Bok - Very traditional bok beer brewed in Belgium
3. Adrian Brouwer - Strong brown ale, fruity and malty
2. Timmerman's Lambic Doux\Lambicus Blanche - Had not heard good things about Timmermans but these two beers were tasty and complex
1. Westvleteren 6 - the forgotten baby brother of 12 and 8, fresh 6 at the abbey cafe was hoppy and crisp and so very tasty.

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