Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cantillon Slideshow...


Monday, June 29, 2009

Belgium Trip: Day 8, Part 1 - Brasserie Cantillon

Turned the car in at Antwerp without a hitch...the mile walk to the train station was another matter. My backpack and luggage was pretty damned heavy but at least the luggage had wheels and I could shoulder the weight of the pack on my back. But Dave had a duffel bag (no wheels) that had grown quite heavy during the trip and he had a rough time getting it down the street to the station! But eventually we made it onto the train and the worst was over.

Once we arrived in Brussels, we stashed the luggage in an automated locker at the station and headed out to find Brasserie Cantillon.

Cantillon is a very traditional lambic brewery in operation since 1900 and is classified by the Belgian government as historic landmark. it operates under the more official name of "Musee Bruxellois de la Gueuze"

The brewery was quite a bit off the beaten path but after a couple wrong turns we eventually found it. The tour was 6 Euro each which included a couple of glasses of lambic at the end. We paid and were off.

No brewing was going on yet (too early in the fall for good wild yeast in the air) so we got a close up look at the empty mash tuns, the old copper kettles and the open air cooling tuns. Most impressive were the alcoves stacked with bottles upon bottles of lambic laid down for conditioning. If you've ever visited any of the large wine cellars in France, you know what it looked like. There were also scores of wooden barrels containing fermenting lambic, kriek, framboise and more of various ages.

After the tour, we hit the tasting area and were permitted one glass of gueuze and one glass of kriek. Wonderful as always. They also offered a plate of local cheese and sausages (gratis) which were delicious, especially since we had not had a decent meal yet and it was approaching lunchtime.

The gift shop had various gift boxes of various Cantillon offerings at very good prices...unfortunately our luggage was already set to burst. Next time maybe...

It was amazing. A must see for the beer lover. The slideshow to follow tomorrow speaks for itself.

***photo of Cantillon exterior - photo credit to Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog, I was in such a hurry to get inside that I forgot to take an exterior shot!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slideshow: Brugge Wrapup

Brugge Wrapup

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Belgium Trip: Day 7, Part 2 - Wrapping Up Brugge

We dumped off our haul from De Bierloods at the trekkershut and hiked our way back into the city center of Brugge. We spent more time than planned for at Adegem and we were going to have to cut the bar hopping short to pack up the Polo for an early morning departure.

Dave was doing some souvenir shopping so I stole off toward the main square to grab some frites. On my way back, I noticed a sign at the entrance of a narrow alley. Upon closer inspection, it read "De Garre". Excellent! De Garre was a cafe that was on my list but had i been walking at normal speed, I would have missed it completely.

After Dave finished up his purchases, we headed down the alley to get some ale. De Garre, like many of the bars in Brugge is small but does have a second floor. They offered a house tripel and had a sign informing that no customer could order more than three during a session!

But the strength was not the only selling point for this tripel. It was spicy enough to offset the considerable maltiness and sweetness. It was lively and just a bit warming. Very nice tripel.

The bar was rustic and woody, very "brown bar" with a lovely hewn wood bar and dozens of old bottles on display. A roaring fire was crackling away in the hearth and the place was very cozy indeed. We ordered a couple rounds of the tripel and headed back out.

Sadly, time was running short and we were going to have to cut the beer drinking off early. We had a lot of packing to do and we had to take the Polo back to Antwerp first thing in the morning (90 minutes away) and had to get up early. So we headed back toward the campground.

But on the way, we ducked into a cafe called Kelk. It was a dark, smoky cafe that offered little in the way of seating outside of the enormous ornate bar. We grabbed a couple stools and the beer menu. The list was very good and we went with De Dolle this time. Dave tried his very first De Teve and I stuck with the high-octane theme and ordered the imperial stout.

Peter, the owner, recognized us as tourists and started chatting with us. He was quite proud of his bar and his future plans for it and took us a tour of the facilities. Lots of construction was going on upstairs as well as in the basement and in the rooms behind the current bar. The plan? A expansion of the cafe and a beer shop upstairs that would boast more than 1000 varieties of beer. Very impressive vision. i wish we could have hung around for a few months to watch him do it. We went back to the bar, finished our beers, met the old dalmatian who lives at the cafe and, thanking Peter for his hospitality, started making our way back towards the campground.
Packing turned out to be more challenging than we realized. We had a lot of beer, glassware and other souvenirs to get home. To lighten our load, we drank the surplus beer! Among the casualties:

Floreffe Tripel
Lindemans Faro
St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition
Timmmermans Fruits de la Foret
La Rulles Blonde
Quintine Ambree
t' Gaverhopke Zingende Blondine
Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek
Leffe 9

After the bags were packed to our satisfaction, we loaded up the car and turned in. We were going to be rising early to get the car back to Antwerp and hop the train for Brussels in time to drink our fill for the last day of the trip...and see Brasserie Cantillon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Belgium Trip: Day 7, Part 1 - A Side Trip to the Outlying Village of Adegem

Thursday was intended for Brugge but first I wanted to drive out to Adegem to hit an epic beer store called De Bierloods. Their website boasted a selection of more than 800 Belgian beers and was only a 10 minute drive east of Camping Memling.
We arrived shortly after they opened and the selection lived up to the hype. The shelves were 60 ft long and as tall as me. Name a beer brewed in Belgium and it was probably here. Only Westvleteren was notably absent. (Although when I think about it now, I wonder if I had pressed Vacas, the owner, if he might have had a stash to sell us. Hmmm....) I focused mainly on Christmas (Kerst) beers and Belgian stouts....I kind of had to or I would have been overwhelmed by the choices. He also sold us an dusty old bottle of St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition...it had to have at least 5 years of age on it. Prices were decent as far as I could tell. Dave picked up some glassware too.

Mr. Vacas was very proud of his store and the bar that he housed in the basement below. He took us on a quick tour of the facilities and the bar. He also brews his own beer at De Proef called Koantjes, a spicy crisp blonde ale. He snagged a 750 ml bottle, some snacks and served us some (gratis!) out on of the outside tables. Spicy, hoppy and effervescent....it was a tasty ale, maybe the best blonde I had while in Belgium outside of the Westvleteren 6.

Our boxes full of beer, we loaded up the back of the Polo and headed back to Brugge. Thanks to Mr. Vacas for making the beer shopping very enjoyable. If you are in Brugge and you have a car, you must get out there. Hell, even if you don't have a car, Vacas was such a nice fellow that he might come and get you himself!