Beer #184 2009 La Trappe Isid’or

2009 La Trappe Isid’or

Name: Isid’or

Style:  Belgian Pale Ale

Brewery:  La Trappe (Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven B.V.)  website

Country: Netherlands

Region: Berkel-Enschot

ABV: 7.5% abv

How served:  750ml caged and cork bottle poured into a La Trappe chalice.       

My Overall Opinion: Very Good

I paired this beer with:   Fish stew topped with an Irish sharp cheddar and served with bread made with Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

Tasted on:  Thursday December 15, 2011  

Notes:  La Trappe is 1 of the 7 Trappist Breweries and the only one found outside of Belgium.

 This was bottled in 2009.  Batch 13:38  K05F9 

The beer poured a hazy light orange with a 1 and a half finger fluffy off white head which dissipated before I was a quarter of the way down the glass leaving a minimal lacing.    

The nose of this beer was of sweet caramel, toffee, bready yeast, plums, raisins and candi sugar.

The taste started off mildly sweet with toffee, caramel, raisins and plums, mid way through I got some spices which included hints of cinnamon and it ended on the dry side.     

The body with a thin to medium and coated my mouth with a mild oily slickness with moderate carbonation and finished with a pleasant warmth from the alcohol.

The drinkability was very good.  I’m very glad that they (La Trappe) decided to make this a year round brew, instead of the intended one off brew.

On the Label:  The monks of Brewery de Koningshoeven have been brewing La Trappe beer for a living since 1884.  La Trappe Isid’or has been specially created to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Brewery de Koningshoeven.  This ceremonial beer was named after Brother Isidorus, the first brewer of La Trappe.

La Trappe Isid’or is a mildly sweet amber beer with a hint of caramel.  Soft bitter flavor with a fruity after taste.  Brewed with own grown Perle hops.  Serving temperature 10 – 12°  C.

La Trappe Trappist Ale can be aged like fine wine. 

Bitterness: 25 BU. 

Malts: Pale, munich, caramel, and wheat malt.

Hops: Halletauer and Koningshoeven Perle.

 Taste the Silence

 From their website:   La Trappe Isid’or

2009 Introduction of La Trappe Isid’or

To mark the 125th anniversary of the Trappist brewery, a special anniversary beer was brewed in 2009. This Trappist beer was named after Isidorus, the first brewer in the abbey O.L.V. van Koningshoeven. It was intended that this beer would only be brewed in the anniversary year. However, Isid’or was so well received that Abbot Bernardus decided to adopt this Trappist beer into the permanent range.

In 2009, it has been 125 years since friar Isidorus Laaber hesitantly, with successes and setbacks, started what is now a stunning product. To commemorate this fact, we are releasing a special-occasion beer for the international market in this jubilee year. It is obvious that the beer will carry the name of our first brewing master. It is a homage to this simple friar with his golden hands, who made our brewery, and thus also our monastery, famous.

As always, part of the profits of La Trappe will go to the monasteries in Indonesia and Uganda, which were set up by Koningshoeven. The profit of La Trappe Isid’or will go entirely to the co-friars in Uganda. Since they fled the violence in Kenya in 2008, they have had to start from scratch in Uganda. With the profit of La Trappe Isid’or, the community there will be able to build a new monastery and find a new source of income.

La Trappe Isid’or is a lightly sweet amber beer with a hint of caramel. The beer tastes softly bitter and has a fruity aftertaste. La Trappe Isid’or is brewed with the self-cultivated Perle hop.

7,5% alcohol, pouring temperature 10-14 ºC

Beer # 146 Lost Abbey Devotion Ale

 

Lost Abbey Devotion Ale

 

Name: Devotion Ale

Style: Belgian Pale Ale

Brewery: The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co.  website

Country:  USA

Region:  San Marcos, California

ABV: 6.25% Abv

How served: 750 ml corked and caged bottle poured into an Augustijn Grand Cru tulip.             

My Overall Opinion:  Very Good. 

I paired this beer with: Mesquite Tilapia.     

Tasted on:  Monday November 8th, 2010   

Note:  This beer poured a cloudy light orange color with a fluffy two finger white head which hang out for a while and left a thin lacing in the glass.    The nose was more floral then citrusy leaning more towards what you would find in an IPA then a Belgian Pale Ale, I also picked up a bit of a funky odor.  The taste starts off mildly sweet of citrus and of malt and then midway you pick up the bitterness of the hops and this beer finishes very dry.   The mouthfeel was a light to medium texture with an appropriate amount of carbonation.  The drinkability was very good as I finished this bottle I was left wanting more.

On the Label:  It’s an unassuming road leading to the priory. Here, off the corner of two intersecting roads, dedicated monks have been making beer for over 150 years. It’s always been a simple life — the kind that requires they brew only enough to sustain the activities of their monastery. In the silence of passing seasons, they pray, they brew and retire in solitary existence behind the sheltering walls. They live a most interesting life. Most likely one we couldn’t sustain.

Nearby, each summer, the trellised fields spring to life as rows of resinous green cones are trained toward the heavens. Rumor is some monks love these hops and being surrounded by budding yellow aromas and the leafy pungent fields inspired them. Since we aren’t sensible enough to locate our brewery near hop fields, we can only offer this blond ale in celebration of our Abbey brethren and their steadfast Devotion.

From their website:   

OG 1.050   TG 1.005   ABV 6.25%

Malts– 2 Row and 15L Crystal
Hops– CO2 Extract, Northern Brewer and German Tettnang
Yeast– Blend of three yeasts
Adjuncts– Dextrose

The Devotion story
It was so quiet out here at the Bed and Breakfast. You slept in late and didn’t even realize there was the hustle and bustle of activity taking place around you. Gazing out the window, your eyes are drawn to the hop fields. In neatly framed rectangle growing areas, the flowers rise from the ground stretching for the bluest skies dotting the landscape in Poperinge. In every direction, the work of clearing the fields is taking place as the annual hop harvest has begun.

The big city newspaper you work for has sent you on an assignment and your job is to discuss the economics of hop growing and the impact on global markets. Today you’re in Belgium, tomorrow in Germany and you’ll end your trip in England touring the famous hop fields of Kent. Each step of the journey will lead you to the same conclusion. Farming is lots of things but it will never be confused as a glamorous life. Yet, at the end of each day, there is a sense of satisfaction of reaping what you sow. The farmer swells with pride knowing his hops will find their way into beers from many differing nations

Your research has taught you about the different varieties and which ones are prized by brewers large and small for differing reasons. Your notes tell you they are scheduled to pick Northern Brewer, and Hallertau this week. Heading out in a rental car, you have a 10AM appointment with the Father Thomas. He is in charge of the brewery. It is located a stones throw from the green vines. The GPS tells you to make one last left turn. Instantly, your destination is in sight.

It’s an unassuming road leading to the priory. Here, off the corner of two intersecting roads, dedicated monks have been making beer for over 150 years. It’s always been a simple life- the kind that requires they brew only enough to sustain the activities of their monastery. In the silence of passing seasons, they pray, brew and retire in a solitary existence behind the sheltering walls. They live a most interesting life. Most likely one we couldn’t sustain.

Nearby, each summer, the trellised fields spring to life as rows of resinous green cones are trained towards the heavens. Rumor is some Monks love these hops and being surrounded by budding yellow aromas and leafy pungent fields can’t hurt. Since we weren’t sensible enough to locate our brewery in Poperinge, we can only offer this 6? blond ale in celebration of all things great and hoppy. Pious, like them, we’re not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t offer an appreciative nod to our Abbey brethren and their steadfast Devotion.

Love Great Beer?  Join Us on a Bon Beer Voyage Beercation! www.BonBeer.com 

Beer Travels in Belgium Part 4 (Gent)

This is the 4th installment of our Beery Adventures in Belgium.  We visited Bruges, Gent, Mechelen, Antwerp & Brussels over 7 days, meeting with vendors for our beer travel company, BonBeerVoyage.com.  During our whirlwind week, we were able to visit over 50 beer related places and tasted over 50 different beers.

With Bruges behind us, we are now going to focus on Gent.  During our 2 nights and 1 day in Gent we visited 9 bars, discovered a new brewery and tasted 13 different beers.

De Dulle Griet at night

De Dulle Griet bar

 

Our 1st visit was to De Dulle Griet (50 Vrijdagmarkt).   De Dulle Griet is a cool, quirky bar which you will find on the square called Friday Market (Vrijdagmarkt in Dutch).   The bar is named after a very famous medieval supergun from Gent.  You can see this large red canon on display just outside the Friday Market on the canal front.  Dulle Griet has over 250 beers to choose from,  including their famous “The Max” which is Kwak from Brouwerij Bosteels poured into a Kwak Yard Glass.

Ceiling Shoe Basket in De Dulle Griet

 As you may know, these glasses are not cheap, so in order to deter sticky fingered visitors from making them into souvenirs, patrons ordering “The Max” must take off one of their shoes as collateral.  The shoes is then put into a basket and hoisted to the ceiling by a pulley system.  When the glass is returned, so is the shoe! This bar can get crowded, so as a courtesy to your fellow imbibers, if you plan to have a Kwak, wear your odor eaters, please! 

Malheur 12 at De Dulle Griet

Ruth starts off her night with a Rochefort 10

After searching the packed pub both upstairs and down and not finding a seat in the house, Ruth & I were fortunate enough to be invited by another couple, on a holiday from Holland, to share the next available table.   I started my night off with a Malheur 12, which is a Quadruple and 12% abv from Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV .  Ruth started with a  Rochefort 10, also a Quadruple at 11.3% abv from  Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy).   After we finished our Quadruples, we said goodbye to our new Dutch friends and left to check out one more pub before heading off to dinner.

Den Trollekelder

As we walked to Café Den Trollekelder (17 Bij Sint-Jacobs) we heard what sounded like a jazz band practicing nearby.  So as I went to check out Den Trollekelder, Ruth went to track down where the great music was coming from. 

Den Trollekelder's troll window

Den Trollekelder's troll window

The 1st thing I saw upon approaching Den Trollekelder were all the trolls in the window.  The 2nd thing I noticed was the beer list hanging in the window, at a quick glance it appeared they had about 150 beers.  Great list, now to find a seat.  As I entered I noticed how empty the place looked.   I walked through the 2 levels and the only person I saw was the bartender.   I thought this was strange, given the fact of how crowded Dulle Griet had been and how good the beer menu looked.    I headed back out the door to find Ruth who hadn’t appeared in this troll den yet.

Trefpunt

I saw her standing next door in front of Trefpunt (18 Bij Sint-Jacobs) talking to an elder man with a small plaid shopping cart.   The stranger my wife was chatting it up with was Coen, a local artist and poet.   He apparently carries all his poetry in that shopping cart.  He confirmed that the jazz band we heard would be playing shortly in Trefpunt, which is a music and theater café.   We went in & found a couple of seats at the bar near the stage.    They have a small beer list of 6 beers on tap and 18 bottled.  We both managed to find a something to our liking.

Mike & Ruth toast with an Orval & Rochefort 8 in Trefpunt

Ruth stayed with Rochefort and this time ordered a Rochefort 8, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 9.2% abv from  Brasserie de Rochefort. I matched her Trappist with an Orval, a Belgian Pale Ale.  It is 6.90% abv and brewed by Brasserie d’Orval S.A.  

Coen and Ruth got into a conversation about everything from the French Poetry to Bob Dylan. This was followed by her attempt at interpreting his Flemish reading of one of his poems, (the Rocheforts obviously somehow endowed her with translating superpowers).  By the time the band started to play we were starving so after the first set we headed out in search of dinner.  

Aba Jour

Board welcoming you into Aba Jour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to the beer enthusiasts’ restaurant Aba-Jour (20 Oudburg) which serves Italian & Belgian fair.   Aba-Jour had 6 beers on tap, 55 bottled plus 10 specials on their menu board including Vin de Céréale and Stille Nacht 2003.

Rochefort 6 in Aba Jour

Drie Founteine Oude Geuze in Aba Jour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we waited to be seated for dinner, we sat at the bar and Ruth went for a Rochefort trifecta and ordered the Rochefort 6, which is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 7.5% Abv from  Brasserie de Rochefort.   I went with Drie Founteine Oude Geuze,  a 6.0% abv which is a Gueuze from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen

Cantillon's Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio in Aba Jour

With my spaghetti dinner I stayed in the Gueuze family and ordered Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio,  a 5.0% Gueuze from Brasserie Cantillon.

 

Ruth holding a haiku by Coen

Above is a Haiku, written that evening for us by Coen (Coenraed de Waele ) with one of the 7 or so pens he had in his jacket pocket for such occasions.  (For those of you not familiar with Haiku, it is a Japanese form of poetry written in 3 lines, the 1st line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables and the 3rd line has 5 syllables.) This is what it says.

 Hear close harmony.

Some Americans in town.

My mind runs open.

                        By Coenraed de Waele

 The next morning and early afternoon we spent touring around Gent.  During our rounds we came across 2 beer bars, which were unfortunately closed at that time of the day.  

 

Het Verdronken Land

The 1st one was Het Verdronken Land (57 Steendam) which is a tapasbar.   They have about 50 beers on their list and is only a short walk N.E. from Den Trollekelder.

 
 
 
 

Delirium Café

Delirium Café entrance

The 2nd beer bar which was closed was Delirium Café , (2 Klein Turkije).   The Delirium’s entrance would lead you to their basement bar.  This is the sister bar of the famous Delirium Café in Brussels, but is has nowhere near the 2000 beers you will find in Brussels.  It does, however, have an impressive 150 beers on its menu.      

Gruut in the Christmas Market

While we walked thru the Christmas Market we came upon a booth promoting a new brewery in town named Gruut.   We had a sample of their Belgian Amber Ale which is, as the name says an Amber Ale at 6.6% abv.  We found the beer, the way it was made and the beer glass all very interesting, so we inquired about the Brewery.  Once we found out it was about a half mile away, we headed off to see…

Gruut Gentse Stadsbrouwerij

Entrance to Gruut

Gruut Gentse Stadsbrouwerij (10 Grote Huidevettershoek) is a Hop-less brewery.  The head brewer a female.   They currently make 4 beers, a Wit Beer 5%abv; a Blond 5.5% abv; an Amber Ale 6.6% abv and a Bruin 8% which at the time was in production but not bottled yet.  

Gruut's Amber, Blond & Wit bottles

Gruut is the name of a medieval mixture of spices and herbs used to make beer instead of using hops.  Gruut was also the name of the local currency in the middle ages which was used to pay the taxes on the amount of Gruut used.  

 

Gruut

Gruut

Gruut

Here at Gruut they use modern equipment and brewing techniques in the old-fashioned tradition.

The bar/brewery/tasting room is very modern and nice.  And it’s worth the visit just to see the restrooms…

Gruut's Mens room

Gruut's Blond & Wit with some snacks

With a snack of hard cheese and salami, Ruth enjoyed the Belgium Wit Beer and while I had their Belgium Blond.

 

‘t Gouden Mandeke entrance

A peek inside ‘t Gouden Mandeke

A peek inside Gouden Mandeke

The walk back into town from Gruut made us thirsty so we stopped off at ‘t Gouden Mandeke (9 Pensmarkt) for a beer.   This was a quaint bar with baskets hanging along the beams of the ceiling.  They were very crowded and there was no place to sit, not even at the bar.  A quick peek at the beer menu revealed that they had about 50 beers, a good selection, but nothing we couldn’t find elsewhere in town. With a thought of a later return visit, we headed off to find a place where we could sit and enjoy a beer.  

‘t Galgenhuisje

We walked to the end of the block to ‘t Galgenhuisje (5 Groentenmarkt).  This is the smallest bar in Gent.  The location was where they used to hang people, hence its name “the Gallows House”.  They had 4 beers on tap and 14 bottled beers.   They made up for the small beer list with a great atmosphere.   Amazingly enough, a couple was leaving as we arrived so we were able to grab one of the few tables that fit into this doll house sized pub.

Ruth & Mike toast in ‘t Galgenhuisje with a Westmalle Triple & Gentse Tripel

I had the Gentse Tripel, which is an 8.0% abv Tripel from the Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.  Ruth drank a Westmalle triple, which is a 9.50% abv Tripel from Brouwerij Westmalle (Adbij der Trappisten van Westmalle).   We meet a great couple sitting at the table next to us.  After a while of chatting across our tables, we invited them to join us at our table, which made for an easier conversation.  And opened up a table for another group!

‘t Galgenhuisje with our new friends

She is a native of Gent and he is also a native from Gent, but he now lives in Canada a few months out of the year.   We enjoyed their company so much that after we finished our drinks here the four of us walked across the street to…

 
 
Het Waterhuis Aan De Bierkant

Het Waterhuis Aan De Bierkant  (9 Groentenmarkt).  Waterhuis is wonderful bar, if the weather is nice you can grab some grub and a beer outside while enjoying the canal view and people watching.  Inside it is a two story bar with a casual atmosphere.   They have an excellent beer menu; that night they had 16 beers on tap and over 150 bottled.   

I drank a Oud Beersel Oude Gueze Vieille , a 6% abv Gueuze which is brewed by Brouwerij Oud Beersel,  Ruth had the N’ice Chouffe, which is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 10% abv.  This is a Christmas beer made from by the Brasserie d’Achouffe which was van ‘t vat (from the tap). 

Oud Beersel Oude Gueze Vieille

N’ice Chouffe

 

Waterhuis cheers with friends

Our new friends and drinking companions treated us to a round.  We look forward to sharing a few with them when we return to Gent during our Belgium Beer Barge Tour in October!

It was then off to dinner after consulting with the locals.  We ate at a restaurant called Coeur d’Artichaut (6 Onderbergen). It had a kind of modern sparse décor, high ceilings, black and white.  Great atmosphere, great food, great end to a great day!  All while having the proper glassware for my Duvel too!

Gent at night:

Gent at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Great Beer?  Join Us on a Bon Beer Voyage Beercation! www.BonBeer.com

 

Beer Travels in Belgium Part 2

This is the 2nd in the series of our review of our recent trip to Belgium.  We visited Bruges, Gent, Mechelen, Antwerp & Brussels over 7 days, meeting with vendors for our beer tour company BonBeerVoyage.com.  During our whirlwind week, we were able to visit over 50 beer related places and tried over 50 beers. 

This entry focuses on our 2nd day of the trip, while we were in Bruges.  On this day we visited 1 bottle shop, 5 bars, 1 brewery & finished the night off dining in an award winning restaurant known for their cuisine a la bière.

Bruges has many bottle shops to buy beer & beer related glassware, today we visited The Bottle Shop (Wollestraat 13).

The Bottle Shop

The Bottle Shop

The Bottle Shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bottle Shop has a very large selection of beers to choose from and a very good assortment of glassware.  Above I have shown only 3 of the many walls of beer.   If you do buy here, they do a great job of packing up your beer/glassware safely, which is key if you plan on packing it in your checked in luggage. 

On Breidelstraat, the street connecting the Burg & the Grote Market, there is a very small alley way (De Garre) which leads to 2 bars.  You can very easily walk right by if you’re not paying attention.  You’ll spot what looks like a doorway and has the word Cookie’s written on the glass pane above the alley entrance.

Alley to de Garre

Chalkboard for Garre and Cookies

          In the very back of this alleyway is Cookie’s (2 De Garre).  If you are in the mood for tapas, hot or cold, stop in for a bite and maybe even a beer.  The beer menu is very limited, they had 4 beers on tap (Jupiler, Keizer Karel Blond, Brugse Zot Blond & Brugse Zot Bruin & 8 bottle beers, nothing which you can’t find back in the USA, Duvel, Tripel Karmeliet, Orval, Chimay blue, Westmalle dubbel & tripel and Rochefort 10, all bottles were 3.50 euro except for Rochefort which was 4.80 & the Mystic Kriek at 2.30.

Character in Staminee De Garre

The gem in this alley is Staminee De Garre (1 De Garre).  It is a little bar, with a very nice atmosphere and 135 bottled beers.  If you’re lucky, you might run into the guy in the top hat (above), who was whistling songs.  If it is crowded downstairs, head up the narrow staircase to a larger room upstairs.  If you’re only going to have 1 beer, the beer to try here is the House Tripel, which is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge.  It is a Tripel and 8% abv and you will not be disappointed!  They serve your beer with a small plate of cheese.

@ The Pub

@ The Pub menu

The closest bar to the Belfry (Belfort) Tower is @ The Pub (4 Hallenstraat).  They have a nice selection of about 100 beers. See menu above. In @ the Pub you have 2 seating areas inside- as you enter to the left is the bar area and to the right is a lounge area.  If the weather is nice you can sit outside and enjoy your beer as well.

Eetcafe Leopold

Leopold beer / liquor menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eetcafe Leopold (26 ‘t Zand) is located across from the tourist information office.  Besides having 8 different types of Croque’s, which are very tasty, they have a fairly nice beer list of about 40 bottles.

3 Tripels & a Bruin

Shown above are 4 of them, Kasteel Bruin, Kasteel Tripel, Westmalle Triple & Tripel Karmeliet.   The notices written (in Dutch, French & German respectively) on the cigar sign translate to: smoke is deadly, smoke kills & smoke is deadly. 

De Halve Maan entrance

2 beers available at De Halve Maan

Brouwerij De Halve Mann / Brouwerij Straffe Hendrik (26 Walplein).  This is the only brewery within Bruges.  It is less than a half mile walk from the train station.  They give a guided tour of the brewery and museum which last about 45 minutes and cost 5.50 euros.  It is a very entertaining tour and in the museum you will see among other things a huge collection of old metal beer cans and vintage beer glasses.  The tour is well worth the price of admission, plus it includes a tasting of Bruges Zot.

Straffe Hendrik Tripel

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brugse Zot, was poured from the tap.  It is a Belgium Pale Ale and is 6.0%abv.

Straffe Hendrik Brugs Tripel Bier, is a 9% abv Tripel.

't Brugs Beertje

't Brugs Beertje

‘t Brugs Beertje (5 Kemelstraat) is just 250 yards from the Grote Market off Steenstraat.  It is my favorite bar in Bruges.  Not only do they have a fantastic beer menu, but the service is great and it is a wonderful place to meet and mingle with locals and other beer enthusiasts.  We only had time to stop by and say hello to Daisy, the owner and have 1 beer, which was Gouden Carolus Noël.  This is a Belgium Strong Dark Ale of 10.5% abv and is brewed by Brouwerij Het Anker

Den Dyver Gold Award 2009

For dinner we went to Den Dyver  (5 Dijver) which is known for its cuisine a la bière.  They received the 2009 Gold Medal Beer & Gastronomy Award from Bierpassie, Ambiance Magazine & Maxwell Williams.   At Den Dyver you have the choice of ordering a la carte or choosing from their 3, 4 or 5 course menus.  The 3, 4 or 5 course meals can be paired with either beer or wine and are actually cooked in the paired beer.   My wife had the 3 course meal & beer pairing & I went for the 4 course.

hopped up champagne & house pale ale

We started off with an aperitif, mine was the House Pale Ale, unknown abv & brewer.  Ruth had the house aperitif, which was a hopped up champagne.

Blanche de Hainaut Biologique

Struise Rosse

            For appetizers, I had the swordfish steak with an anchovy crust which was paired with Blanche de Hainaut Biologique, a Witbier  with a5.5% abv.  This was brewed by Brasserie Dupont sprl.  Ruth had the duck confit which was paired with Struise Rosse, vintage 2007, 6.0% abv.  This is a Belgian Pale Ale brewed by De Struise Brouwers.  Both were perfect pairings.

Westmalle toast

For the main course we both had the duck paired with the Westmalle Tripel, which is a Tripel with a 9.5% abv.  This is brewed by Adbij der Trappsten van Westmalle (Brouwerij Westmalle).  The Westmalle was a good match for the duck.

Het Kapittel Pater & Bink Winterkoninkske

For dessert, my wife had an assortment of cheese which was paired with Het Kapittel Pater brewed by Brouwerij Van Eccke, it is a Belgian Dark Ale,6.00 % abv.  As usual, the beer was a great pairing for the cheese-and Ruth wondered “Why did we ever waste time pairing wine with cheese in the past?”

I had a pear strudel with Fourme d’ ambert, a French cheese which was paired with Bink Winterkoninkske, Belgium Dark Strong Ale with an 8.3%abv made by Brouwerij Kerkomj. This was an incredible combination, probably the highlight of the evening.

To end the evening of beer and food bliss I had a fig cake with almond cream.

The service was excellent. The son of the owner is the beer/wine sommelier, and presented each beverage with an explanation and a proper pour.  There were separate waiters and bus people, so we were very well taken care of.  The atmosphere is upscale yet relaxed. We are looking forward to returning with our tour group in October.

Coming up next in this series we will finish our time in Bruges by visits to 3 more bottle shops, 3 more beer bars, a gourmet chocolate shop and a cigar shop which serves beer in its backroom bar. Then we’ll head off to Gent.

Beer Travels in Belgium Part 1

We just returned from Belgium after spending 7 days meeting with vendors for our beer tour company Bon Beer Voyage (www.bonbeer.com). We visited Bruges, Gent, Mechelen, Antwerp & Brussels.  Since our visit was between Christmas and New Year’s most of the breweries were closed, however we were still able to visit over 50 beer related places and tried over 50 beers.  We also obtained information to share with you about the prices and beer lists from 26 pubs.This will be a multiple part series as I have too much information to share with you.  Over the next few days I will be posting the many beer encounters we had and will try to break it down into small chunks.Part I will review the 1st  day of our trip & our “quietest” day in which we had only 3 beer related visits and 7 beers including a tasting  of what could possibly be a 40+ years old Westvleteren Extra 8. 

Our plane landed in Brussels about 8am.  We cleared customs and picked up our luggage quickly.   Hopped on the 1st express train we saw to Brussels, 16 minutes later we arrived at the Nord train station.  We switched trains & arrived in Bruges a little more than an hour later.  The Bruges train station was only a 15 walk to our hotel which was by the Grote Markt, but we decided to take a cab due to our luggage.  So less than 3 hours after landing in Brussels, we were safely in our hotel ready for our Belgium Beer Adventure

Our 1st planned stop of the day was a visit to In De Vrede, the café attached to the Abdij Sint-Sixtus aka Westvleteren.  Without a car the best way to get there from Bruges would be to take the train to Poperinge via a change of train in Kortrijk. The trip will take you between 1hr 30 min to 1hr 54 min depending on the train schedule.  Then you have a short 6 km journey to the Abbey, either by bicycle, Belbus (a bus you would need to call a few hours before) or walk.  Fortunately for us, a “beery good” friend in Bruges offered to drive us.   He and his wife picked us up at our hotel.  We exchanged Christmas gifts; I got him 2 bottles from Cigar City,  Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout Humidor Series Jai Alai Cedar Aged IPA plus one Cigar City tasting glass.  He in turn got me 2 fresh bottles of Westvleteren 12 & one very special EXTRA 8 to taste (see video below). 

It was a little less than an hour drive to reach the Abbey from Bruges.  We first stopped to look at the building where the beer “crates” are distributed.  Since it was a Saturday, no Westvleteren beers were for sale.  Before the monks began having people call to reserve a time to pick up your beer, there used to be days where a line of cars  would stretch end to end up to 1.5 km long.  The wait to get your beer could be 6 hours or more and if you were lucky, you wouldn’t go home empty handed.     

In De Vrede

  Here is In De Vrede, this is where you can sample the Westvleteren blonde, 8 and 12. They usually allow you to purchase beer here in 6 packs, but again, on Saturdays, they won’t sell beer to “go”, as they need their stock for the café.  We are enjoying our Westvleteren Blonde, which is their Belgium Pale Ale and is 5.8% abv. at a cost of 3.50 euro.   I had this with the croque masion, which is a croque monsieur with a pineapple slice.    

  After we finished with the Blonde, we both went for the 12.  The Westvleteren 12 is a Quadrupel at 10.2% abv.  It looks like Ruth liked it!    

Here is the beer menu, 3 choices, all very good.  There has recently een a price increase; the Blonde is 3.50 euro, the 8 is 4.00 and the 12 is 4.50 euro.  All beers are poured from a bottle into their chalice glass before it presented to you at your table.    

Inside In De Vrede

    

     

      

       

   

   

   

    Above is a look at the inside In De Vrede, with an article boosting about them making the best beer in the world (no translation is need).   We also captured a photo of a “holy” monk.     

     Our next stop is to the town of Roeselare, home of Brouwerij Rodenbach, who is now owned by Brouwerij Palm.  We are here to taste Rodenbach’s Foederbier.   Foederbier is served only from a cask and is hand pulled into the glass.  It is unfiltered and unblended and is aged an average of 2 years in foeders (large wooden oak barrels).      

     

       

      

 The beer itself has no carbonation; it gets its head from the aerator on the hand pull.  Look at how long the head lasts.     

  Foederbier is served in only a couple of select cafés in Belgium, one of them being De Zalm, in Roeselare.   Foederbier is usually a little more tart then the Rodenbach Grand Cru, but this one was a little more on the sweet side of tart and delicious.   They say every vintage Foederbier taste different.       

        Foederbier’s taste is a cross between an Oud Bruin (oak aged brown) and a Flanders Red Ale.  It averages at 6% abv and cost 3.50 euros here.      

       We then headed to the town of Tielt to get some tapas and beer at Taverne (Tapasbar) Pado.      

       

Westvleteren Extra 8 poured by Dominiek

 

 Our 1st beer of the night is possibly (see below) a Westveleteren Extra 8 of over 40 years old.  Notice the word EXTRA on the rusty blue cap –not something you’ll find on their modern caps.

This beer had the taste & characteristics of a fine sherry or port wine.  Because of the notes of tobacco as well as the woodsy flavor, it was most likely aged in wooden barrels.  This lead us to believe that this bottle was made in 1968 or before because it is thought that the Saint Sixtus Abbey stopped using wooden barrels for aging their beers in or around 1968 and switched to using nothing but stainless steel barrels.  (However, the turnover to all stainless could have taken another 3-4 years.)  

Here is a video of the expert pouring.   (filmed by my unnamed friend)

    

BTW, the gentleman pouring this beer, Dominiek, is one of the owners of Tapasbar Pado.   This pub is one of maybe 2 dozen who earned the Orval Ambassadorship with the high distinction of Cum Laude from Orval in 2008. (notice his apron).  BTW although the beer WAS NOT purchased there, we were just fortunate enough to have it poured by this local expert.   For those of you who are curious, labels have not been used on the Westveleteren bottles since 1946.      

After we had whet our appetites with this gem,  we decided to sample:      

      

2003 Stille Nacht

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

          

The 2003 Stille Nacht from the Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers.  Notice on the bottom of the label is has a large 12%.  That was the last year they did that.  It’s 12% what?  Since it did not specify ABV or being 12% of anything they had to discontinue using this label.  In future years they placed the date it was bottled in that spot.  Stille Nacht is a Belgium Strong Ale, and this was indeed 12% abv.      

 

Keyte Dobbel-Tripel is made by Brouwerij StrubbeIt is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 9.20% abv.  This beer tasted and had the appearance of a Dubbel and the abv of a tripel, so maybe that’s how it got its name?      

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the 2nd Trappist beer of the evening, Orval.  It is made at the Brasserie d’ Orval S.A.  Orval is a Belgian Pale Ale and is 6.9% abv.  It has both a hoppy taste and a funky taste and because of that I find people either love it or don’t.  Notice the great creamy head on this beer after it was poured by an expert. This stayed on top like a serving of pudding!      

    Next we will explore the town of Bruges, with many more beery places and beers to be had.      Stay tuned for Part 2

%d bloggers like this: