Westvleteren 12 vs. St Bernardus Abt 12

The Battle of the Beers:   

Westvleteren 12 vs. St Bernardus Abt 12

Westvleteren 12 and St Bernardus 12

These 2 beers are made 5.2 miles apart from each other as the crow flies (for those who will have to use bike or a car, it’s about 9.2 miles).  It is said that St. Bernardus uses the same original recipe as Westvleteren, so what is the difference besides one is easy to find on the store shelves and the other for all practical purposes  you can only buy at its source in Westvleteren.  Let’s find out…

 Tale of the Tape:

 

Westvleteren 12

St Bernardus Abt 12

Brewery:

Brouwerij   Westvleteren

(Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren)

Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Town

Westvleteren   Belgium

Watou Belgium

Style:

Quadruple

 

Quadruple

ABV:

10.2% abv

10.0% abv

Bottle   Date

Aug 2011

May 2011

Best   by Date

On Cap:     17.08.14

On Label:      31 05 16

BeerAdvocate Ranking (among beers with 1000+   reviews)

#2

#8

RateBeer Ranking

#1

#41

Cost:

$3.60

(8€ for a mixed 3 pack at the  Abbey with an exchange rate of $1.35 per 1€)

$4.79 

The single bottle price at my local Total Wine

How served:

11.2 oz capped bottle poured into a Westvleteren chalice

11.2 oz capped bottle poured into a

St. Bernardus chalice

My Initial Serving

Temperature:

45°F

(in the future I’ll wait for it to warm up before serving)

45°F

(in the future I’ll wait for it to warm up before serving)

Ideal Drinking

Temperature:

55°F

55°F

 In researching for an article about our upcoming tour to St. Bernardus my wife was surprised to learn that although Westvleteren is now using Westmalle’s yeast, St. Bernardus is apparently still brewing the original Westvleteren recipe with Westvleteren yeast…  So she came to think that if she’s lovin’ a Westy, is it really a Westy? or is St Bernardus the real Westy?  Confusing, for sure.  So all we could do was pull out a bottle of each of them…which was conveniently located in our Coke Machine, and do a blind tasting.  Life is rough sometimes, but we were willing to make the sacrifice in order to provide you, our readers and beer voyagers, with enlightenment.   

Westvleteren 12 & St Bernardus 12 bottles

St Bernardus 12 & Westvleteren 12 bottle caps

But we’ll get back to the tasting later. Meanwhile, here is the story behind St. Bernardus:

Located in Watou, in Western Flanders in the heartland of hops, is brewery St Bernardus. The land on which this brewery was built was originally owned by Trappist monks from the Mont de Cats Abbey in France, who had left France for safer ground in Belgium during an anti-clerical movement.  Here, on a farm they called “Refuge de Notre Dame de St. Bernard”, they produced cheese in order to sustain themselves. When things improved in France and the French monks left Belgium to go back home, the cheese production was continued by Mr. Evariste Deconinck, who gave the cheese the name St. Bernardus

Shortly after the Second World War, the nearby Trappist Monastery of St. Sixtus decided they did not want to brew commercially anymore, so they engaged in an agreement with Mr. Deconinck to brew their beers.  Initially, before the brewery building was completed, Mr. Deconinck made the cheese in the morning and used the same equipment to make beer in the afternoon!

The agreement between Deconinck and St. Sixtus was that the monks from St. Sixtus would brew beer inside the walls of their Trappist Monastery for their own consumption, for sales to the public at the gates of the Monastery and also for a few taverns whom were connected to the Monastery, while Mr. Deconinck of St. Bernardus would brew the St. Sixtus beer for commercial production.  This agreement was set for a period of 30 years. The beers were brewed at St. Bernardus with the help and original recipes of the master brewer of Westvleteren.

As they say, all good things must come to an end, and although the agreement was renewed over the years, it ended in 1992, when St. Sixtus decided not to renew.  This was because by that time, the Trappist Monasteries decided that the qualification ‘Trappistenbier’ could only be given to beers brewed inside the walls of a Trappist Monastery. At this point, the beers brewed at St. Bernardus began production under the name St Bernardus instead of the brand name St. Sixtus.  They also at that time added St Bernardus Tripel, to the existing Pater 6, Prior 8 & Abt 12, (which, incidentally, were all created by the brewmaster from Westvleteren based on the Westvleteren recipes).

As for the results of our tasting….well, although they’re both similar in appearance and taste to a degree, they were not the same.  There were different carbonation levels, different tastes as they warmed slightly, etc…

Appearance:

Westvleteren 12:  Pours a cloudy deep dark reddish brown with a few chunks floating in the glass. It had a one finger tan head and left a nice thin lace on the glass.

St Bernardus Abt 12: Pours a hazy dark reddish brown with a 1 finger creamy tan head and left a nice lacing on the glass.

AppearanceWinner:  Almost identical in appearance, but the edge goes to St. Bernardus.

Aroma:

Westvleteren 12:  The nose was initially muted and was sweet with hints of dried fruit (raisins/plums).  As this beer warmed up to about 55°F boy did it come alive with aroma!  The dark fruits intensified and I also picked up cheery, figs, caramel, licorice, chocolate and the alcohol poked through sherry like.

St Bernardus Abt 12: There was a rich malty sweetness with notes of caramel, dried dark fruits like raisins, figs and prunes as well as a hint of the alcohol.

Aroma Winner: Initially at the 45°F  pour, St. Bernardus had the advantage, but as it warmed up it was Westvleteren by a “nose” at the finish line.

Flavor: 

Westvleteren 12: The taste is very similar and as complex as the nose was, especially as it warmed to 55°F.   There were notes of caramel, dried raisins, prunes, figs, vanilla, sweet (but not too sweet) candy sugar, some licorice, a hint of cherries and a mild spiciness.

St Bernardus Abt 12: Starts off somewhat semi sweet with malt and caramel and peppery spice, then I picked up fruits like raisins, plums, dried cherries, figs, prunes and maybe a bit of toffee too. 

Flavor Winner: Similar in the flavor profile but not the same.  Like the Aroma, St. Bernardus lead at the beginning, but as it warmed up I enjoyed the Westvleteren more.

Mouthfeel:

Westvleteren 12: The mouthfeel is of medium creamy feel with a nice pleasant warmth from the 10.2% abv.

St Bernardus Abt 12: Medium-light to medium creamy body with a moderate and prickly carbonation level. A nice pleasant warmth from the alcohol.

Mouthfeel Winner:  This is where the beers had their biggest difference.  I was distracted by the prickly carbonation level of St. Bernardus, so the winner here is Westvleteren.

Drinkability:

Westvleteren 12: This was a very drinkable brew and I’m tempted to open another.

St Bernardus Abt 12: This was a very drinkable brew, especially given the 10% abv.

Drinkability Winner:  A virtual Tie, but I’ll give it to St Bernardus., for the ease of purchase.

My Overall Opinion:

Westvleteren 12: Amazing 

St Bernardus Abt 12: Amazing 

Overall Winner:  Westvleteren by a nose!

But what we think and taste will be different than your opinion.   And if you love one of these more than the other, or love them both equally, does it matter if you really know all the gory details behind it as long as you enjoy it? We can tell you this much… they are all good. And they are all even better when enjoyed at the source…while on Beercation

If you join us on our “Grand Crus to Farmhouse Brews- A Beercation Cruise through Belgium & France” October 27 to November 3, 2012 you  will have a chance to try both of these brews fresh at the “source” when we visit Brouwerij St. Bernardus and café In de Vrede at Brouwerij Westvleteren.  

In addition to the above we will also visit 9 other breweries including:

√ Brouwerij Rodenbach (meet the brewmaster himself- Rudi Ghequire and enjoy dinner in the brewery)

Chimay

Brasseries de l’Abbaye Des Rocs   

Brouwerij Van Eecke

Huisbrouwerij Sint Canarus

Brasserie St German (France)

Brasserie Bailleux  (France)

Brasserie Thiriez (France)

Bon Beer Voyage

Beer #189 Val-Dieu Grand Cru

Val-Dieu Grand Cru

Name: Grand Cru

Style: Quadruple

Brewery:  Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu   website

Country: Belgium

Region: Aubel

ABV: 10.5% abv

How served:  750ml corked and caged bottle poured into an Abbeye de Leffe chalice.

My Overall Opinion: Amazing.

I paired this beer with: Steamed salmon with onion garlic pan roasted potatoes.  Yummy!!!

Tasted on:  Monday January 30, 2012

Notes:  Cork read best by 03/2009.  So this bottle is about 5 years old.

This beer poured an opaque deep brownish black with a 2 finger light brown head which dissipated quickly leaving a thin lacing on my glass.

The nose was mixed with caramel, raisins (plus other un-named dark fruits) cotton candy and faint chocolate.

The taste was slightly sweet with dark fruits like raisins & figs; caramel and brown sugar with hints of chocolate and toffee finishing more on the dryer side.

The body was of a light to medium body & extremely creamy and smooth with minimal carbonation; it was as if this beer had come from hand drawn cask.

The drinkability was amazingly smooth and easy to drink for a 10.5%abv brew; it drank like a 5-6%er.

Overall, is one of the better Quadruples in the marketplace  Find it, drink it, enjoy it…then compare it to the best rated Quads you’ve had and you’ll see for yourself why I feel this under the radar and under hyped  brew is so damn good!!!!!!

On the Label:  This authentic Abbey Ale is based on the recipe perfected centuries ago by the monks of Abbey Val-Dieu.

From their website:  Un petit bout d’histoire ?

The abbey of Val-Dieu was built 1216 by Cistercian monks. They were looking for a lone valley with a stream for agricultural and brewing activities, a haven of peace full of nature. Cistercian orders are well-known abroad for their brewing skills. The monks of this abbey made no exception to this rule.

Because of the numerous hazards encountered by the abbey over time (fire, destruction, expulsion of the monks during the Napoleonic revolution), monks have not always been able to brew. That explains why their beer production remained limited to the local level.

Fortunately, since 1997, the farm has discovered the typical roar of the brewery again. The only difference with the past is that beers are nowadays brewed by a layman. Moreover, the beers of Val-Dieu are brewed in the former agricultural exploitation.

Reinstalled 1997 in the abbey itself, the brewery took inspiration from the receipts formerly used by the brewers-monks of Val-Dieu to make this tradition last. Of course, those receipts had to be adapted to the raw materials and techniques of today.

Nowadays, our beers are real abbey beers, of high fermentation, not pasteurized, simple, without seasoning and brewed according to the old infusion method.

That is why the small stamp opposite can be found on the labels of our beers. This stamp proves the veracity of our products. To know more about it, go and visit the belgian brewers’ confederation.

Tradition, however, does not only apply to our beers. The “pays d’Aubel” is full of products that are emblems of the culinary tradition of the region. In the surrounding orchards, apples are growing which will be used to produce cider and “sirop de Liège“. The livestock which grazes in the green patures will offer you delicious delicatessen. Those are all reasons why you should visit the beautiful “pays d’Aubel” and discover its marvels.

Summary of the Oct 2010 Bon Beer Voyage Belgium Beercation (Day 3)

Summary of the Oct 2010 Bon Beer Voyage Belgium Beercation

 Day 3 Monday October 25th            (Sailing from Bruges to Ghent)

Our Barge, The Iris

 This morning we had the pleasure of a relaxed breakfast while being able to enjoy the scenery as the barge sailed slowly from Bruges to Ghent through the canal.   We played a few rounds Beer Cap Bingo for some cool prizes.

View during the Morning Sail to Ghent

Rainbow seen during the Morning Sail to Ghent

After another gourmet lunch on the barge we met up with a much smaller canal boat for an informative tour of the historic city of Ghent from the water. 

View of the Ghent waterway from the canal boat

View of the Ghent waterway from the canal boat

After the canal boat tour we all decided to fortify ourselves with a beer before we headed over to see the “torture” devices at the Gravensteen Castle (now a torture museum). 

Café ‘t Galgenhuis

We headed to the smallest bar in Ghent, Café ‘t Galgenhuis, which is an old “hangman’s”  or gallows house turned into a bar. 

 Here we tried 4 different beers from the same brewery Brouwerij Haacht NV.:

Haacht Wit Bier (Excelsior)- a Witbier of 4.8% abv,

Tongerlo Bruin– a 6.0% abv Belgian Dark Ale and    

 

Charles Quint Blond

 

Charles Quint Bruin

both the Charles Quint (aka Keizer Karel) Blond and Bruin.  The Blond is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 8.5% abv and the Bruin was a Belgian Strong Dark Ale of 9.0% abv.  

Charles Quint Blond and Bruin tasting at Café ‘t Galgenhuis

inside Café ‘t Galgenhuis

Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen Castle Knight

Thumb screws from the Gravensteen Castle

After our visit through the Gravensteen Castle and seeing all the medieval torture devices we could stand, it was time to calm our tortured nerves with another beer. 

 Our closest stop was ‘t Waterhuis aan de Bierkant.  This canal side gem has a beer list of over 150 beers. 

‘t Waterhuis aan de Bierkant

We shared:

Reinaert Grand Cru

Reinaert Grand Cru -a Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 9.5% abv by De Proefbrouwerij,

Buffalo Belgian Bitter

What a huge fluffy head on this Buffalo Belgian Bitter

Buffalo Belgian Bitter- a Belgian IPA of 8.5% abv brewed by Brouwerij Van den Bossche,

Gouden Carolus Noël

Gouden Carolus Noël, a 10.5% abv Belgian Strong Dark Ale from Brouwerij Het Anker,

Rochefort 10

Rochefort 10, a Quadrupel with an abv of 11.30% brewed at the Brasserie de Rochefort  and the House Beer Mammelokker, a 6.0% Bruin.

inside ‘t Waterhuis aan de Bierkant

After our visit to the Waterhuis we walked next door to sample some of the 200 types of jenever at ’t Dreupelkot.  

 

't Dreupelkot ad and Pol behind the bar

  

 

Pol at ‘t Dreupelkot pouring some jenever

 At ‘t Dreupelkot we were greeted by Pol, a Santa Claus looking character.  We tried the vanilla, the chocolate, the banana and various mixtures of these before we convinced the new jenever junkies in our group to leave the bar!

 After our jenever experience, we took a short walk to De Dulle Griet.

Dulle Griet "Mad Meg" the Red Cannon in Ghent

After we all saw the cannon we went to the “other” Dulle Griet.  

 

De Dulle Griet

Dulle Griet has over 250 different bottle beers on their menu.  Their specialty is their famous “The Max”, which is Kwak from Brouwerij Bosteels poured into a Kwak Yard Glass.   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! 

"The Max" at De Dulle Griet

While in Dulle Griet we tried:

St. Bernardus Abt 12, Prior 8 and Rodenbach Grand Cru

St. Bernardus Abt 12– a 10.5% abv  Quadrupel brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV.

St Bernardus Prior 8– a Dubbel at 8.0 abv by Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV.

St Bernardus Witbier– 5.5% abv Witbier also from Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV.

Bob's 1st ever "tart" beer as he tastes Rodenbach Grand Cru

Rodenbach Grand Cru– a Flanders Red Ale at 6.00% abv from Brouwerij Rodenbach NV 

Bush De Noël

Bush De Noël– a 12.0% abv Belgian Strong Dark Ale from Brasserie Dubuisson Frères

Geuze Boon a Gueuze of 6.0% abv from Brouwerij Boon

Gouden Carolus Classic a Belgian Strong Dark Ale -of 8.5%abv Brouwerij Het Anker.

Janet has the Delirium Tremens and is seeing Pink Elephants

Delirium Tremens a 8.5% abv Belgian Strong Pale Ale brewed at Brouwerij Huyghe.

cheers at De Dulle Griet

Afterward we stopped by a nearby bottle shop where a few of us to the opportunity to do a little beer hunting & gathered up few bottle to bring back to the barge as well as back home.

Dinner tonight on the barge was spectacular, we had salmon…

Dinner is served

and we shared a few beers and a few laughs as we reminisced about the day’s adventures.

 Next up is Day 4. We will visit 3 breweries then meet our Barge, the Iris, in Bassrode where we will spend the night before heading to Antwerp and Brussels.

 

 Link for Summary of Day 1

Link for Summary of Day 2

Love Great Beer?

Love to Travel?

Join Us on a Bon Beer Voyage Beercation!  

www.BonBeer.com   

Beer #134 Westvleteren 12

Westvleteren 12

Name:  Trappist Westvleteren 12

Style: Quadrupel (Quad)

Brewery: Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren) website

Country:  Belgium

Region:  Westvleteren

ABV: 10.2% Abv

How served: 330ml capped bottle poured into a vintage Abbij St. Sixtus goblet.         

My Overall Opinion: Amazing. 

I paired this beer with: Calissons d’Aix

Tasted on:  Monday August 9th, 2010. 

Note:  The Cap is stamped with a 19/09/10 date, meaning this beer will be 3 years old this September 19th.  I let it warm to 50° before I opened the bottle.  This bottle opened with a “hiss” and poured a deep dark cloudy brown with a one finger tan head on a slow easy pour.  The head leaves a nice thin lace on the glass.  The nose was sweet with hints of dried fruit (raisins/plums), licorice, chocolate and bit of alcohol .   The taste is of caramel, dried raisins, prunes, vanilla, sweet candy (is that licorice again) and a hint of cherries. The mouthfeel is of medium creamy feel with a nice pleasant warmth from the 10.2% abv.   This is a very drinkable brew and I’m going to be heading to my fridge for an encore.

Westvleteren 12 cap dated 19 09 10

On the Label:  What label?

From their website:  All images remain property of the Abbey of Saint Sixt and cannot be reproduced.

In De Vrede, the café at Brouwerij Westvleteren will be the 1st place we visit on our Belgium Beer Barge Tour in October 2010.  Here will taste not only a fresh 12 & 8 but also the Blonde.  What a great way to start vacation.  If you want to join us, check out www.BonBeer.com . 

 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 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

Beer #17 La Trappe Quadrupel

La Trappe Quadrupel

La Trappe Quadrupel

Name: La Trappe Quadrupel

Style: Quadrupel

Brewery: Bierbrouwerij de Koningshoeven B.V.  website

Country: Netherlands

Region: Berkel-Enschot

ABV: 10%

How served: 330ml capped bottle poured into a La Trappe chalice.  

My Overall Opinion: Very Good.  

I paired this beer with: Eggplant parmesan.

Tasted on: Thursday November 5, 2009

Note: Best by date was 02-2010.  You will find this beer in the US under the name ‘Koningshoeven Trappist Ale’ as in the  USA and Canada, ‘La Trappe’ is marketed under the name ‘Koningshoeven Trappist Ale’.

 The strongest beer of La Trappe with a beautiful amber colour. The warm taste is full and well-balanced. A little bit sweet and pleasantly bitter. La Trappe Quadruple is also fermented in oak barrels.   Since recently, we also age La Trappe Quadrupel in oak barrels. This gives the oak-aged Trappist beer an even fuller taste with a special wooded scent, which is comparable to wood-aged red wine.”

%d bloggers like this: