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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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