Barley Mowat 

Belgian Holiday

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That title ain’t some kind of lame joke. I’m off for a Belgian holiday tomorrow, and I’ll start my adventure in that most Belgian of Belgian locations: New York City. Okay, fine, it’s not super Belgian, but it sure is half-way there physically, and there’s a few beer themed places I’ll hit up en route.

First up is Tørst, a semi-famous beer restaurant in Brooklyn opened by the equally semi-famous Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, of Evil Twin Brewing. Technically, I’ll actually be hitting up the slightly more exclude Luksus, a room within Tørst, but as it’s all news to this beer geek I’m not splitting hairs. The menu is coy about what exactly on offer here, but considering my buddy Jer was incapable of discussing this place in complete sentences, I think I’ll be okay.

Next up is the famous Blind Tiger, with its unique combination of classic dive bar plus the best beer lineup you could possibly imagine. I wrote about this place in a recent BC Craft Brewing News (Issue 4) so I won’t tempt you with further details. Besides, on to Belgium!


I’ve heard these are just called “Waffles” there

First stop: Brussels, but only for as long as it takes to de-jetlag. On the itinerary are Cantillon Brewery and Chez Moeder. I’ll be honest with you: I’m not a fan of brewery tours, especially of breweries whose beers I am already very familiar with. I’ve been inside enough breweries in enough states of disrepair that, frankly, it’s all a bit boring by now.

Brewing is a light industrial process, and once you get over the basics tours just become endless lectures on how beer is made. Here’s the secret: I already know how it’s made. Having someone explain to me that–holy shit–malted grain is steeped to create wort(!), takes time. Time I could be drinking beer. Therefore, I’ll be limiting the number of breweries I hit up during the pilgrimage and focusing instead on bars. An exception to that list, though, is Cantillon.

Perhaps it’s because of Cantillon’s unique history, or perhaps it’s that I love their beer, but maybe even it’s that I’m in Brussels for 18 hours and need something within walking distance of my hotel to occupy my barely-awake brain for a few hours. Whatever reason it might be, Cantillon makes the list. Next day, though, we’re on a train to Bruges.

A bunch of you just shook your head and murmured “go to Ghent, you rookie.” Well, folks, I am a rookie, and I’d like to make my rookie mistakes, thankyouverymuch. Bruges is a must-hit touristy destination for the Belgian virgin, and in addition to wandering its cobblestone streets dodging pickpockets and Germans alike, I will be throwing my shadow into a few pubs. Pubs like ’t Brugs Beertje, Cambrinus, Staminee de Garre (and its tiny alley) and the de Struise bottle shop.

Belgian, and therefore Bruges, pubs are bottle focused. They maintain large, dusty cellars full of quality ales much in the way a top flight BC restaurant would cellar wine. It’s not uncommon to see a place (like ‘t Brugs Beertje for example) boasting 250 different ales & vintages on their bottle list but only 5 taps of draught (and often one or two of those is macro swill to appease the tourists). It’s a… different place.


Pictured: A thing that happens in Belgium

After a few days touring, canal-ing, and staggering the statistical mean distance of two blocks between my hotel and every quality pub in town, it’s time to tour the countryside a bit. With the countryside comes another spate of breweries. The short list is, indeed, very short (see above re: visiting breweries), but even then some quality places made the cut: Glazen Toren, Rodenbach and, of course, Westvletern (or at least, the bottle shop across the road).

From Bruges the beer dream fades quite a spell as I take a fast train to Paris. Sidenote: Brussels to Paris is 2/3 as far as Vancouver to Portland. YVR to PDX by rail? 8h45. Brussels to Paris? 1h26. Fuuuuuck (for the math challenged amoungst you, that’s like YVR to PDX being 2 hours–imagine Portland being closer than Whistler).

Fear not, craft beer fans, as I have one parting kick at the can. Paris recently saw the opening of their first ever craft brewery, and damned if I’m not going to try their beer. Also, while there, it would be criminal to not hit up a pub called “L’Alibi“, which focuses on great craft beer. Nigel, do you have a trademark lawyer available?

That’s it. From there I disappear into the French outback for a few days of gorging myself on seafood, butter, wine and duck. I might die.

Now, I know what’s about to happen below. The comments will all be of the “I can’t believe you’re not going to XXX brewery” nature. Before complaining that I’m an idiot recall my view on brewery tours above (also, recall that my idiocy is both generally acknowledged and well documented).

Heck, my schedule is such that I likely won’t even hit up all the breweries I’ve listed above, as small as that list is. If you do have a suggestion, by all means make it, but also suggest which brewery I should not visit in order to fit it in. Bars, though? Throw ’em on.

Cheers. See y’all in May.

Written by chuck

April 10th, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Beer and You

2 Responses to 'Belgian Holiday'

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  1. I’m envious! Been to Bruges and Brussels, am very keen to get to Ghent and Antwerp. You’ll love the choice at ‘t Brugs Beertje. I’ll be watching your blog with interest, for hints for my next time in Belgium. Have fun.

    LJCaro

    10 Apr 14 at 18:47

  2. There’s more of a beer scene in Paris than one might expect. I found more than enough craft beer to keep me happy, but it’s certainly not as widespread as in Belgium.

    La Fine Mousse is a must visit with 20-ish taps. You’ll find a range of beers from France, Belgium, Denmark, and occasionally the UK: http://www.lafinemousse.fr/

    Next up would be Le Super Coin: http://supercoin.net/ Smaller selection than La Fine Mousse, but you’ll find different stuff on tap.

    And if you’re looking for some bottles to drink by the canal, river, or generally wherever – La Cave a Bulles is owned by a partner in La Fine Mousse. Bar none, the widest selection of bottles in Paris: http://www.caveabulles.fr/ They’ll even bubble wrap bottles for travel, should you have room left in your suitcase post-Belgium.

    Jeff

    11 Apr 14 at 10:27

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