BRUSSELS - A LAMBIC EXTRAVAGANZA
I had another week end off ( sorry folks ), and headed to Brussels for the A.G.M. of the Biere sans Frontiers ( The Foreign bar at the Great British Beer Festival 0.
The wonderful Lorenzo, the 'Prince of the Pajottenland ) was our guide and mentor, and he took us to some of the wonderful bars west of Brussels.
I arrived in France about 09.45, on Friday Morning and after changing trains in Lille and walking between Lille Europe and Lille Flandres ( about 6 minutes ) I was on a train to Kortrijk , in order to change for Brugge. Had I known it at the time, the rest of the BSF crew were firmly ensconced in the Rodenbach brewery having the most wonderful ( as I found out later ) visit and meal. I was of the impression that the brewery tour was at 9AM and then they were moving onto Brugge for lunch at the Gouden Boom brewery, but apparently, as usual, I had the wrong end of the stick. I had not been given an itinerary for the trip as the organiser of the weekend had my old e-mail address.
I arrived in Brugge at about 11.20, dumped my bags in the left luggage lockers and headed into town. First stop was the café Erasmus, which was reopened following it latest re-paint ( once a year according to Thom ). I sampled a very gook De Ranke Pere Noel on tap, which was beautifully sharp with a real hop taste to it. From the Erasmus I headed for the Brewery expecting to find it open and therefore able to ask what time the rest of the group were expected. Ha!. Fat chance. It was completely locked up. Not a soul about so I gave up and headed of for a consolation Tripel Karmeliet in a nearby café. From here I was back up Oudeburg and found I was next to Tom's ( ex of the Beertje ) new restaurant, Pili Pili, so I popped in and gleaned the following. ( Address was posted last week by myself ).
Belle Vue Kriek
Spaghetti Bolognaise - 7.50
Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognaise - 8.50
Spaghetti Maison - 8.50
Tagliatelli Carbonara - 8.50
Tagliatelli Tonijn & Zalm - 8.50.
There is a lunch deal were for 8.00, you may have a spaghetti meal and beer (I think) or a soft drink.
Moving on from Pili Pili, I popped into the Garre and had an Oerbier, which was possibly pre yeast change as it was very sour as they used to be.
As there appeared to be no sign of the group and no one would answer there mobiles, I headed off to Brussels via a couple of bottle shops where I managed to purchase 3 new beers. Huyghe Delirium Xmas ( not sure if this is just a re-badge for the Xmas market or not ), d' Ecaussinnes Ultra Soif. 5% ( a superb blond hoppy beer ), and Proefbrouwerij Slaapmutske Tripel 8.1%.
In the bottle shop on the Wollestraat (same street as the Erasmus ) I almost fainted when I found 37.5 cl bottle of Drie Fonteinen Kriek for 8.20. Needless to say. It stayed on the shelf.
After an evening sorting out the hotel ( I had been booked into the wrong Ibis ), I set off for a beer of eight. I visited the Lop Lop ( first and last time! What a dirty little sh*t-hole of a pub), the beer was slopped into the glass, that was when he managed to get the order right, first off he gave a Corsendonk Pater, which went straight back behind the bar, and he gave me a St. Bernadus Prior, which was what I had ordered.
From the Lop Lop I wound my way through the alleyways, across the Grand Place and into the Poechenellekelder on the rue de Chene, where I debated long and hard about paying 15 for 75cl bottle of 1992 Belle Vue Gueuze, but in the end I plumped for a Ellezelloise Saison 2000.
Moving onto the Porte Noire, I eventully found some of the people I was expecting to see. We sat for about an hour and whilst they stuffed Gulden Draak down there throats, I had a large bottle of Dupont Moinette Brune and Fantome Fantome. I also managed to obtain a very nice Boon Gueuze glass, which I offered to pay for but was given instead - result!
As a final flourish to the evening we staggered up to the Beer Circus were we quite easily managed to procure a table beside the bar and were joined by the tour from Rodenbach after bout an hour. When I arrived. Mark was propped up in a corner and we had a blast through the aged beer list before he called t a night and left for home. I tried amongst other things a very nice Rodenbach Alexander, a 1983 Eylenbosch Kriek, a 1983 Belle Vue Kriek, and a bit out of someone else 1992 Moinette Bruin which was superb.
I also managed to taste (just) possibly the worse French beer I have ever had the misfortune to try. Biere de la Briere, Thorella 5.5. It was bland and pissy and was left alone after about ˝ a glass. To take the taste ( or lack of ) away from that I split a large bottle of Fantome La Gourmande with Mark, which was a lot better. A typical Fantome beer and absolutely wonderful. Things improved after that, or must have as I don't remember what I tried. ( Ahem - drunk were we? ) I staggered back to the hotel at about 2AM.
On Saturday, we were to meet at the Cantillon Brewery at 10.30 for the AGM. I missed the start as Jeremy had given me some beers to pass to Joris and I had left them in the Hotel so had to back track and pick them up. The meeting was accompanied by copious amounts of Cantillon, Gueuze, Broucsella 1900 Grand Cru, Cantillon Super Lambic, Kriek and Rose D/G.
At 2Pm after and excellent lunch, Joris, myself, Lorenzo, Lorenzo's friend, Alessandro from UnionBirra in Italy, and a Belgian radio broadcaster, known to Lorenzo, who wanted to interview Joris, all headed out of town by car in search of good lambic in the Pajottenland. We headed for Kobbegem ( home of Mort Subite ) where Joris wanted to speak to the brewery about which bars he would be able to find the Witte lambic in.
The brewery however was closed. So we adjourned to 't Wit Paard, next to the brewery where a quick word with the bar lady found us the proud owners of two 75cl bottle of unfiltered Mort Subite Gueuze which was sublime which were savoured and much photographed before we departed.
Next stop was the Heeren van Liedekercke in Denderleeuw, which was primarily to try the Mort Subite Witte lambic ( more of which Joris will post I'm sure ) and secondly for Lorenzo to speak to the owner, about the meal on Sunday when the main group were expected.
From Denderleeuw we drove to Ursel and spent the most amazing evening as the guests of Joris and Lut. Joris took us down and showed us his cellar which was just mind blowing and made my cupboard under the stairs look very pedestrian by comparison. The amount of rare and unusual beer he had on those shelves was staggering and he very kindly and generously selected a few gems to savour back in the house. Lut had produced the most wonderful buffet supper and the next 4 hours were spend in an orgy of cold meat and lambic ales. I will not bore you with all the 'oohing' and 'aahing' that went on, but suffice to say Lorenzo was in seventh heaven and I was not far behind.
Joris produced the following stunning list of beers:
Cnudde - Kriek (1987) ( not a lambic but of significant rarity value ).
Brouwerij Heyvaert ( based in Asse and close in 1985 ?) - Kriek (1981).
Eylenbosch - Druivenlambic (1979).
Moriau - Kriek (1987).
Wets - Double Kriek (1986). A beer made after an inexperienced employee put twice the amount of cherries in the beer.
And the piece de résistance...
Rosalie de Rauw Gueuze (1961). A Gueuze blended by the de Rauw family of Beersel to celebrate a special event (I think it was the birth of a child).
We ended the evening on a 1987 bottle of Achouffe Chouffeleir MCMLXXXV + 2.
I cannot even start to say how much I appreciated this amazing generosity shown by Joris and Lut and I can only say that I have never, in 10 years of drinking Belgian Beer and having had over 1170 different beers, tasted anything as good as the beers I had that evening, They just blew me away. I'm not very good as descriptive text, and words fail me, and I cannot even start to describe the amazing tastes and complexities of those fantastic beers.
Back in Brussels after a 'lively' journey back in the car in which we were speaking ( or in my case listening ) in French, Italian and English ( earlier in the day there was Flemish as well ), I retired to the hotel and collapsed into bed. I didn't want anymore beer, as I thought nothing would compare to the last 5 hours.
On Sunday, we arranged to meet outside the main hotel the rest of the BSF group were using and a bus transported us in the Pajottenland for a visit to the most amazing lambic bar I think I have visited for a long time. We arrived at about 11AM outside the small 'In De Verzehering tegen de Grote Dorst' on the church sauqre in the small village of Eizeringen near Dilbeek. I don't think the owners, or the 5 or 6 regulars who were in the bar, were quite ready for 35+ plus Belgian, Dutch, English, Scottish, Italian, Japanese and German drinkers. I think they were even more surprised when we all ordered lambic beers. To their credit they very quickly had several crates of lambic out of the cellar and were carefully pouring it and passing it out.
We had a choice of Giradin White and Black label Gueuze, Mort Subite Gueuze ( the real stuff ), 1991 Eylenbosch Gueuze, which was quite sweet and Hanssens Gueuze and Kriek. Once the first round was sorted out we started to be able to talk to the brothers who owned the bar and it wasn't long before beers not on the menu started to appear. First up was a 1987 bottle of Eylenbosch Faro-Extra, which was quickly followed by 2 more of the same. This was a wonderfully complex beer that had lost most of its awful cloying sweetness and was beautifully balanced and nicely sour. Following this gem, was a bottle or two of a 1987 Eylenbosch ongerfilterd Gueuze, which in contrast the previous bottles (37.5cl) was not in the least bit sweet. In fact it was completely the opposite. It was a wonderfully mouth drying tartness about it that left you craving more and perhaps the most amazing thing. It was only 6 a bottle.
The bar was in a bit of a state and it turned out the bar was actually at the front of the building but was under renovation, and were we were was actually the brothers dining room and kitchen which had been converted into the pub whilst the building works were being completed.
Suitably watered we set off again in the bus, for the Heeren van Liedekercke in Denderleeuw for a lunch and to do damage to his beer stocks.
I opted to go for a mix of beers and tasted (not necessarily in this order ) Boelens Heerenbier ( brewed for the pub but available elsewhere ), Ambly St. Monon Bruin. A 1999 Belle-Vue Selection lambic which did not taste as good as the 1992 variety ( the last time it was made ). A De Neve (Belle Vue ) Ongerfilterd Gueuze of unconfirmed age, but old judging by the label, or what was left of it ), Angerik Boerke Blonde, Lindemans 1994 Cuvee Rene, and to finish a pr 1991, Brabrux Caves Breughel Kriek.
After lunch was eventually over , it had taken two hours to get the food served and further two hours to eat it, waiting for the courses to be served, we set off for Beersel and the arranged visit to Drie Fonteinen, and the cellar & brewery visit, and the tutored tasting by Armand de Belder.
First stop of the evening though was to the Grand Salon at the end of the square in order to partake in a glass of Hanssens Gueuze and Kriek. We had to scurry out of here when the tour almost left without us. We traipsed right round the back of the village to the storage facility and they the main group went off for the tasting. I unfortunately was booked on the 19.57 Eurostar home, so had to leave at this point. Before any beer was tasted ( boo hiss ) and headed back to the bar for a quick glass of Drie Fonteinen brewed lambic, before the coach driver took us down to the station at Lot in order to get back in Brussels. The train journey back to London was number by the use of Liefmans Goudenband and a bottle or two of Chimay Bleu.
I am now at home drying to dry out and get rid of the appalling acid indigestion I appear to have developed. I have not had such a concentrated weekend on the lambic products before, and I am ashamed to say that having been drinking in Belgium since 1994, that was my first trip into the Pajottenland proper ( Beersel excepted ), and I now see what all the fuss is about. I can't wait to get back.