Belgium 2006

Travels for Beer Belgium 2006


For beer lovers, Belgium is “heaven on earth” or “a beer drinkers paradise”. This country offers a wide and rich variety of styles of beer. There are probably as many glass shapes in Belgium to match the beers available. If you are in Brussels for the first time, make your way to the main city plaza named Grand Place. Grand Place is just a five minute-walk from Gare Midi, the closest train station in the center of the city. Seven streets enter the Grand Place. The two larger buildings on the plaza are the Town Hall first built in 1402 and the Kings House, which now houses the City Museum. Surrounding these two buildings are ornate buldings of the different trade guilds. One of the guild buildings is home to the Brewery Museum, which is worth a visit and open everyday. Sorry, no free samples are served here!

Nina heads into the bar for another round. She asks the bartender if she could pour her own beers. The bartender has no problem with that. In fact he gives her an apron to wear while she’s doing it. After a few tries she pours a couple of perfect glasses. The bartender then suggests that she deliver the beers to the table. So there she is with a Ciney beer tray, a Grimbergen apron, and two Maes pils. The beers were for the guys at the table next to us, and did they get a laugh when she showed up. Meanwhile, the bartender takes a Kasteel Beer sign off the wall, dusts it off and cleans it up. He presents this to Nina as her graduation certificate of bartending!

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 I shouldn’t tell you where our next favorite place is, because it is more fun to find it yourself. But, the name is Au Bon Vieux Temps or “To the Good Old Times”. On an early evening while strolling and looking in the shop windows we turn a corner from a very old church, Eglise St. Nicolas, and spot a Corsendonk neon sign about 50 feet down this tiny three foot wide alley. Should we go? At a moment like this you have to trust your beer gut feeling, your sixth sense. We approach and give the heavy wooden door a heave. It opens to a quiet room filled with cigarette smoke. It’s dark but we can see it is a small bar with about six stools in a room with eight booths and tables.

While staying in Brussels, we made a day trip to the city of Ghent. It is about a 45-minute train ride to the West. While sightseeing we stop for a late lunch at Waterhuis de Bierkant along the waterfront. The place looks great from the bridge crossing the river to it and is very inviting. We were not disappointed. The menu lists 150 beers with 14 on tap. The interior has brick walls and hops are hanging from the ceiling. Jazz and blues are playing in the background. The bar is also made from old brick. From the beer list I order Aachel #8, the last of the seven Trappist beers that I have not yet been able to taste.

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 That evening we were ready to seek out our destination bar in Antwerp named the Kulminator. The Kulminator is renown amongst the beer travelers as a great beer bar and a not to miss site. Sitting on the bar is a very large book, the size of a large, antique, family Bible. Nina checks it out and finds that it is the beer list! …Soon, we know everyone’s name and we are raising our glasses of perfect beer to toast each other. We slide over to their table and join in with the party. They find out that we are beer lovers and they want to buy us a beer that we have never had. Well, that is not easy to do, but if it is going to happen this is the best place!

The Abbey De Koningshoeven is located across the border from Belgium in the Netherlands. The abbey has an attached gift shop and a beer tasting room. It was late in the afternoon, almost five o’clock. We had spent so much time traveling and locating this place, and now we are worried that it may be closing! We are the only customers present. The bar is front and center with walk up service. The blonde, dubbel, triple, and quadruple are flowing from the tap. Our happy bartender then tells us not to rush, enjoy the beers. We do just that. We got four samples, one of each.

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