Paris and Belgium

PARIS 9/08-9/12

Five fantastic days in Paris.  How do we choose “the favorites”? We didn’t.  These pics show some great beer moments.

After a day of walking and seeing the sites we get pretty thirsty.  We found Notre Dame, but where’s the beer?

Our first beer stop is successful.  Taverne de Cluny is just steps from our hotel. Pelforth Brune is brewed in France and good tasting, not too sweet, malty, and 6.5%.   A good selection of Belgians also.

We quickly learned that Biere Pression translates to beer on tap and J’ aime la biere! is I love beer! Well, something like that…

Half way through our Paris Walking Tour we detoured to the Right Bank. With a sign like this you have to stop in! This is a good beer place…a fine selection of French bier de garde.  We enjoyed beers from Jenlain, Choulette, CH’TI, L’ Angelus and la Goudale.

There were so many more F&B and touristy highlights like Willi’s Wine Bar, Joel Roubichon’s L’Ateliere, Siene river cruise and just experiencing this great big City! Now, off to Epernay and Reims.


We did the Fat Tire Bike Tour to Versailles; a huge highlight for Nina! This ten-hour day was filled with active adventures from Paris to Versailles and back. En route we stopped at the open market for wine, fish, meats, French unpastuerized cheeses, and a flower for Nina. We continued our bike journey through the Palace Gardens and shared a picnic lunch basking in the sun overlooking the fountains and swans!

During the ride we learned that one of our fellow riders had been to Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick!

We got thirsty by days’ end. Our tour guide recommended a ‘classic French pub’ Diernier Metro, translation: the last metro stop!

Abbaye Orval, Belgium 9/16-9/17

Once a year the Abbaye opens its doors to the public for a tour of the brewing facility.  Last Spring we were fortunate enough to win the lottery and get a time slot for the tour.

We rented a car in Reims, France and drove about two hours to the SouthEast corner of Belgium.  The weather was perfect for the visit and beer tasting.

The grounds of the Abbaye Orval are beautiful. The serene grounds are perfect to learn about this 900 year old Abbey, its ruins, and history; the Italian widow who gifted the land and money to the Cisterian Monks after losing her wedding ring in the well, praying to God, and then the fish came up from the pond to give it to her. Thus, the symbol!
Today was our lucky day to visit the brewery.  The staff and monks welcome the public to view the brewing process and taste the beer. It’s impressive to see the speed of the modern bottling process. We met the “scientists” who do the official tasting to ensure the quality of every batch! We offered to relieve them of their duties , , , they respectfully declined. Oh well, we still headed to the tent for our own verification.

After the tour the public was welcomed to taste the heavenly brew.  They offered us to sample the ale at either “normal” temperature or refrigerated temperature.  The normal temperature was about 50 degrees which enables the flavors to really come out. Our beers were accompanied with a large cup of diced cubes of Orval cheese. Can you say YUM!

Nina and I met the Abbot of the Abbaye, Father Abbot, who was excited to meet the public and also sample the beer.  The monks drink a “petite orval” during the week, which is about 3.4%.  On Sundays and feast days they drink the regular ale which is 6.8%. He was very social, friendly and spent a generous amount of time with us. He is Flemish and prior to running the entire Abbaye he was in charge of the brewery. The oldest monk is now 93 and entered Orval at 18! There are 15 Monks at Orval.

The beer pours with a firm white foamy head atop the orange hued ale.  At our local hotel it was basically the only beer sold and was enjoyed by everyone. What a special and fun time to meet people, look around and see men, women, young and old drinking big challices of Orval with long lasting heads and delicious Orval cheese – oh, the mac ‘n cheese was so good we had it three different meals! Time for a long run.

From here we are heading to explore the rest of the Ardennes Forest and the many small historic towns and beers in the region.

For now, Sante’! and a time of solitude and peace to you from us.

The Ardennes Forest 9/18-9/21/10

The car trip continues in South Belguim and we enter the city of Bastogne, famous for World War II Battle of the Bulge.  There are many monuments to honor the American soldiers, and Generals McAuliffe and Patton.  The residents are very thankful not only to those who gave their lives, but to all Americans for supporting their liberation during those three cold weeks in December/January 1944-45. It was historical and emotionally impactful to see the specific military ‘company’ names, war tools, and Band of Brothers remembered!

We stumbled into a fantastic food & beverage find! Nina noticed the colorul pink pig sign sticking out of the storefront and just had to go in. The Musee du Cochon, a third-generation butcher shop specializing in cured pork – displaying many from the ceiling and the basement below – ahh, the cured hams covered with spices, salt, and chestnuts. Luckily, they also had a quaint tiny bar in the back serving local beer and wines. We decided to have one beer. Then, came a plate of proscuitto and sausages. So another beer, which brought another plate. Our beers included Rulles and La Corne, which was served in a horn shaped glass. It kept coming and coming! Finally, we waived the white flag (napkin). We appreciated the friendly event!

We drove a few miles North to brewery Achouffe.  It is located in a farmland setting with various outdoor activities, primarily biking.

They have a great taverne located behind the small brewery. Famous for their Mc Chouffe, a brown unfiltered ale, and La Chouffe, a golden unfiltered ale, the beers were fresh and delicious.

I started with the Houblon Chouffe, a 9% IPA, brewed with three different hops.  So very delicious I stayed with it throughout lunch. Nina was driving so she stuck with the two-ounce samples of both La and Mc Chouffe in a self-labeled “have to have this adorable little elf glass!”

A neon sign in the brewery read “La Chouffe or Mc Chouffe, that is the question… Shakesbiere “.  No wrong answers here, all three beers on tap were awesome and satisfying.

Our sunny day got even warmer and sunnier. Stop and enjoy one the next time you see it on the menu. And remember to ask the question above . . .


Nina and I have arrived at Abbaye St. Remy in Rochefort.  Located about 5 miles outside of town, it is the last of the seven Trappist Abbayes for us to visit. We found a couple of signs on the rode along the way, but no monks once we arrived at the Abbaye.

The area was calm, peaceful and at the end of a long beautiful tree-lined road. The grounds were pristine and the chapel very simple and clean. No beer or cheese to buy or sample.

We played tourists for the day in Rochefort and found La Gourmandaise for dinner; a restaurant known for cooking with local produce and Trappistes beer.

Amazed and happy with the $3 price of THIS beer, it’s time to get to work!

Rochefort 6, 8, and 10:

6 was terrific, dark amber with 7% ABV. 

8 the sweetest, dark brown with 9%ABV.

10 wins! 11% and dark brown with hints of chocolate, definitely our favorite, it is smooth and drinkable. Accompanied with filet of beef, Rochefort sauce and Rochefort cheese. Good service, friendly patrons, delicious! They lived up to their reputation.

Driving to La Roche en Ardenne we were on many small country roads and this scene is not too uncommon to them. Nina however is beside herself with joy and photos of cows and rolling hills.

Driving down the road we see a US tank disabled in 1944 parked next to a church along side a cemetery.  The people are always mindful of the past and what the Americans did for them.

On a change of pace, or on the other hand, the scene of the photo on the left is not that uncommon either.  Reminding us to live life and enjoy the pleasures and success Belguim has to offer.  If you see this sign on the sidewalk it will likely get your attention.

Even in the very small villages of Belgium beer gets great respect and is enjoyed by people of all ages. The knowledge, pride and joy the locals are happy to share is abundant and, as travelers for beer we welcome the adventure!

For now, we end our Belgian journey and sojourn back to Germany for a brief stay in another historical town. Who knows what wonders we will discover there before heading to Scandanavia.

Sante’! Cheers! Prost!