Belgium – Day 3, 4, and 5

Day 3 – Uneventful day in Bruges. No real beer business, just touring around (first time there), although I did have a few beers at the famous t’ Brugs Beertje. The most eventful thing that happened there was that I got offered a tour of the cellar. However, it wasn’t offered by the ownership, but rather a very ‘friendly’ local man.  And he didn’t want to show me beer.

De La Senne Beers

Day 4 – From Bruges, we booked a very cheap hotel near the Grand Place for our return to Brussels. Across the street is a building called Studio 2000 which I assumed immediately was most certainly a brothel. A brewer later confirmed this for me, but since I don’t know how he acquired that information I won’t name him.  Brussels, like any major city has it’s sore spots and it’s highlights. We were in the former.

This day we saw every brewery in Brussels. There are only two. Our first stop was De La Senne, to visit Yvan De Baets, and Bernard LeBoucq. This brewery is new, and fully functioning, but it has the unmistakable feeling of a place ‘in progress’. “The red paint on the floor is where the cafe will be” said, Bernard’s wife Rosanna. The barrels were yet unfilled and should be soon I’m told (with the brewery’s Saison and a Flanders style sour beer).

Taras Boulba was exceptional as always, and I had my first real glass (read, full glass) of Zinnebir today. I’ve only ever tried it previously at various tastings in the US and always tasting only a small amount. More interestingly, Yvan poured some Zinnebir from their custom fermenters (see pics). Still cloudy and uncarbonated, it was remarkably different than the bottled beer with much more hop flavour and aroma, and of course a little of that sulfur nose that unfinished and unlagered beer often has. The fermenters are built to mimic open fermenters, and while closed are made much wider than they are tall as not to stress the yeast.

In the afternoon we went to Cantillon to meet up with brewer Jean Van Roy. The neighbourhood, Anderlecht was once considered a suburb, but it is really now just part of the downtown, only about 15-20 minutes from the Grand Place. Anderlecht is an almost entirely a muslim neighbourhood. I mention that only because I don’t think most people envision Cantillon existing in such a neighbourhood. But frankly, most of Belgium is unlikely to be quite what you expect coming from North America. More on that in a later post…

Jean Pouring a year 2000 lambic for us!

It’s famously known that there is a cat at Cantillon, named Le Chat (the cat) who keeps the mice away. But there is also a cat there named Bloemponch who prefers to catch mice in the vacant, grass covered lot across the street and bring them back to the brewery. With all the grains mice might eat, and visitors they may scare, live rodents aren’t good for business, but nor are dead ones sitting at the front door.  Jean explained, “Bloempanch” means blood pudding and it’s a very typical Brussels dish. It is mostly black and differs from the english version in that it has large pieces of fat dotted throughout (approx1cm cubed). I like blood pudding very much, so when Jean told me this I made sure I ordered it that night when Yvan De Baets from Brasserie de La Senne and I went to the restaurant of Alain Fayt, Restobieres. The cat, is black with white spotting. Hence the name.

Day 5 – In a town called Rebecq, about 25 minutes from Brussels is the only Gueuzerie in the French speaking part of Belgium in Wallonia. As you might know Gueuze is traditionally, or perhaps famously, Flemish. Pierre Tilquin is the proprietor and this year is the first year he has had any product in bottles. His Gueuze was actually the first thing I tried in Belgium, at Moeder Lambic Fontainas and it was exceptional. Technically the beer I had was different than the bottled version, which is 6%. The draft version contains March beer from Boon, which is a lighter wort (3.5% after fermentation, I think) and thus a lighter Gueuze is produced. But it’s basically the same thing as the Gueuze. The complexity on the Gueuze could be rounded out a little with the addition of 3 year old lambic, which is absent in this years version because Pierre simply doesn’t have enough 3 year old lambic to have used it. Pierre is using lambic from Boon, Lindeman’s, Girardin and Cantillon. It is the Cantillon that will differentiate his product, as it’s not used in a similar blend. Omitting the Cantillon would essentially make his blend the same as 3 Fonteinen. Pierre used to work at Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen.

That’s it for now… more pictures below…