In the village of Davos-Monstein is what claims to be the highest brewery in Europe -- Biervision Monstein. Their tagline is "Last Beerstop before Heaven." However at only 1625m (5300 ft) it's not all that much higher than Denver, let alone the breweries in Colorado's Ski Country. Their flagship beer is called "Huusbier" -- just the local dialect for "house beer" and is a yeasty, unfiltered pale lager. I like it (but then I am usually somewhat beer deprived when in Switzerland) though other reviewers have called it "weird." To each their own.
Monsteiner Huus Bier
It is served on draft at Restaurant Kulm in Davos-Wolfgang and they also use it to make their fondue. I'm not an expert at fondue, but I like Kulm's very much. It is slightly different every time I am there, with this version having small bits of ham and chopped spices.
According to Frank Zappa, Lichtenstein is back on the rolls of "real countries" thanks to the Lichtensteiner Brauhaus in Schaan.
I had the Hell's -- a nice well made Helles. They also brew a wheat and a Dunkel. As we drove thru Schaan there were numerous Brauhaus signs above bars and restaurants so the locals at least are liking it. But does it play in Vaduz?
My hotel here in Buchs at least has Schützengarten, which is drinkable. The St Galler Klosterbräu -- which is unfiltered -- is quite nice, but the only have the Helles here. I am here to work, so it probably is good that my beer choices are limited.
The group of us who usually travel to this fest have a tradition dating back to the predecessor event -- the 24 Hours of Belgian Beer. On the Sunday morning of the fest we drink lambics, starting off with fruitier Kreik and Framboos and as our mouth wakes up, slide on into Gueze and if we're lucky, Oude Lambic. The problem this time was all the people working the lambic booths were either more hung over than I or were walking around the fest drinking other beers -- because it was hard to get a beer from them. The 2nd Kriek was Boon Oude Kriek and I let it go at that. Lip service to the tradition, at least.
Boon Oude Kriek
Until they perfect Smell-O-Vision over the internet you'd have no way of knowing, but the following beer has some serious hops. Its the Troubador Magma and it would be at home at any IPA fest in California. My understanding is they used a high alpha Czech variety for bitterness and Simcoe to finish. A very nice beer, but not what I came to Belgium to drink. Bud I did get my hop fix, big time.
Lorenzo Dabove -- the "Beer Pope of Italy" invited me over for a tasting of Maltus Faber beers. The brewer (and I am sorry, I didn't catch his name) brought 8 different styles, ranging from a Pale Ale to Triple to a Barley Wine. All were good and the Extra Brown was one of the better beers I tasted at the fest.
Maltus Faber Beers
Massimo Versaci, co-owner of Maltus Faber
Soon it was time to head back to Antwerp, as I had an early train to catch. I'll leave you with a last shot of the festival hall.
For now just a few pictures, commentary later. the hall is quite dark (the only think I don't like about it) so it's hard to get a good overall picture.
The Stadsfeestzaal in Sint Niklaas
I arrived about 30 minutes after opening at the hall was already quite full. It helps to have multiple people in your group as you have to stand in three different lines: one to buy tokens, one to buy a glass and another to buy a program. Being alone I had to endure all three lines while over 200 beers were waiting just yards away. But I persevered and soon had a beer.
The crowd at the fest
Each brewery (or sometimes a pair of breweries) has a stand. One of the nice touches is each stand has a glass washer and your glass is cleaned before they serve you a beer. With such a variety of styles it makes sense. I wish more beer festivals did this.
Stand of Brouwerij De Leite
The above stand, De Leite had one of my favorites of the fest so for: Enfant Terriple. It is a triple with a good dose of hop bitterness. Some of those don't work, but this one did. Two thumbs up (both of them being mine).
Of of the more interesting beers was actually one recipe brewed by three different brewers. They all used the same ingredients and the same yeast, but the differences in their process (and I assume water) made the three beers slightly -- but noticeably -- different. The beer was called Trissen and I had one brewed by 'T Hofbrouwerlijke. The others were brewed by the Proefbrouwerij and Brouwerij De Graal.
The most unusal beer I had was "EXPRMTL Brew AD2010" from De Dolle. It was 9% abv, pale yellow in color and was brewed with no hops at all, just spices. The beer was very lemony and refreshing but fairly dry and not at all sweet. Eat your heart out Mikes Hard Lemonade!
As the day progressed, it got harder and harder to make your way around the hall to the brewery stands. I ended up drinking from only the 10 stands right in front of where I was sitting and finally left after about 5 hours. It was just too crowded. reco The fest opens at 11am on Sunday and I plan to be there to continue our tradition of drinking lambic beers Sunday morning. Also on the list is the highly recommended Magma from Troubador -- supposed to be the best Belgian Double IPA ever brewed. I do need some hops.
Being self employed has it's advantages, as I get to travel more than if I had a traditional 9to5 sort of job. But the downside is I'm rarely completely "off duty" and so had to work on some client's problems in the morning. I had thought of heading to Brussels for the day but by the time the work was finished, it was a bit too late, so I decided to head down to the Kulminator and spend a peaceful Friday afternoon.
There were about a half dozen other patrons. The classical music was playing and the sun was shining (albeit somewhat half heartedly) thru the window. I ordered an DuPont Avex Les Bons Voeux and started reading my book ( The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson). All was well with the world.)
Another Avec Les Bons Voeux -- man, I love this beer.
A couple of chapters later it was time for another beer and I went with another draft choice, N'ice Choufee -- the winter seasonal from LaChouffe.
N'ice Choufee was very nice.
On the table was a tent card for Oud Beersel's triple, Bersalis Triple. Hey, advertising sometime works, so I ordered one. It was a nice triple, very drinkable but nothing earth shattering. Worth drinking of you come across it but not worth (in my mind) making a special effort to seek it out.
Oud Beersel Bersalis Triple
That got me thinking of triples, so next I had one of my favorites, St. Feuillien Triple. It lived up to it's memory.
St Feuillien Triple
By now the crowd had started to pick up and others joined me at the table so I stopped reading. I also stopped taking pictures. Deciding to go with something a little aged, I went with a Chimay Blue from 2000. Across the table from me, Mark from Pittsburg went with a 1995. While both were good, I liked the 2000 better. I think they tend to peak at 10 to 12 years, so if any of you are hoarding 2000 Chimay, you might want to invite me over to help you start clearing out your stash.mas
Deciding to take a detour back to draft beers I next had the Carolus Christmas from Het Anker in Mechelen. A wonderful beer, too good to be just for Christmas.
I decided I should probably think about leaving. The dilemma was what to choose for the last beer? After much mental to-ing and fro-ing I ended up back where I started -- Avec Les Bons Voueux. Still delicious after all these beers.
However, I was undone when my seat neighbor Frank (from near St. Niklaas) offered to share a 750 bottle of something. I asked him to choose and he came back with a Vicarus Generaal from "Brouwerij" Dilewyns (but acually brewed at de Proefbrouwerij in Lochristi). It was dark and rich and in the Abbey Double style I think it has a bit more alcohol than is typical for the style. All in all a good end to a great day.
The high speed lines are all in, so now the Thalys train takes less than an hour from Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol) to Antwerp Central Station. Not long ago that trip took nearly two hours. We need to get us trains like that! Antwerpen Centraal is one of the most beautiful train stations I've been in (LA's Union Station is also quite nice which is why it's a shame that almost nobody ever sees it). The facade you can make out in the back of the following picture is actually the wallpaper for my laptop. Anyway, the long distance trains arrive at the lowest level and I just had to take this picture and share it with you...
Deep down in Antwerpen Centraal Station
I am staying at a new hotel -- both new for me and newly opened -- The Etap Antwerp Central. Etap is Accor's (Ibis, Novitel, Motel 6) budget chain. In all the years I've been in Antwerpen Centraal I've never walked the length of it. It turns out there is a quite modern second entrance at the far end and the Etap is right around the corner.
Modern South Entrance to Antwerpen Centraal Station
The hotel rooms are quite basic but serviceable. My only complaint is they want €2o per day for internet access. That is about half the cost of the room, which in my mind is crazy. So this is being typed at McDonalds with free WiFi.
After get situated it was off to the Kulminator. I already posted my first beer. The second was Kasteel Cuvee de Chateaux -- a 13% blend of 10 year old Kasteel with young Kasteel
Kasteel Cuvee de Chateaux
I should know better to drink 13% abv beer when severely jet-lagged and on not much food. But it looked so good I had to try it. I was fading fast, but I decided to go for one more: La Trappe Quercus Quadruple. At 10%, this oak aged beer was a step down but still packed a punch. I'm not usually a big fan of "wood aged" beers but I think this one worked. You could definitely taste the oak but it did smooth the beer out.
LaTrappe Quercus Quadruple
The quad was the nail in the coffin, so it was back to the hotel for 12 hours of sleep. More tomorrow...