Thursday, October 10, 2013

Arrived In Antwerp

There were three of us on the flight from the states and another (Tom) was on a flight that landed 30 minutes after us. We hoped to meet at the airport and catch a train (ro bus) to Antwerp. His flight landed but no Tom. Hmmm.

Up until last year, the only trains from the Brussels Airport went to Brussels North station, which is the opposite direction from Antwerp. So most people took an airport bus (originally the SEBENA bus and still called that by many even though that airline is long gone). But last year they put an express rail line in to Mechelen so now there is a direct train to Antwerp that takes about 35 minutes. The price is about the same as the bus and it is a bit quicker but you don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. Though the trains can (and do) run late as well.

On the train I got my internet connection working on my smart phone and found out Tom's flight out of LA had be diverted back to LAX. So if we (and he) were lucky we might see him in the afternoon but most likely it would be tomorrow. Bummer.

Of course we were too early to check in so we dropped our backs and walked towards the old town. I wanted to check out a new place and thought they opened at 11:00am but when we got there it turns out they open at noon. Oh well.

Luckily, being the experienced beer traveler I am, I had a backup plan. On the Grote Markt there are a couple of cafes that open at 9:00am They don't have an outstanding beer list but they do serve fresh DeKoninck - the local beer. Nuf said.

Den Bengel on the Grote Markt
The sun was trying to come out and it wasn't too cold so we sat outside at Den Bengel and ordered "drie Bollekes." DeKonnick is served is a bowl shaped glass and anywhere in Antwerp if you order "een Bolleke" ("a bowl) you'll get a glass of DeKoninck. Since there were three of us, I just asked for "three bowls" and soon we were  enjoying our first beer of the trip.

A "bolleke" of De Koninck
 In many ways, De Koninck is Antwerp's answer to Düsseldorf's Altbier. On paper they are very similar though they taste quite different. But they both are everyday beers, something you might drink a few of at lunch or right after work before heading home.

Antwerp Cathedral
Our beer finished, we headed to our next stop, with a slight diversion to walk by Het Steen, the Antwerp Castle.

Antwerp Castle
By now it was noon, so we headed to Gollem, a new beer bar that opened since the last time we were in Antwerp last December.

Unlike most Belgian bars, they have an extensive tap list, over 30 beers on tap. More and more Belgian breweries are producing draft beer for the export (mainly US and UK) market and this is starting filter back to the local market as well.

Draft List at Gollum
 Sticking with the local theme, we all ordered the Triple D'Anvers, DeKoninck's triple.

Triple D'Anvers
With the first sip I wasn't sure how I liked it. By then end of the glass I was quite happy with it.

I notice on the menu a beer I hadn't seen, Waterloo Triple (brewed by DuBocq). I attended the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario -- long story) and so to honor by Alta Mater I ordered one.

Waterloo Triple
It was a perfectly fine triple, nothing outstanding but very drinkable. A good thing it wasn't around when I was in school, because even thought it is on the "light" side of the triple range at 7.5%, too many of those would have interfered with one's studies.

We needed some fresh air to counteract the jet lag, so we wandered around the Cathedral and ended up in front of Antwaearps Bierhuiske a fairly new (2010) addition to the Antwerp beer scene.

Antwaerps Bierhuiske
It would have been rude not go in for a beer, so we went in.

Inside Antwaerps Bierhuiske
 They had the limited release Dry Hopped Saison Dupont -- only 500 kegs released each year -- so we had one. It was delightful.

Dry Hopped Saison DuPont
 By now it was getting close to 4pm so we decided to walk down to the Kulminator. And guess who was waiting for it to open? Long lost Tom. They rerouted him thru Frankfurt and was here much sooner than we expected.

Bierhuis Kulminator

Trying to decide which beer to have can be a difficult process, so I always pick a draft beer and then peruse the extensive beer menu...

Draft list at the Kulminator
If you know me, you'll realize there really was no doubt what my first beer would be...

Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Next up was Struise St. Amatus (also called Oostvleteren 12). This is aged in Bourbon barrels (either Woodford Reserve or Pappy Van Winkle). It is a bit on the sweet side and not nearly as complex as that other 12 beer brewed in the area, but it was tastily nonetheless.

Struise St. Amatus

I had asked if they had anything new and different and Leen came over with a beer called Karikatuur a "Flemish Wild Ale" brewed by Proef in Lochristi. It is supposed to be inspired by Orval and there was a bit of a resemblance and while it was a nice beer on it's own, I'd still take an Orval if I wanted an Orval

Proef Karikatuur
By now the jet lag was kicking in, so we called it a night and headed for the hotel.

Tomorrow, the final two people arrive and we do a day trip to Brussels.

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