Saturday, December 14, 2019

Antwerp Day 4

Short post today. I started to feel the onset of a cold, so I took it easy.

Only stop of the day was Beerlovers Bar, not far from Centraal Station.

They have twelve beers on tap and an impressive bottle selection.  The specialize in newer Belgian breweries and craft imports, though they do have a few beers from more “traditional” breweries.

Since I won’t make it to De Ware Jacob this trip, I jumped on a chance for an Avec Les Bons Vœux from Brasserie DuPont.

As always, a wonderful beer. The only problem was I could have used a half liter glass...

Next up was the Fresh Hop Pils 13 from Ministry of Belgian Beer (a brewery, not a government office, in case you were wondering). I have heard good things about this brewery and this beer didn’t disappoint. I have heard some say Belgians can’t do quality lagers and I would point them to this beer (and others) and ask them to reconsider. I have heard since that their Export is even better.

I had one more beer in me before I needed a nap, so I ordered the Het Anker Cuvée van de Keizer Blond.

I had high hopes for the this beer but it didn’t reach them. Nothing wrong with it, other than maybe the name. If it had been “Guido’s Strong Blond” I would have said “nice beer” and moved on. The regular CvdK is much better, as is their Gouden Carolus Tripel.

There organization that puts on the Kerstbierfest (O.B.E.R.) was having party to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the fest. I had an invite but bailed. The way I was feeling my Mother would have said “Have some chicken soup.” On the way back to my tram stop I passed Pho Viet and went in for a bowl of Lemongrass Chicken Pho. Not Mother’s chicken soup but very good and hit the spot...

Tomorrow is the first day of the Kerstbierfest. Hopefully I be rested and ready to go...

Friday, December 13, 2019

Antwerp Day 3

I started off the day taking the number 11 tram to Dageraadplaats and stopped in at Cafe Zeezicht. The have 8 fairly regular beers on tap and two that rotate. Always something good to drink.

I started with what the inside board called Matheus IPA. It was delicious.

The Zeezicht has a hearty soup of the day but today I wanted a little bit more so I ordered the lasagne. Meat and spinach, what’s not to like.

Next up I had the Chouffe Houblon. This was one of the first “Belgian IPAs’ that I had and it still is a good beer. I haven’t had one in awhile so it was a pleasant surprise.

There is another nice pub on Dageraadplaats — Moeskop — but I wanted to visit a new place so I took the tram back across town. I needed up being way too early, though. Luckily in Antwerp just about every other pub carries De Koninck. This one was De Konincklijke Snor, which I assume translates to “The Royal Mustache”

I went in an ordered a Bolleke. That also had Triple d’Anvers Tank 7 (originally by Boulevard but now brewed in Belgium) and Chouffe. A fairly standard Duval/Moortgat lineup. It obligatory Chouffe gnome was sporting a mustache, though.

I was a little disappointed in the De Koninck — I think maybe the Mustache needs to clean its lines.

The place I was waiting for was right next door, called Dr. Beer. They are a fairly new place, have 8 beers on tap and a larger bottle/can selection. They supposedly specialize in beer from newer small Belgian breweries and I was interesting in see what they had. Unfortunately that will have to wait. I waited until 15 minutes past their opening time, before I decided it was getting too cold just sitting there so I headed back to the city center. Another man was waiting as well — he turned out to be a bartender.

So I caught the number 7 tram and soon was at the Kulminator. I asked how fresh the Orval was and Leen checked and said it was bottled in November. Sounds good to me, they are never that fresh in Los Angeles.

Somebody at the table ordered the Spencer IPA. This is brewed at Trappist Monastery in Massachusetts. It was tempting, but I didn’t travel to Belgium to drink American beer. 

I said earlier I really like the Het Anker Cuvée van de Keizer better without the whisky infusion. That doesn’t come in a small bottle but their Gouden Carolus Tripel does, so I ordered one of those. Their beers have just a hint of licorice— which I have always assumed comes from the yeast — that I really like.

Since I was drinking tripels, I decided next to have the granddaddy of them all, Westmalle

Nothing much to say about that, it was wonderful.

I was getting close to calling it a night so I had my dessert, De Dolle Stille Nacht (2019)

I found it way too sweet, the candy sugar just too overpowering. That means though, that in a few years this will likely be a great beer. Last years version was ready to drink right away, so each year is different.

Then Dirk brought out something special — a Postel Kerstbier from 1995. He thought this might be the last bottle in the cellar, though he admitted he might have misfiled some and they might turn up when he was looking for something else.

Unusually for a strong Belgian beer, this one was not bottle conditioned. He didn’t know if it was pasteurized.

It probably wasn’t a good beer to have after the sweet Stille Nacht. It was greatly oxidized (as you’d expect) but I was getting a lot more wet cardboard than sherry, so I donated my share back to the table and called it a night.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Antwerp Day 1

I started out the day heading up towards the University to check out the recently re-opened ‘t Waagstuk.  A couple of years ago they suddenly announced they were closing because the city and declared the building to be unsafe. Not surprising with an old building. I heard later that there was in addition a dispute between partners, but that is just a rumor.  Anyway, a few months ago they re-opened. The entrance...

...and the courtyard looked the same.

The have 10 beers on tap, five fixed and five rotating.

I hadn’t had a De Koninck yet. The way you order it in Antwerp is to ask for a Bolleke, which is the name for this shape of glass. Duvel/Moortgat, the owners of the brewery, officially changed the name of the beer to “Bolleke” — I assume to protect them against somebody else selling a beer in that same shape glass. Whatever the name, it still tastes good, but the name seems silly to me.

It was lunchtime, so I ordered some spaghetti, that most Belgian of bar food. This was a cut above the usual Bolognese with mushrooms and veggies in the sauce. 

I needed another beer, so I ordered the Troubadour Magma Tropical, this years special Magma beer. As the name implies, lot of fruity hops in there.

The bar looked pretty much the same but before there was a large beer mug collection hanging from the ceiling (you can see the empty hooks) and I remembered more old time brewery memorabilia. But it was the same cozy place.

It was time to move on, one more place to check out. On the way I passed a bakery with a bread vending machine. I supposed they are all over but I’ve only seen them in Antwerp (there is one in the train station)

I was heading to Billies Bottle Shop. I normally don’t include bottle shops in my travels, unless they are set up to drink the beer on site. Billies — which is connected to the Billies pub, was reported to have two taps and a heated patio where you could drink the tap beer or a bottle you purchased.

I peeked in the window and saw the two beers on tap were Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, while a great beer I didn’t come to Belgium to drink it, and another American beer that was a fruity-tooty milkshake IPA from a brewery I didn’t recognize. So I passed and headed to the Kulminator.

I ordered the Krieken Lambik and Leen asked if I wanted Timmerman’s or Oud Beersel. I couldn’t decide so I ordered one of each.

The Timmerman’s was four years old and Leen though the Oud Beersel was about two years old. Surprising to me, the Timmerman’s was my favorite. It still had noticeable cheery aroma and flavor and was nicely tart. The Oud Beersel was thin and head a strange “meaty” aroma (though not in the taste) 
and really had no significant cherry.

I was going to make this a short day, so I ordered one last beer, the Rodenbach Grand Cru.  Not much to say about it. You either love or hate this beer and I don’t hate it.

I had overdone it bit the day before so I was knocking off early to be rested and ready for the days to come.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Arrived in Antwerp

This post is going to be pretty boring, I just drank beer at one place today.

I had an uneventful journey to Antwerp. I thought I’d take the tram to the new Stadspark station near my hotel, but it turns out you can’t get the tram in that direction from the Astrid station without going up and down lots of stairs. Not too easy with a bum knee and a roller bag. But I eventually made it.

A quick unpacking and off to the 4pm opening of the Kulminator. There is a giant luxury hotel going in (“The Botanical”) and they have taken over the alley/street I usually use to get to the K. So there was some backtracking and taking the long way around which meant I was there after 4pm. Normally not a bit deal but it means you have to ring the bell and wait for Dirk to let you in — which isn’t 100% certain these days. Luckily Leen answered, gave me a big smile and said come in.

By the way, there was a post on the “Friends of Kulimator” Facebook group that had incorrect information: They will be closed from Dec 24 to Jan 22, that much is true. But their new “daytime” hours will be from 11am-6pm Tuesday thru Saturday — until August, when Saturday will be dropped and they will just be open Tuesday thru Friday.

I was last here in early October and the tap list hasn’t change much since then.

I started off with the Het Kapittel Abt, being relatively light. An enjoyable beer but not one I would seek out.

One of the new beers was the Old Beersel Rabarber (Rhubarb) Lambik. There is a a cute video available on YouTube that is a German tongue twister were Rabarber has a central role. Whenever I see that word I think of this video.

Anyway, the Rabarber Lambik was tart but the Rhubarb tartness sort of masked the lambic and made the beer sort of one dimensional. I had a Cantillion Rhubarb lambic years ago in Stockholm and it was much better. But worth trying once.

Next I had the Matheus 60 Blond.  I really like this beer, one I would drink more of if there weren’t so many other good beers to try.

Preliminaries out of the way, it was time to dive in deep with the Het Anker Cuvée van de Keizer Whisky Infused.

I really like the regular Cuvée van de Keizer and don’t think the Whisky really adds much. It sort masks that house Het Anker character that I like. I think it is a bit of gimmick for gullible Americans (like me)

If the Kulminator has a “house beer” it is Bush Noël. It is on year round, not just at Christmas, only the vintage changes. Currently they are pouring 2015. It is a lovely beer.


Often the Bush Noël is my last beer — it’s a hard act to follow. But the Mikkeller Black is up to the task.

It was a quiet evening and a bit cool so the space heaters were out. That brought out some of the cats, which are normally stay pretty well hidden when there are people about. This one was making sure the table didn’t move...


This one was protecting the space heater from any mice that might attack it.

And this one was doing what I wanted — have a nice nap after all the beers.

With that I called it a night.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Last Day in Amsterdam

Fooled you with title, eh?

I was going to head to my favorite herring stall, Stubbe’s Haring, on a bridge over the Singel canal, but they are closed on Monday. So I made do with a stand in front of Centraal Station. No visit to Amsterdam is complete without some street herring.

I headed over to ‘t Arendsnet, one of the better beer pubs in Amsterdam. Since it’s opening in 2000 they have only served Dutch beers. In the early days that was a lot harder to do then it is now. They have 50 taps and 2 hand pumps.

Unfortunately my phone keep trying to focus on the guy in red so the tap list itself is a bit blurred, but you get the idea.

I started off with Willemken 4 Grain Blond from Brouwernös in Groenlo,  a brewery I was not familiar with. The beer hit the spot so they are doing something right.

Next was a Jopen Code Geel Blond. It was bit stronger and also very nice, as are most beers from Jopen.

I had some Blackpepper Cheese from Reypenaer (one of my favorite cheese makers) The pepper was only on the crust (not in the cheese) and it had quite a bit of burn.

The nice young man at the bar suggested a few beers but I decided to go with a Sour Pils from Oedipus. As has happened in the US, Oedipus has received an investment from a larger brewery (Heineken in their case) and it has some people worried. I gather the lease is up on there Noord Amsterdam brewery site and so they will be looking for a new (and probably larger) home in the near future.. Anyway, the Sour Pils was good — more of a “Tart Pils’ than sour, I can see it being very refreshing on a warm day (which today wasn’t).

I could work my way thru the list but decide to head out to a place I hadn’t visited in a while, Het Elfde Gebod. They are now part of the Gollem family. They were one of the first beer bars I ever went to in Amsterdam as I once stayed in a hotel around the corner.

They have 16 beers on tap, with quite a few from Belgium.

 I had seen the Lowlander Winter IPA a few others places and decided to give it a try. Lowland advertises they brew with “Botanicals” which I assume means their beers have seven secret herbs and spices. In any case, the beer was good and what “Botanicals” there were where not overpowering. It is hard to tell from the picture but it seemed to be a White IPA as a base.

They have a fair number of local beers in the bottle.

I realized I hadn’t had an ‘t IJ Zatte in a while so I ordered one.

It was way more perfume-y than I remembered but was an enjoyable beer.  

Time again to move on. I headed up Zeedijk to Cafe Zilt

I had passed by here last year and it looked like an interesting place, but I didn’t then have time to stop in. The writing on the window says they have the right idea...

They’ve upped the numbers since that was written, with over 150 spirts and 100 some odd bottles in addition to the twelve beers on draft.

I had seen beers from Heaps of Hops at other places. They specialize in hoppy lower alcohol beers. I am a big fan of tasty under 4% beers so I tried the Bøcketlist NEIPA.

It had all the things you love or hate about NEIPA just less alcohol. A very nice beer. While I was working on that they were putting up another beer, this one by Brouwerij Van De Streek of Utrecht caked Klophop Blond. So I ordered one. After all the work getting it ready it would have been rude not to have.

I would say it was more like a pale ale, but I’m not about to tell a brewery how to name their beers. It was nicely hoppy and a bit of malt to back it up.

On the menu was a 7% stout called Namazu brewed by Poesiat and Kater, which also brews the similar strength Van Vollenhoven Extra Stout. So I asked how this one was different and was told it was extremely roasty and a collaboration with De Kromme Haring. Sign me up!

It was every bit as good as it sounded. If it hadn’t been late (or they had food at Cafe Zilt) I would have had another. But it was time for food and I had a train to catch in the morning, so I passed.

Continuing up Zeedijk I soon came to a Chinese restaurant named Win Kee.  Many, many years ago (12?, 15?) a group of us stopped in after seeing the ducks (and slabs of BBQ pork) hanging in the window. We went in to eat and enjoyed it very much. For years after that it was a tradition to have lunch there when we were in town. That tradition had fallen by the wayside recently and I wanted to stop in and see about resurrecting it.

I ordered a bowl of noodle soup with some Char Sui (BBQ Pork) on top. It really was too much meat but I ate all of it. It was every bit as good as I remembered.

Tomorrow I head to Antwerp. No points for guessing where I will be spending a bunch of time.