Grails, holy and otherwise

The object of the quest

The object of the quest

I haven’t always liked beer. In fact, for a very long time I didn’t drink beer at all. Back in the 90s, Samuel Adams produced a triple bock, and it came in a cool blue bottle with a cork, so I tried it, and had it been routinely available I would have tried more, but it wasn’t that great. Then I met this Belgian woman, and I found out that there were many more interesting beers out there.

The right glass for Mc Chouffe

The right glass for Mc Chouffe

 

 

I’ve had some great guides, Lieve’s brother not only enjoys a variety of beers, but also has all the right glasses.

 

 

314125_2127127669146_7893426_n

Beer sampler serving

 

 

 

 

 

And so the search for the perfect beer began. Every trip to Belgium contained not only new sights, but new beers. My preference has been for dark beers, but I’ve found quite a few White, or Witte beers that I enjoy.

299641_2175942489486_2144287850_n

Straffe Hendrik brewery in Brugge

 

 

 

Our next trip included Brugge, and while I was daunted by one pub that carried 750 different beers, I carried on, visiting breweries and comparing styles. Fortunately, Lieve was always there to assist when there were too many to drink at once.

Just across the street from Straffe Hendrik!

Just across the street from Straffe Hendrik!

 

 

 

It was in Brugge that I discovered the Quadrupel. In a little restaurant next door to our B&B, they had La Trappe, one of only twelve breweries producing the quadrupel style at the time.

quad

La Trappe Quadrupel at “De Republiek” in Brugge

 

 

 

 

I continued my search as I traveled, trying house brews wherever we went. One pub in the English countryside reminded Lieve of “An American Werewolf in London

Scary small pub in English countryside

Scary small pub in English countryside

 

 

 

 

 

And at a dinner in Leuven I found Wolf 8, a widely available Belgian beer. I also tried a type of meat I’d never had before.

Wolf 8. Goes well with paard.

Wolf 8. Goes well with paard.

 

 

 

In Brussels I tried a Trappiste Rochefort 10, another widely available Belgian beer. With us was Lieve’s nephew Joren, who, like his father enjoys trying new beers. He suggested the elusive Westvlateren, a beer that can only be obtained at the abbey, but he knew where to find it in a cafe.

Trappste Rochefort 10

Trappste Rochefort 10

292845_2149651152219_6567844_n

At the Cafe Metafoor in Leuven

Our quest led us to the Cafe Metafoor in Leuven. They didn’t have Westvleteren, but they did have what became my favorite, St. Berndus Abt 12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next trip took us to Amsterdam, where just like in Belgium, you can have beer with breakfast!

Breakfast in Amsterdam

Breakfast in Amsterdam

 

 

This year, we checked out Cafe Metafoor again, for one thing, I just love the name. They knew where I could get Westvleteren. I’m not allowed to reveal the secret, but Joren was familiar with the place.

Alpaide, at Cafe Metafoor

Alpaide, at Cafe Metafoor

We had dinner (and a Westmalle Dubbel) with Joren, and decided to meet the next day at his student house. Side note. If you ever order a martini and the waiter looks at you with a question on his face, just cancel the order and have a beer.

Dinner with Joren

Dinner with Joren

 

 

Joren just completed his Masters in archeology, and is vice president of his student house. It’s like a fraternity, and they have a bar which he was painting when we arrived. I noticed beer coasters on the ceiling, but since it’s a historical building, they are not allowed to touch the ceiling.

 

Beer coasters on the ceiling.

Beer coasters on the ceiling.

 

 

 

The student house bar had some of the blond Westvleteren. In order to stay within the rules, they give a bottle away after you buy five other beers (not necessarily in one night). Although a closer look at the ceiling suggests that some people just might drink all those beers in one sitting.

Tennis shoe stuck to ceiling.

Tennis shoe stuck to ceiling.

 

 

 

 

Since the bar wasn’t open, he gave me a bottle of the blond Westvleteren after Lieve and I had a Leffe Bruin.

 

 

 

Westvleten blond

Westvleteren blond

 

It was very promising. We made plans to meet after dinner at the “secret” cafe. Realizing that the beers had been breakfast, Lieve and I stopped across the street and had some lunch, an oddly out of place Mexican salad at the Cafe Appel, along with a Westmalle Tripel.

IMG_0251

 

 

 

 

We did some shopping, and stopped at another cafe that Joren had suggested. The beer menu was a book.

Massive beer menu

Massive beer menu

 

 

 

This menu is of seven hundred beers, Joren knows of a pub that is planning to carry two thousand five hundred Belgian Beers, a world record. I wonder what they would serve while you are making your decision.

Lieve waits while I peruse the menu

Lieve waits while I peruse the menu

Westvleteren is made with the same recipe as St. Bernardus, they just use different water, and probably different techniques, so I decided to refresh my palate memory with an Abt 12. Lieve had a Lindemann’s Kriek, her favorite, a sour cherry beer.

 

 

 

 

The day’s work completed, it was time to relax. We met Lieve’s brother and Sister in law for dinner and a concert in the square before going on to meet Joren. The cafe at which we had dinner also had La Trappe quadrupel.

Dinner before the concert

Dinner before the concert

 

 

 

After the concert, the moment had arrived. We worked our way through the small streets to the pub, where Joren was waiting with a friend.

 

 

 

The "secret" pub

The “secret” pub

IMG_0289

The legendary Westvleteren

 

Westvleteren is not on the menu, due to the rules of the abbey, but it is available on request, at fourteen euro a bottle. The waitress asked if I wanted to spend that much, having no idea of the trek that brought me here.

Oh yes. This was definitely worth the search.

There is no label on a Westvleteren bottle, only the cap identifies the maker and style. There is a date stamp, called the “minimum sale date”, but the beer allegedly continues to develop for years after the date. When I eventually move to Belgium, I will be able to go through the process to purchase a case every two months from the Abbey, and I’ll do all I can to preserve a bottle or two in order to test that theory.

Later I had a Duchesse de Bourgogne, what is called a “sour beer”, with Joren. With thousands of beers produced in Belgium alone, there will always be new beers to explore. Just last night at dinner, Joren’s father and I tried the house brew at the restaurant, the “Troubadour”. Luc had the Blond, I had the Obscurra.

Troubador Obscurra

Troubadour Obscurra

Lieve’s appreciation of beers has expanded as well, although she is usually the designated driver, or as they say in Belgium, the “BOB“. We haven’t discovered where the term comes from, but apparently it’s an acronym, in either Flemish, French, or German, and has developed from the noun (I’m the bob) into a verb (who’s bobbing tonight?)

 

 

 

 

Stop by sometime and join us for a beer. With all the choices, there is certainly something you will enjoy.

999892_10200776611569015_831117944_n

 

Advertisements

7 comments on “Grails, holy and otherwise

  1. Interesting , even though I don’t drink beer.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like you’re having a great time! I love Brugge, but have never tried the beer. No matter, you seem to being trying them all for me! Hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alice Sanders says:

    Wow, another great story with pictures that continue to interest one throughout your trip. I wonder if others feel as if they are there with you? Well, I don’t drink beer either, but it is quite intriguing to know there are so many different kinds. What words do you use in describing the taste of beer? …..I was looking up some vocabulary for describing beers. Do any of these fit into all the different kinds you have tasted…… spritzy, sparkling, zippy, bubbly?

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      Having spent years working with (and often under the influence of) wines, I am respectful of descriptive vocabulary. I have a friend who is a fairly serious brewer and I’m sure he would correct me were I to use the wrong terms. For those reasons I tend to stay away from all but the very basic descriptive terms, as most ratings are subjective.

      The words I would use for the dark Westvleteren are rich, full, soft, malty, slightly fizzy. There are no sharp hop flavors or bitterness, no taste of alcohol even with its high percentage of alcohol. It is not sweet, sour, or bitter, just perfectly balanced.

      Like

  4. Mari Collier says:

    Your thoroughness is remarkable. I am of German descent and love beer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like me. You search reminded me of my brother. On his one trip through Northern Europe, he created a booklet rating the different beers he tasted. It’s in my stash somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Grails, holy and otherwise (kblakecash.wordpress.com) […]

    Liked by 1 person

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s