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.
I’ve had some great guides, Lieve’s brother not only enjoys a variety of beers, but also has all the right glasses.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since the bar wasn’t open, he gave me a bottle of the blond Westvleteren after Lieve and I had a Leffe Bruin.
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.
We did some shopping, and stopped at another cafe that Joren had suggested. The beer menu was a book.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.