Cantillon Tap Room – Impressions from Brussels

Visiting the Cantillon tap roomAt the old traditional lambic brewery Cantillon, the tap room has really become an international attraction. Just a few years ago Cantillon was a dusty old museum that served a couple of beers at the end of the tour. But now, the Cantillon tap room is a vibrant place where beer geeks from around the world come to taste and share some amazing beers, including a lot of rarities.

When visiting Brussels a few weeks ago, we stayed in a hostel in the Western part of the city. This is far from the institutions of the European Union. It’s a cheap place to live and it looks cheap and poor. But our hostel was right between the Moeder Lambic beer bar, and the Cantillon brewery, which was perfect.

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3 Fonteinen Zenne y Frontera

3 Fonteinen Zenne y Frontera geuze in a proper lambic basketAnother snapshot from Brussels. Visiting one of the sacred places of lambic beer. And drinking the amazing sherry cask aged geuze 3 Fonteinen Zenne y Frontera. A big advantage of being in Brussels by car was that we could spend Saturday morning driving out to Beersel, visiting 3 Fonteinen and Oud Beersel and then returning to the city after a great lunch at 3 Fonteinen Restaurant.

The highlight of the whole trip was the beer for our lunch. The rare and sought after 3 Fonteinen Zenne y Frontera was worth the hype and the 50 Euros. A great experience. The lambic has been matured for a year on old Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, and then blended into a fine geuze.  Læs mere 3 Fonteinen Zenne y Frontera

Brasserie De La Senne – Impressions from Brussels

De La Senne Taras BoulbaI was in Brussels this weekend, and I think I’m going to write a few little “postcards” from important places in Brussels. Our trip had two main purposes: To visit Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen, and to drink a lot of fresh and delicious De La Senne beer. We succeeded.

While much Belgian beer is sweet and strong, De La Senne have almost found their own niche with low alcohol, golden hoppy ales. There are a few other breweries who are brewing some nice hoppy pale ales, and saison is making a come back, but De La Senne have perfected this kind of beer. Læs mere Brasserie De La Senne – Impressions from Brussels

De Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht, Christmas Beer Vertical

De Dolle Brewers Stille Nacht in three vintagesDe Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht (Silent Night) is one of the most famous Christmas beers in the world. It’s also well known as a beer with great cellaring potential. It is such a potent beer that it’s definitely not at its best when it’s fresh, but should be aged at least a year to calm it down and mellow it out a little.

I had a case of vintage 2008 that I only finished a couple of years ago, and now I’m buying a few bottles a year to have a selection of older bottles. As the 2008 got older, I didn’t think it changed much from one year to the next, but in the first few years there are big differences. That’s why I have done a vertical tasting of the three most recent vintages, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

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Beer dinner at Onder de Toren

Restaurant Onder de TorenIn restaurant Onder de Toren, in Hansbeke outside of Ghent, 32 year old chef Sam van Houcke creates wonderful Flemish food. It’s an up and coming restaurant, and he has been included in the 2015 Flanders Kitchen Rebels, Outstanding Young Chefs.

This is where we finished my trip to Belgium back in September. Yes, it was an intense trip, with a lot to write about! We had an excellent meal, three courses plus snacks, and plenty of excellent beer. Læs mere Beer dinner at Onder de Toren

Brouwerij De Halve Maan in Bruges

Brouwerij De Halve Maan in Bruges

De Halve Maan (The Half Moon Brewery) is an old brewery in the city center of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Bruges. When visiting, I only knew Bruges from the movie “In Bruges” , and from plenty of recommendations from other beer travellers who thought it was a beautiful place to visit (“In Bruges” on Amazon).

The brewery was operating at a minimum just ten years ago, but they’re rapidly growing. Their famous range of abbey style beers, Straffe Hendrik was introduced in the 1980s, but for a long time brewed elsewhere. Now it’s brewed on the site, along with the rising star Brugse Zot, which was launched when sixth generation owner Xavier Vanneste took over the brewery in 2005. Læs mere Brouwerij De Halve Maan in Bruges

Hop harvest in Poperinge

Ready for the hop harvest at hop farm t'Hoppecruyt in Poperinge, BelgiumThe hop harvest has to be one of the highlights on a beer lover’s bucket list. Earlier this year, I could finally tick that box. Rewind the calendar to mid-September. Sunday afternoon, the Visit Flanders press tour is visiting the Hop Museum in Poperinge, and the next morning, we take off to one of the hop farms to see the hops and the hop harvest.

Benedikte Desmyter of t'Hoppecruyt talking about the hop harvest
Benedikte Desmyter of t’Hoppecruyt talking about the hop harvest

The press tour was carefully planned to coincide with the time of the hop harvest, and it was a great bonus to combine a beer trip to one of the world’s classic beer countries with a visit to the hop fields. The place we visited was the hop farm t’Hoppecruyt, which is open to visitors in smaller or larger groups. Benedikte Desmyter, fourth generation owner, gave us an excellent tour of the place. Læs mere Hop harvest in Poperinge

t’ Hommelhof beer dinner and St. Bernardus

t'Hommelhof in evening light
t’Hommelhof in evening light

t’Hommelhof is a world famous beer cuisine restaurant in Watou in West Flanders. Since the restaurant opened in 1984, it has been one of the first restaurants to use beer in the kitchen, to think beer and food together, and to serve beer at the table as an equal to wine. We visited the restaurant on Sunday night of my beer trip to Belgium, after a visit to the nearby St. Bernard brewery.

The cook book Cooking With Belgian Beers by Stefaan Cutteneye
The cook book Cooking With Belgian Beers by Stefaan Cutteneye

The chef at t’Hommelhof, Stefaan Coutteneye, has kept the same kitchen philosophy for 30 years now: Local ingredients, old traditions, and the use of beer in the kitchen. And finally, the world has caught up, and terroir and tradition are the hippest things in the restaurant world. For those who want to catch up, Stefaan has even written a book Cooking With Belgian Beers which came out last year. Læs mere t’ Hommelhof beer dinner and St. Bernardus

Poperinge Hop Museum

The Poperinge Hop Museum
The Poperinge Hop Museum

Poperinge is the center of the Belgian hop growing area, and as such, it’s natural that you would find a hop museum here. Poperinge Hop Museum is an interesting little exhibition in a very exciting building. In the 19th century, hops had to be brought to the communal storage, where they would be weighed and quality checked by the authorities. That is the building that houses the museum today, and that’s a big part of the experience.

Hops can be grown in a broad belt spanning between latitudes 35 and 55 degrees, north or south of the equator, though in Europe, it’s limited to a few small areas. In Belgium, hop growing has diminished to almost nothing compared to a hundred years ago. In 1900, 2200 ha. was used for hops, with more half of it being in the Aalst area,  and most of the rest in Poperinge. In 1980 there were still 800 ha., but today, the figure is just 160 ha. and 98% of it is in Poperinge. Læs mere Poperinge Hop Museum

Beer pairing lunch at Brouwerij Roman

At Brewery Roman for a beer pairing lunch. Adriaen Brouwer beerOn our trip to Belgium, we had some great food as well as beer, and the beer pairing lunch at Brouwerij Roman was a highlight. When we arrived and were introduced to the brewery and its history, we had a couple of light snacks, and after the brewery tour we went to the tasting room, and had four plates of more good stuff.

First we had a little taster of a caramelized onion soup with Ename Pater. It’s the newest beer in the Ename abbey beer range, modelled after the “Single”, the beer that the monks brew for their own consumption. It’s a 5.5% blonde with a nice hoppy character. The soup was a little too sweet for me, and at the same time the hop bitterness that the beer had added to the soup wasn’t very harmonious. It’s always dangerous cooking with hoppy beer. Læs mere Beer pairing lunch at Brouwerij Roman