De Molen Beer Festival 2010 Wednesday, Dec 15 2010 

De Molen

This past September I attended the Borefts Bier Festival, also known as the annual De Molen Beer Festival in Bodegraven, Netherlands. Given the amazing line-up of breweries who would be present, I marked this on my calender several months in advance. Luckily for me, it did not disappoint. The brewery itself is quite small as most beers are brewed off-site (see earlier post) but they made the best of their indoor and outdoor space. True to form, it rained almost the entire time I was there.

My trusty sidekick Bean staying dry at the beer festival

This beer festival is unique. A lot like Pre-Zbf, it was the best of the best and aimed at true beer nerds. Amateur palates would only be overwhelmed by the character of these micros. That being said, I was in heaven.

Breweries present included: De Molen Netherlands, De Struise Belgium, Haandbryggeriet Norway, Alvinne Belgium, Brauerei Beck GermanyRevelation Cat Italy, Mikeller Denmark, Emelisse Netherlands, Midtfyns Denmark, Marble Brewery England, and Narke Sweden. It was impressive to see how many brewers not actually involved in the festival were there to taste the beers. Maybe this is always the case but I guess at this point I know who everyone is.

Revelation Cat Taps

De Molen decided to pit brewers face to face to see who could brew the best beer for the festival. All breweries used the same recipe called Vuur & Vlam, a light Indian Pale Ale. The winner hands down (no pun intended) was Norwegian brewer Haandbryggeriet.

Warning! Rough Snuff

The festival boasted so many amazing breweries and beers that one would need to attend both days (and take naps in between) to come close to trying them all. Here are some of my highlights: The strangest beer I had the privilege to try was Midfyns’ Rough Snuff, brewed with tobacco and seaweed. The best beer was Double Black, a bourbon infused ultra Imperial Stout by Struise. A close second was Narke’s Kaggen Stormaksporter 2009 aged on a cognac barrel. Delicious!

Midtfyns Rough Snuff

Brouwerij de Molen Monday, Apr 12 2010 

De Molen

De Molen

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Moeder Lambic Tuesday, Apr 6 2010 

Moeder Lambic
Rue de Savoie 68 1060
Bruxelles, Belgium – 02 539 14 19
Moeder Lambic

Moeder Lambic

Moeder Lambic is a well-reviewed beer bar in Brussels. I first visited this bar about a year ago and though the beer list was impressive, the atmosphere was not. It was just another smoky Brussels beer bar.

My second visit was much more positive, thanks wholly belonging to the second anti-smoking ban that came into place this past January which, for the most part, limited smoking to places not serving food. When the weather is nice, there is an outdoor patio on the street in front of the bar.

Tucked into a residential area of St. Gilles, Moeder Lambic is a cozy bar that remains loyal to serving good beer. Brick walls and chalkboards surround the eight wooden bench-style tables where patrons can enjoy craft beers from top Belgian, Dutch, and Danish brewers. The owner is a bit finicky and only stocks beers he personally likes. I can’t say I agree with all of his choices (for example, he mentioned on my last visit that he’s not a fan of De Molen) but I will say the mostly special-batch and hard to find beers he does carry, albeit pricey, are very, very good.

Highlights from the menu include several offerings from De Struise, as well as a good range of Mikeller (if they have it on hand) and always a few small brewers (i.e. Smisje) Au Fut. An exceptional range of cheeses, beer and otherwise, rounds out the perfect beer experience.

On this occasion, my beers of choice were as follows..

Mikeller – Amarillo Single Hop 6.9%

A weedy/herbal smell leads this earthy tasting golden/copper blonde beer and brings an American favorite to mind: Rogue Dead Guy. A good beer, just not quite balanced enough (too hoppy) to be great. (more…)

Zythos 2010.. Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

For the second year running, I attended the Zythos beer festival in Sint Niklaas, Belgium. As far as I know, it is the largest beer festival in Belgium. I’m not sure if it’s all the hype leading up to it or the fact that it is crowded with tourists, but I’m not a huge fan of the ZBF. I took Bean last year and his face says it all..

Bean at Zythos 2009

Bean is not impressed..

This year I decided to leave Bean at home but headed back in hopes that the festival would be better if I arrived early. Nope.

I’m a huge fan of De Dolle Brouwers, not only because their beers are top notch, but because of the brewer Kris’ enthusiasm for beer and brewing. Duing a visit to the brewery, he told me that he started out as an architect and is, in fact, personally responsible for the adorable yellow character pictured on Oerbier and for the design of the other labels as well. It would only make sense then that the first beer I went for at Zythos was the Exprmtl Brew AD2010, described in the Zythos booklet as a top fermented blond. A hazy yellow sour ale, the Experimental lacked in body and was overall, too alcoholic in taste. Though I appreciate the direction he was going, in my opinion, it’s not a success. Yet. Hopefully this paves the way for a more successful sour ale from the ‘Mad Brewers’ in the future..

ZBF 2010

ZBF 2010

The surprise of the day came from the small Wallonian brewery Grain d’OrgeLa Grelotte, their winter offering, was an unexpected treat. Balanced and complex, this dark brown winter warmer hit the spot with liquorice undertones and a subtle spiciness to boot.

Not so surprising, Brasserie Fantome lived up to its name and was a no show at the festival this year. Too bad because their beers, though inconsistent, are always entertaining.

Other tastings for the day included Hof ten Dormaal Blond, a just-average blond strong ale from Hof ten Dormaal (just-average is more than I can say for their website), the always delicious and one of my all-time favorites Guldenberg from De Ranke, and a massively flavorful Canaster Winterscotch from De Glazen Toren.

Overall, with the exception of De Dolle’s Experimental beer, nothing I tasted at the festival was ground-breaking or even edgy for that matter, but it did serve as a nice backdrop for an afternoon with friends. Maybe next year.

Fier Beer

ZBF 2010 wasn't a complete bust.. I won this great Flemish guide! Now I just need a translator..

Pre-ZBF 2010.. Sunday, Mar 7 2010 

This past Friday, we attended the Pre-ZBF (Zythos Beer Festival) in Oostkamp, Belgium. Boy were we in for a surprise. The festival is held in the Castle der Lakebosschen in rural Belgium, about an hour outside of Brussels.

Me and Bean

Me and my "Brewdog" Bean at the Pre-ZBF in Oostkamp

Let me just begin and say that the Pre-ZBF is not for amateurs.

First Beer at Pre-ZBF

First Beer at Pre-ZBF 2010

The beers are some of the best and hardest to obtain in the world, therefore an inexperienced palate couldn’t truly appreciate the complexity of these craft brews. Among those present at the festival was Brewdog’s infamous Sink the Bismarck. (Needless to say, my “brewdog” Bean and I liked them on principle) At a whopping 41% abv, these Scottish brewers hold claim to the strongest beer in the world. Unfortunately for us they only brought 2 bottles for tasting and they were gone 30 minutes after the festival began. We did, however, get

to try another Brewdog masterpiece and the #2 strongest beer in the world, the Tactical Nuclear Penguin at 32% abv. We were surprised that with such a high alcohol content, the taste was smooth and decidedly beerish. (As opposed to others we’ve tried that lean more towards whiskey)

New on my horizon was UK BrewersThornbridge. Some research on the brewery informed me that, like many great brewers, this brewery started when a couple of young guys decided to brew a good beer. While their selection was picked over by the time we arrived, I was able to enjoy their St. Petersburg RIS Highland. An Imperial Stout with big roasted flavors and a thick English body. (Sounds pretty hot, eh?)

Pre-ZBF 2010

I can’t say I’ve had a De Struise beer I didn’t like, so it was no surprise one of my favorites from the festival was their Dirty Horse Batch O. The ‘Batch O’ is particularly special because it has been aged for 25 years. The De Struise boys were nice enough to let me try the young Dirty Horse next to the ‘Batch O’. The young Dirty Horse was more sour with a bit more kick than its aged counterpart. Not sure if they’re pulling the Dirty Horse out of retirement or if it was just for the festival but I felt pretty lucky to have gotten to try it, both young and aged!

De Molen descriptions

Other favorites from the festival included De Molen, whose beer shop full of international offerings could impress even the nerdiest of beer nerds. If I were to design my idea of a perfect Stout, it would be their Stout & Hop. A strong coffee flavor with a hoppy-bitter finish, what can I say? You had me at hello.

I also enjoyed their Lood & Oud Ijzer, an exceptional example of a well-balanced American-style strong ale.

Vapeur Brewery Friday, Feb 5 2010 

Last night, I went with some friends to see David Gray in concert at Ancienne Belgique. He sounds even better in concert than he does recorded, which is rarely the case. The venue was fantastic. It was huge and you could choose main floor, theatre-style seating, or 2 sets of balconies. No matter where you were, you had a great view and the acoustics were unreal.

This past weekend, I organized a trip with a group of friends to the Vapeur Brewery for the second time. About an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive from Brussels, it claims to be the last steam-powered brewery in the world. Vapeur is French for “vapor” and appropriately describes the method used to brew the beer. I have to be honest, this was not our second time visiting the brewery because the beer is outstanding. The beer is not so good, but every last Saturday

of the month the brewery opens its doors to allow the public to watch the brewing take place. The brewing process is pretty neat and the brewer is pretty good about switching between French, Flemish and English during the explanation of the process. After the brewing, there is an optional lunch that is AWESOME. The owners put out an impressive spread consisting of a pig that has been soaked in their beer overnight, beer soaked salmon, fresh beer bread, and 20-some different beer cheeses from all over Belgium. Add this to the all-you-can-drink mediocre beer and it is an event you cannot miss!

better late than never.. Tuesday, Feb 2 2010 

Bonjour!

So, when I first moved to Belgium, I promised myself (and everyone back home) that I would start a blog about all of our adventures abroad. 1 year and 4 months later, the blog officially begins.

In the past 16 months, we have been to 8 new countries, 2 islands, and a British territory. Next week, we will travel to Prague, Czech Republic and Rome, Italy, putting 2 more countries on our map. (Although we’ve been to Sardinia, an island off the South of Italy, I’m not counting it as actually having been to Italy.)

It has been a fantastic journey in so many aspects. Nathan and I were married on September 1st in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Less than 3 weeks later, we boarded a plane to Brussels, Belgium and began our life together as husband, wife, and, as the French so thoughtfully dubbed our short-nosed Boston Terrier, our “petit cochon.” Well actually, the 3 of us arrived on Monday morning, only to pack our bags the following Sunday and spend the next two and half months in a hotel in Bologne, France. Not quite Paris, we spent the beginning of our European adventure near the infamous Bois de Boulogne (the naughty park mentioned in The Da Vinci Code) in a residential town where people only spoke French. Did I mention neither of us parlez vous-ed any francais at that point? The Paris trip we’d been promised turned out to be the last Metro stop in Paris and 35 minutes from the city of light. After 2 months, we finally returned to Brussels and found an amazing apartment in Etterbeek, otherwise known as the 10-4-0. (Hence the tag-line.)

The rest is.. well.. history.

As soon as people learn that I’m living in Brussels and not working, their first question is, “What do you do all day?” It always reminds me of the part in Office Space when Peter Gibbons is being interviewed by Corporate and they ask.. “What would you say, you do here?” Hopefully in the next few blogs I can give those of you asking this rather pesky question a taste of what a day in the life of a blond in Belgium is really like..